Protests: more than radios

Monday, 7 February 2011

Just a quick post in case you missed it on Twitter. Responding to the news of the rider protest in Majorca, Jonathan Vaughters tweeted two messages.

To be clear, radio ban protests are not only about the radio ban. Teams and riders must have greater participation in governance of cycling…
…Our licensing fees and bio-pass contributions to the UCI are massive. We must be represented.”No taxation w/o representation.” Patrick Henry

Note Vaughters is not just the owner and manager of one of the biggest teams, he is also the president of the teams’ association the AIGCP. It’s what I’ve been saying before: this is not a safety debate about radios, it is about the teams flexing some muscle in order to shape the rules. The subject of radio use is being used as a wedge to prise open the UCI.

As far as I’m concerned this is all good. But if teams expect consultation on the creation and implementation of new rules, this has to hold true for others as well. It’s good to consult the AIGCP but the UCI needs a better forum to discuss changes with the riders as well. Not to mention race organisers and perhaps even fans and the media, especially TV broadcasters as they essentially fund the sport. If the teams want a say, it’s reasonable to consult others too.

Bosses vs workers
The AIGCP is an organisation that works for the teams, it is a business lobby created to serve their needs; an organisation that works for employers is not always helpful for employees. Riders need their own version of a trade union as their needs and views do not always coincide with the teams.

Save the UCI
Finally, it’s a subject I’ll return to soon but the UCI needs defending. It’s open season right now on the UCI, almost everyone is pointing out their mistakes. But a good governing body is essential for the sport. As much as the AIGCP has a point about arbitrary rules being introduced overnight, we need be wary of their agenda too. Teams have vested interests and these do not always run alongside those of riders nor fans. A neutral and effective governing body should be the custodian of the sport.

superfred February 7, 2011 at 10:22 am

Agreed. "A neutral and effective governing body should be the custodian of the sport." I'm just not sure that the UCI isn't more concerned with turning itself into a FOM type body, rather than a more transparent rules and governing body.

Alex Murray February 7, 2011 at 2:00 pm

"true, but only because the NFL is very well organised. It is relentlessly profitable but it put the sport first, not team owners"

That's the advantage of keeping a power balance within sport, not the investors.

If the UCI was nothing more than the body which managed and allocated franchisees then it would be far more effective in carrying out its role.

With the NFL system what you get is that clarity on ROI for investors. You buy one of a limited number of tier 1 franchises, you get three GTs. You buy tier 2, you get guaranteed race starts in a geographic region.

In theory this is what the World Tour could have lead to but it was so poorly elaborated and undermined by mistrust that it continues to fail.

As is repeatedly said, the UCI seems to have no idea of how to drive through effective change with the engagement of stakeholders. Pat thinks he's Bernie, but he lacks the sophistication.

TheInnerRing February 7, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Superfred: yes, but the organisation has to decide what it does. Annoy more people and it could get frozen out.

Alex: I can't see how the sport could be changed given the power and importance of the race organisers, especially ASO. Only a break-up of Amaury and the spin-off of ASO to new investors, who then try to buy RCS could get this going. But until then, surely fragmented race organisers won't surrender their prime assets.

Note the behind the scenes plans with Verbruggen and a private equity house to buy the sport and "do a Bernie" actually exist.

Touriste-Routier February 7, 2011 at 4:27 pm

I think the biggest problem the UCI has in being a neutral administrator is that they have proven to be neither. If they were a coalition (a league) they can act the way they do, but they are not.

They are pushing certain agendas/policies that are flawed and unpopular with their constituents. They can't seem to introduce anything major that is readily accepted by all involved parties (not that it is easy to do).

They really need to go back to the drawing board to figure out what type of organization is required in order to elevate and effectively manage the sport.

I don't think ASO needs to be broken up, nor do I believe uniting all organizers is required. Clear policies (and open communication to get there) that address the event organizers needs is all that is required to keep them in the game.

Reducing the number of Tier 1 teams, and increasing opportunities for Tier 2 teams could go far in satisfying many inherent flaws. Publishing the criteria for tier selection creates transparency.

Centralizing disciplinary actions could create consistency, and hopefully reduce the time it takes to go through the process.

I can understand why a season long competition can be appealing. But it isn't wholly necessary. The sport was very popular long before the Pro Tour, and season long competitions have been manged by private parties (such as Pernod).

Gillis February 7, 2011 at 6:18 pm

I think teams and riders should have a voice, but I don't know if they should be left to decide the rules. And right now I think the teams are speaking out of turn on this issue. It's the riders, not JB and JV who should be crying out. Their interests are too biased.

On a side note, I am surprised at the teams unwillingness to even try a race without radios. Even at last year's Tour, before any '12 announcement, were they open to it.

Alex Murray February 7, 2011 at 9:21 pm

Inner Ring,
If you see ASO and RCS as AFC and NFC conferences, they control the majority of the tier 1 races. If they could see beyond their squabbles, they hold a much better bargaining position for deal-making than the UCI. I think the UCI realise this, that's why they've been so keen to exploit the enmity to their advantage.

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