There’s a new Swiss sports event management company called Global Cycling Promotions SA. Big deal you might say, after all there are many sports promotion businesses around the world. But there’s difference here: GCP is owned by the UCI.
It’s a curious situation where the governing body owns a private promotion business. There’s no mention on the UCI website, at least I’ve had a trawl, used the UCI search feature and checked via google too where there’s only a press release that mentions Alain Rumpf’s dual role, as both UCI official and “Global Cycling Promotion Director”. Here’s hoping the UCI website gets updated and that the accounts are published too.
Created within the UCI in 2009, according to Swiss company filings it was registered as a separate business a few weeks ago with a share capital of 200,000 Swiss Francs. Along with Rumpf, other officials include UCI President Pat McQuaid who is also the president of GCP and ex-rider and UCI insider Rocco Cattaneo, plus Jean-Pierre Strebel, the UCI’s finance director and former Tour of Romandie boss.
It’s part practical, part conflict of interest. On the practical side if the UCI is going to promote races in places like Beijing then it helps to have a separate company to run the business through. But that’s also the problem, if the UCI is getting mixed up in promotion and business it’s quite a step away from the traditional role of a governing body. Given the UCI and its staff now have a direct financial interest in the race in Beijing it sets up a fraught scenario where decisions on business aren’t taken by third parties or kept at arm’s length. The UCI will decide whether to award the Chinese race a World Tour spot… I think we can guess the result already.
By ensuring the likes of Rumpf, Strebel and Cattaneo are on the ground in Beijing means things will get done properly, the Chinese are hiring some very experienced and competent race organisers. It’s just that the risks are there, that favouritism appears and that the dual role means awkward questions for the UCI. Like so much with the UCI, it’s not what is going wrong, it’s the way the organisation operates, leaving massive question marks and governance banana skins all over the place.
UCI rules require any conflict of interest to be referred to its internal Ethics Commission, I wonder if the panel has reflected on this? Also if the UCI is non-profit making, setting up a private company can allow officials to claim additional salaries, expenses and commissions.
It seems the UCI is at a crossroads and about to step from simple rule-maker and governing body into a full sports promotion outfit. Earlier this year the UCI tightened up on its licencing, moving to protect the rainbow stripes as a trademark. Plus we’re seeing the bike approval scheme.
It’s one thing to encourage cycling around the world, to facilitate and encourage the spread of the sport around the world. But it’s quite another when you set up a private sports promotion business to do this for yourself. One to watch…