How The UCI President Gets Elected

With Brian Cookson announcing he’s standing for election to be the President of the UCI many have been asking how you get elected to the job?

When is the vote, who gets to choose and how can you have your say?

The President is elected by The Congress. This itself is a meeting of cycling officials from around the world who belong to federations belonging to the UCI. The next Congress takes place in Italy during the world championships in Florence in September. Under the UCI Constitution these officials appoint voting members, a total of 42, who are divided into regions as follows:

Africa 7 delegates 17%
Asia 9 delegates 21%
America 9 delegates 21%
Europe 14 delegates 33%
Oceania 3 delegates 7%
Total 42 delegates 100%

These 42 are the ones who vote to select the President of the UCI. McQuaid was first elected in 2005 and faced a challenge in 2005 and was then re-elected in 2009 without a challenge.

To be elected President a simple majority is needed, so 22 delegates out of 42, assuming all 42 vote rather than abstain. Should a third or more candidates come stand for election then the vote has two rounds. On the first round the two with the highest vote win and go through to the second round whereby the majority is needed.

A candidate has to be nominated by a national federation. Brian Cookson has the support of British Cyling but Pat McQuaid’s position is not yet sorted. There’s a vote coming up in Ireland but in the meantime he’s trying to get on a Swiss ticket given he is resident in Switzerland because that’s where the UCI is based.

Global Electorate
If you have strong views on Pat McQuaid that’s probably because you’ve got a strong interest in pro cycling on the road. But remember delegates in Asia or Africa have different interests. Sure some might welcome pro teams and they’ve probably read about the USADA case but turf wards with WADA or governance issues are not for them.

McQuaid gets a hearty welcome in Bangladesh

They’ve got legitimate local concerns instead such as securing IOC funding for a sports complex, qualifying their national team for a regional competition and so on. Imagine you’re the head of, say, the Bangladesh federation. You care little for Lance Armstrong, you’re more interested in local cycling and trying to get some funding and riders for the Asian games. In other words all the chaos and cock-ups in Aigle, from serious concerns to badly-drafted press releases mean nothing to them. Instead the globalisation agenda of the UCI is a big deal and they’ll look to reward Pat McQuaid for the good work done here.

As things stand it’s said Cookson could win support in Europe but McQuaid has Africa and Asia sewn-up. But unlike other items on the agenda for the Congress, the vote for a President is a secret ballot. So it’s not certain that regional confederations vote en bloc, it is up to individuals to act in private.

The Contest
There are no rules for the campaign itself. Cookson has hired a PR company and is trying to portray a presidential image, he is set to publish a manifesto to add to the feel of a political campaign.

As we’ve already seen there are other methods. There’s still no news on the UCI website about Cookson’s bid. I gather the UCI press department has said it will issue a release if Cookson requests it but did they wait for the Czech riders or the para-cylists currently featured on their website to send in some news? Of course not and given Cookson is launching something directly related to the UCI it’s curious the governing body has yet to mention such relevant news. It certainly knows Cookson is standing as no sooner had the Briton announced his bid than Pat McQuaid sent off a letter to senior cycling officials around the world to smearing the new candidate. It’s a rough game.

Have Your Say
Only 42 people get to vote but it’s crucial to understand these delegates are mandated by national federations and if you’re a member of one of these then note the people are supposed to act in the interest of their members. Even if you’re not a member you might find your taxes go to a national federation so you can legitimately ask what their stance is too.

The Job
The President of the UCI is full-time job and anyone assuming this role has to surrender their other jobs, for example Brian Cookson would have to resign from his role at British Cycling.

The salary isn’t known but the UCI pays for a large house for Pat McQuaid above Lake Geneva with scenic views of the mountains which does not come cheap. Even better for the President, Swiss law allows salaries for associations like the UCI and other non-profit international bodies to be tax free.

The Organisation, Not the Man
Finally the contest might have two men so far but surely what’s needed is a debate of ideas and reform rather than personalities? The problem with the UCI is institutional, if McQuaid has slipped up in recent times it’s because the means to contain the President from picking fights with, say, WADA are not strong enough. Ironically McQuaid thought he’d secured nomination from the Irish Federation on a pledge to improve the UCI’s governance. If he can resuscitate this it could help him win support.

42 delegates from national federations grouped in to regional confederations get to pick the President this September. But for all the talk of two man in a contest, let’s hope we get institutional change so the UCI as a corporate body can be run better as the UCI’s problems go well beyond one man.

