The UCI’s new private business

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.

UCI logo

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.

Share capital
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.

Banana skins
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 Beijing
UCI... or Global Cycling Promotions SA?

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.

Empire building
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…

19 thoughts on “The UCI’s new private business”

  1. Bernie Ecclestone must be whispering sweet nothings in Sir Pat McGroin’s ear…

    Scary. Very scary. If a small party within the UCI takes over race promotion (and surely it won’t be confined to Beijing), I’m sure it won’t be in the best interests of the sport across the board…

  2. United Circus International…

    agents, promoters, regulation, equipment licences, team licences, rider licences….
    all they need now is someone running around during half time selling chocolate confectionery….

    oh wait…..

  3. I’m increasingly worried about the UCI and the future of cycling.
    This does nothing to calm me, stinks of self interest and the attendant corruption.

  4. try alain rumpf’s linkedin page

    “Today, Alain Rumpf is Director of Global Cycling Promotion. GCP is a brand new dedicated commercially focused organisation within the International Cycling Union (UCI). The mission of GCP is to develop sustainable cycling products and events in new and existing markets, and promote and protect cycling globally, for the good of the sport.”

  5. I can see some are cynical here. I think the UCI should be facilitating a race organisation company here rather than doing things themselves but there’s no signs of corruption here. Obviously were this to happen I’d cover it in detail.

    Excellent work Luc, I had a look and couldn’t find anything although a mention that it was created in 2009; but the corporate documents I saw were created in March 2011.

  6. I don’t have time to read/follow the links. A point of clarification please.

    Is it private (the individuals funded the new organization themselves, and are listed as the owner)? or is it a wholly owned subsidiary of the UCI (the UCI funded it, and is listed as the owner)?

    Both are fraught with land mines. Private is a clear conflict of interest, while a wholly owned subsidiary represents scope creep, and potential for conflicts with other race organizers over favoritism, inside knowledge/misuse of proprietary & confidential information & lack of a level playing field.

  7. Is this like the NFL owning their own stadium and giving themselves the Super Bowl for the next decade or something? If so…not so excited about this becoming the UCI’s future. At the same time, cycling’s Super Bowl is the TDF and that is ASO’s baby. I don’t really see the UCI pissing off the ASO too much or stepping on their toes and not sure a Tour de France can take place without ASO or France (hey, who knows??? It is cycling and crazy things do happen…kidding).

    Also, doesn’t the UCI “produce” and “promote” the World Championships? I think it would need a promotion arm to handle this (though, again, not particularly in favor of them handling promotion of traditional races – like Beijing).

  8. For once I don’t mind what the UCI is doing. Its actually commercially responsible. What do the UCI get out of the TdF? A small sanctioning fee maybe? ‘Owning the inventory’ allows the UCI is to really reap the benefits of the sports growth. They own it, they sell the sponsorship, reap the government funding, etc. I think other national federations should consider the same model.

    That said, I still despise McQuaid and his cronnies. We need a professional sports administrator in there to make the most of the many opportunities presenting themselves so the sport can grow from the top down.

  9. Just Joshin, the NFL is a league, a confederation of team owners, with a revenue sharing program, so it is completely different. The revenue from the NFL is mostly in TV contracts, not in selling tickets to the Superbowl. If they owned their own stadium, it is likely that few of the owners would care.

    The UCI doesn’t directly organize the world championships; the solicit bids and work with the winning bidder. This is a once a year race, which doesn’t compete with any other event, and naturally falls under their direct discretion. Owning other races and competing for calendar spots vs independent race organizers is a huge conflict of interest.

    Big Snoz- while it may be fiscally responsible (in the small picture), is that really their charter? They are an IOC recognized worldwide governing body, not a private league. They should be working on administration and development of the sport, and not looking at profits for themselves. They are certainly entitled to fees to keep their budgets balanced, but their role is to enable others to participate (teams, competitors, and race organizers) in the sport. The fastest way to destroy a sport (or business) is to foster competition between yourself and your constituents.

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