The battle between Pat McQuaid and Brian Cookson to be President of the UCI rages on. At times it’s personal, at times it’s policy-based but it’s also procedural.
Now there’s a dispute over whether Pat McQuaid has actually been nominated by the Thai and Moroccan federations with Cookson calling on McQuaid to show the proof. Most interestingly McQuaid is not calmly providing the paperwork but calling on Cookson to back off. Why?
The more you read into things, the more McQuaid hints his nomination is in danger but for the sake of the contest he should still be allowed to stand for President.
As a reminder, the UCI rules say a candidate as be nominated by their federation. Convention had this as the candidates home federation, for example the nomination letter for Brian Cookson by British Cycling, his domestic federation, can be seen online.
Pat McQuaid tried this but in the first procedural mistake, he bungled the nomination hearing on a technicality which prompted Irish Cycling to call an extraordinary general meeting where delegates could vote on whether to nominate McQuaid. Before the vote took place McQuaid sought instead to get nomination from Swiss Cycling and claimed in a press release that this had been secured and told Irish radio that his lawyers say it was secure. But others think different, that there were not enough board members present at the Swiss meeting to approve the decision and actually the officials from Swiss Cycling were not directly endorsing or nominating McQuaid but instead expressing the idea that as President he should have the right to run. In addition members of Swiss Cycling are taking the national body to arbitration to test whether McQuaid has the nomination or not in a move funded by Jamie Fuller, the Chairman of Skins and a fierce critic of McQuaid.
So with the Irish option lost and the Swiss route under threat we got the odd news that McQuaid had been nominated by the Thai and Moroccan federations earlier this month. Only nominations had to be made by 29 June and it took more than a month for the news of these additional nominations to come out. Curiously these nominations were announced just at the same time as a bizarre Malaysian proposal to allow multiple nominations was announced by the UCI. This proposition itself could be illegitimate because several UCI Management Committee members say they did not approve its inclusion on the agenda, whilst the UCI’s constitution states only the Management Committee can decide what goes on the agenda.
There’s now a new twist with a news item on orange.co.uk that says:
now it can be revealed that UCI general director Christophe Hubschmid and Amina Lanaya, from the world governing body’s legal services department, requested the amendment be brought into being
If this is true it’s in breach of the UCI’s own constitution and therefore an astonishing act by two senior staff who are tasked with upholding the UCI’s constitution rather than circumventing it with pet items for the agenda. Also the pair are accused of arranging this on 27 June, just two days before deadlines for nomination closed. Was the Malaysian proposal actually made in Switzerland?
Tragedy turns to farce now because Cookson, via lawyers, has asked McQuaid to prove he has a valid nomination. In other words prove the Thai and Moroccan nominations came in before the deadline of 29 June. Rather than calmly produce the paperwork to show everything is OK, McQuaid has gone on the attack.
“As the president of British Cycling, Brian Cookson must explain his decision to allow his federation – that is funding his campaign – to behave in this way and to use its considerable financial clout to employ lawyers to challenge issues in the election.”
It’s amusing to see McQuaid blast Cookson for using British Cycling’s lawyers whilst McQuaid has been busy using UCI staff, including lawyers, to help his cause.
Nomination deadlines and paperwork from foreign federations are not as exciting as Alpine passes and cobbled roads. But this still matters because the UCI is a governing body and sets the rules for the sport. If the President of the UCI keeps tripping up over his own rules and has been strong-arming others in Aigle to suit his agenda ahead of the constitution then it’s a serious matter of competence, duty of care and legitimacy. You can’t expect riders to live by strict whereabouts rules, teams to adhere to ethical criteria or manufacturers to stick to the rules if the President won’t follow his own rules.
McQuaid’s Swiss nomination could survive up to the legal challenge but it’s looking likely that the surprise Thai-Moroccan nomation was created after deadlines for nominations closed and can only work if September’s UCI Congress votes to approve a retrospective rule change, an unlikely outcome.
“I am not at all concerned by my ability to secure the support and votes that I require to be re-elected as UCI president… … While it would appear that Brian has lost confidence in his own ability I continue to challenge him to allow the UCI congress and its voting delegates to decide.”
Reading McQuaid’s response above there’s a sense that he might not have a safe nomination but still he wants to put his case to the 42 delegates at the Congress. In other words, he’s in danger of losing out before the congress starts but… rules schmules.
Yet if McQuaid’s nomination is secure then why flame Cookson for asking? Perhaps it’s just McQuaid’s combative style but the risk is the President “doth protest too much” with angry press releases when British Cycling lawyers start asking questions.
If true, the claims on orange.co.uk mentioned above are serious as they go beyond McQuaid. Putting items on the agenda without approval from the management committee is a breech of the constitution and if this is being done by the chief executive and the legal services department then they’re ignoring the rules they’re supposed to uphold. Why are they trying to shoehorn in extra nominations, do they think the Swiss one is void? More obviously they’re also working for McQuaid which is itself questionable and means McQuaid’s criticism of Cookson using British Cycling lawyers don’t work.
At the same time this is not saying much about Brian Cookson’s leadership abilities. Rather than winning over the voters with a rallying vision of the future, he’s playing a procedural card. It’s the equivalent of winning a bike race by disqualifying your rival for something irregular rather than sprinting past for an undisputed win. But this election is not sport or entertainment and upholding the rules matters even more when it comes to choosing the leader of a governing body.