28 thoughts on “How The UCI President Gets Elected”

      • For Information – at last years Congress there were 76 different Nat Feds in attendance and the voting reps were
        Africa – RSA, ALG, ANG, MAR, CMR (2 either not there or allocation gone up)
        America – COL, ARG, USA, MEX, DOM, CAN, BCU, BRA, PUR
        Asia – KAZ, SYR, HKG, IRI, JOR, THA, BAN, MAS, KOR,
        Oceania – AUS, NZL, GUM

        (Not that there was that much too exciting to vote upon)

  1. So a good strategy to win this election would be to bring in a 3rd candidate that appeals to the African and Asian vote, thereby splitting those votes?

  2. Thank you Inner Ring for explaining the process in clear terms.

    You are exactly right in your explanation of the UCI’s global electorate and their priorities – Asian & African Federations are largely all pro-McQuaid and he should garner the majority of votes in those regions. It is also fair to include South America as being in Pat’s fan club, but not North America. I think McQuaids popularity in these continents are lost on the majority of your European and North American based readers and clearly Cookson and his PR company have their work cut out if they are to make inroads with those Federations outside of Europe.

    I’m personally indifferent as to who wins as I see strengths and flaws in both candidates :-

    Cookson is a nice guy with a good record of transparent administration but is he hard enough to be UCI President?

    McQuaid on the other hand has the skin of an elephant and cares little as to what the outside world thinks about him personally – his often aggressive talk and ultra-defensive stance gets him into a lot of trouble publicly but McQuaid has the gift of Blarney when it comes to working with Presidents of developing cycling nations.

    For all the the the question should be – is the sport of cycling cleaner and in a better place than when McQuaid took office (2005). If we’re to be honest you have to say that it is.

    McQuaid’s PR generally has been an abject failure and unlikely to improve, but in the eyes of most Federations his progress on his two main objectives 1) doping and 2) globalization are likely to get him a third term as UCI President

    • “For all the the the question should be – is the sport of cycling cleaner and in a better place than when McQuaid took office (2005). If we’re to be honest you have to say that it is.”

      Is that the question – or is the question – “is the sport of cycling as clean and in as good a place as it should be given the incumbent president took office in 2005.”

      I think it is the later and I think the answer is no.

    • That’s the view expressed by several others too.

      I’m not so sure about the doping, the UCI has been bounced by scandal into adopting measures and most of the biggest names have been caught by police, judges or other anti-doping agencies. Still things are improving at the UCI here, hopefully McQuaid can hurry up and make the anti-doping operation more independent rather than saying WADA is blocking him which is not really true.

      Cookson needs to show what he can do for developing nations but also what he’s done whilst head of the UCI’s Road Commission, for example the dispute with teams over radio use is one case.

    • Mark – Apologies, I was editing my post when it somehow got published, it came out rather garbled and I could not retract it.

      My question was different to the one that you suggested in that I simply wanted to ask is the sport of cycling cleaner now than it was before McQuaid? I believe it is cleaner by a large margin. I do however concede that your question is a more potent version than my own to which the answer would be a debatable “no” as to whether the President had done all that could be done during his term.

      Inner Ring – I agree that the UCI has in some respects had its hand forced in the fight against doping but I distinctly remember McQuaid from the outset basing his Presidency ticket on tackling doping and globalising the sport – I may be in the minority but I actually think he’s done well on both counts. What he has failed miserably on though is distancing himself from Verbruggen, getting into petty power struggles with other sports bodies and personalities, the UCI’s association with GCP and his continually delivering antagonistic often ill-thought comments on the UCI’s behalf.

      With total respect to Cookson, I think his Achilles heel as a potential President is his apparent soft character. Sports leaders and figureheads need to be quite hard-nosed to the point of controversy and I don’t think anyone has ever seen that from him in his capacity at the BCF or the UCI Road Commission.

      • I believe it’s also relevant to ask the question, “Is cycling cleaner and in a better place BECAUSE of McQuaid?” I think an argument could be put forward that many of the changes (e.g. the focus on doping) could not be avoided, or were pushed by outside agencies (e.g. WADA), or were in a state of “semi-ripeness” anyway (e.g. bringing cycling to the African continent). Some might even argue that cycling has improved “despite” McQuaid, rather than because of him. It will be interesting to see what the next 4 years bring, either way.

