UCI seeks new funding for its race promotion activities
Last year saw the Tour of Beijing run for the first time. A unique race, one major difference was they way it was organised and promoted. To summarise the UCI, cycling’s governing body, set up a corporate venture called Global Cycling Promotions (GCP) to run the race.
GCP caused all sorts conflicts of interest. Instead of governing the sport from above, the UCI became an economic agent alongside many it seeks to regulate. One minute the idea was to globalise the sport, the next it was to generate income for the UCI. Plus it turned out GCP was created after the UCI siphoned money paid into a fund in the name of the top teams to use as the businesses seed capital, a fact which irritated several squads.
Now the UCI is seeking to bolster GCP. It was been approaching various sources asking them to subscribe to the business in order to provide additional capital. A report by Bloomberg suggests the UCI has approached ASO, the company behind the Tour de France. Only ASO said non. As a result the UCI is pitching to wealthy individuals to see if they will invest. Bloomberg’s report is notable for four reasons:
- ASO said no. The Tour de France is the sport’s prime asset and the French company owns a series of other races in France and beyond. It is slowly sewing up the cycling calendar with deals from Qatar to Spain to California and has most recently inked a deal with Australia’s Tour Down Under. It even has a role in the Tour of Beijing.
- The UCI is trying to expand GCP. Personally I’m uncomfortable with the conflicts of interest here; especially since there don’t appear to be many measures to counter them… but that’s my problem. It’s obviously not worrying the UCI as it hunts for more resources. But it’s a sign that new races are coming. It’ll be interesting to see where they go on the calendar.
- Instead of bringing in revenue, the need for more money suggests race promotion isn’t – as yet – generating much income. Normally this should be a licence to print money since the UCI sets the rules of the sport. It can award coveted “World Tour” status to its own events at the stroke of a pen, thus guaranteeing the best teams and big name riders and all the status that goes with this. This ability to fast-track a race from nowhere to premium event – at least on paper – is not because cronyism but through genuine expertise (although the conflict of interest is substantial).
- One line quotes UCI President Pat McQuaid as saying “any UCI profits from the new races would be re-invested into the sport and distributed among teams” which is a new twist. It could be a way to entice teams back towards the UCI, after many have been evaluating a breakaway league.
It feels like the sport is up for sale. We’ve had tales of the Rothschild bank-backed breakaway league, now the UCI is after new funds.
We’ll see if the UCI gets the money. Private individuals are mentioned; I’m surprised sports agencies and others are not. An approach to Arnaud Lagardère could be interesting. I hope the dash for cash is not proving a distraction for top staff. We’ll have to wait for the next set of UCI financial reports due out in the autumn for some hard data.
For now this is a developing story. But as some work to reshape the sport, ASO’s rejection of a financial partnership with the UCI is a big move in the game. One to watch.