The UCI’s BMX headache (solved)

An update and correction: since posting this, someone from the UCI has been in touch to say that Johan Lindström no longer works for the UCI. My reader stated Lindström was indeed working with both jobs and when I double-checked on the UCI website, he was still listed (my screenshot):

UCI website screen grab

But the UCI website isn’t always up to date, so this looks a mix up. Sorry.

I’m unsure when Lindström left but am told he’s left Switzerland, presumably the move took some planning. The UCI began advertising for a new co-ordinator today.

Lindström hits paydirt

Another day, another conflict of interest with the UCI. This time it’s in the world of BMX where the “UCI Coordinator of ‘Gravity’ disciplines” Johan Lindström has another job that puts him at odds with his role as an independent UCI official.

Lindström’s background is BMX. The Swede has been the instrumental force in co-opting the UCI to oversee the sport with a view to taking it to the Olympics. Mission accomplished at the Beijing games in 2008. The trial proved successful and BMX will be back for the 2012 games in London. In summary he’s done a lot for this side of the sport.

New Job
Last December Lindström took up a second job as the CEO of Global SX Events (GSX), a subsidiary of the National Bicycle League, a US organisation that runs a series of BMX races. Almost co-incidentally GSX announced it had taken on the exclusive rights to UCI BMX Supercross World Cup series. In addition Elitetrax, a subsidiary of GSX also signed a deal to build BMX tracks for the UCI.

Effectively the UCI has handed the organisation and marketing of BMX racing to GSX, as well as promoting the sale of BMX track design and construction for GSX. That’s all fine, private companies like ASO and RCS organiser the Tour de France and Milan-San Remo.

Old Job
Only the difference here is with Lindström retaining his UCI role, he might have taken up a new job but he’s keeping the old one as Co-ordinator with the UCI. This now poses a potential conflict with his new role at GSX.

What does it all mean?
Lindström looks like a very capable official but moving to a private company whilst still being in charge of BMX racing at the UCI is a conflict of interest. There is the risk that he could favour GSX rather than act neutrally for the UCI. Similarly if the UCI has outsourced BMX racing to this company it remains closely linked rather than an independent governing body able to arbitrate above it. This isn’t to accuse anyone of wrongdoing, just to point out another headache for the UCI.

The interests of the NBL/GSX and the UCI’s wider role in promoting BMX might coincide today but this is not guaranteed to remain the case. Especially when money, marketing rights and even construction contracts are at stake.

Imagine a government minister for transport who took up a job with a bus company… and stayed minister. Imagine a public health advisor who goes to work for McDonalds but keeps giving advice on health issues. It’s usually forbidden.

The big picture
None of this really affects you or I but it is another example of the UCI creating potential conflicts of interests. Once again, if we want the sport to rub shoulders with big brands and multinational sponsors then it’s time the UCI ditched the governance methods of a small family business and adopts the slicker standards of a large corporation.

Thanks to an alert reader for bringing this matter to my attention.

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