  3. McQuaid has been an abject failure in All areas. For the future of our sport it is important that someone else takes over the presidency. At the moment the only other candidate is Brian Cookson. A man with an excellent CV.

    The outcome of this type of election is difficult to predict, given the closed room bargaining and all that goes with it ! I hope for the fans sake we get a much needed change, and the ‘old ways’ are changed rather quickly. The one thing we can be certain of is that with McQuaid we will suffer more of the same.

  4. Not a McQuaid fan, but it’s true that huge steps that have been made in the internationalisation of the sport under his watch. Cookson can counter that he turned the UK from a second rate cycling country to one of the strongest in the world.

    • Cookson has been an excellent and popular administrator at British Cycling but I don’t think Britain’s transformation into a cycling nation can be credited to him.

      • No, not all of it can, but it seems at least from this distance that British Cycling is far better run than, say, the US cycling federation. Yes, British Cycling had the assistance of buckets of lottery money, but, still.

        While some of the methods have been a bit dubious, the goal of globalizing cycling (or, more precisely, cycle sport) is an excellent one, and some of the Continent-centric criticism of this goal really, really annoys me. Any critique Cookson makes here will have to be a nuanced one.

  5. Hello INRNG! At least the European delegates have been chosen already. Maybe you have time to dig up the names of the rest of the delegates?

    Election of the 14 European Members to the UCI Congress
    Duci Giovanni (ITA), 30 votes, elected
    Jackson Charles (GBR), 29 votes, elected
    Kirsch Toni (GER), 38 votes, elected
    Langellotti Umberto (MON), 29 votes, elected
    Lesnikova Victoria (RUS), 36 votes, elected
    Maréchal Thierry (BEL), 42 votes, elected
    Massak Rudolf (AUT), 39 votes, elected
    Mattsson Yvonne (SWE), 38 votes, elected
    Privara Peter (SVK), 35 votes, elected
    Regenwetter Jean (LUX), 37 votes, elected
    Roy Patrice (FRA), 35 votes, elected
    Svoboda Slavomir (CZE), 40 votes, elected
    Tiedemann Hansen Harald (NOR), 29 votes, elected
    Wintels Marcel (NED), 27 votes, elected

  6. Secret ballots, unknown salaries, houses above Lake Geneva! this isn’t the world of Brian Cookson who has always struck me as more down to earth, more honest, more grass roots if you like, now that wouldn’t mix with the UCI. What a slimy outfit that represents the simple thing that is riding a bicycle.

    • There are actually many good people doing a good job working at the UCI so perhaps a little unfair to label them all as slimy… a shame that the entire UCI is equated to McQuaid and McQuaid as the UCI

      • I’d agree. Providing a house is normal and a secret ballot is normal etc.

        As you say a lot of good work is done within the UCI, it’s just a shame the President’s banana-skin moments often trump them.

  7. If the Asian and African delegates care little about LA and other road doping scandals they are being incredibly short-sighted. I’m sure these federations rely on the fact that cycling is an Olympic sport, allowing them to secure money to develop it in their nations, it’s certainly one of the main reasons GB track cycling got such good funding.

    Like it or not, Road cycling has a knock on effect to track cycling, BMX and MTB, and a continuation of the scandals could see cycling ejected from the Olympics in all forms. This wouldn’t be a huge issue for road racing, it would be devastating for other disciplines, particularly track.

    The UCI also relies heavily on it’s income from road racing and the talk of break-away leagues and animosity in the pro ranks towards Pat should worry anyone involved in a discipline governed by the UCI.


    • “Continuation”

      It is also likely a guy like Cookson, heavily involved in track cycling, would continue any development the UCI is currently involved in and given his track record with GB cycling, could even do a better job of it.

  8. @Tanni_GT as a member of the UCIIC , is currently watching this matter unfold ! With the recognition by UCI in December 2012 , sHE should wRITE to ALL 42 Delegates , reminding them that ANY promises made them by phat the rat , will be as worthless as his commitment to the establishment of the UCIIC !

    ANY Delegate , of the 42 , that THEN , relies on the word of phat the rat , deserves what comes their way , since THEIR Membership , will swiftly remove their ” perks “, when the next ” vote ” arises ?

    nein fordruggen must be rapidly shuffling his options , since he must currently perceive phat the rat , as a liability ?

    As @Tanni_GT tweeted ” You can’t make any of this stuff up “!

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