McQuaid’s Poison Pill Strategy

Yesterday saw the news that the UCI will vote on a special amendment to its constitution at its annual congress in September. The proposal allows presidential candidates to secure nominations from around the world and extends the deadline for nomination from late June to the end of August.

It’s hard not to see this as a bold move to ensure Pat McQuaid secures a nomination after he lost out in Ireland and his Swiss nomination faces a legal challenge. If the idea to broaden the nomination process is worthy, the backdated element looks like a rearguard move to save Pat McQuaid, as if the rules are being changed to suit an individual rather than the UCI.

But as tragic as the proposal appears, its chances of being adopted look slim. In fact it could all backfire and undermine the UCI’s reputation.

The item being proposed by the UCI includes a curious retrospective element where if approved, the vote in September would apply to the current nomination process and retrospectively the deadline to seek nomination would be extended from the end of June to August. More suspiciously the press release informs us that McQuaid has secured the nomination of the Thai and Moroccan federations, as if he’s had time to work this all out and this is all being arranged for his convenience.

Swiss miss?
It makes you wonder if the backdated element is because McQuaid is worried about his Swiss nomination. After the humiliation of being rejected by Irish Cycling, compounded by his refusal to take on the debate in his own country, McQuaid sought support from Swiss Cycling given he is resident in Switzerland. He’s on record saying he’s got legal advice saying the Swiss nomination is secure but what if this statement was a bluff or the advice was duff? You can see why a backdated change to the constitution with retrospective shift in the deadline for nomination suddenly becomes the only way for McQuaid to be sure of a valid nomination. It leaves McQuaid looking like a listing ship sailing from port to port in a desperate bid to find a flag of convenience.

The Poison Pill
This looks like a corporate ploy, a so-called “poison pill” strategy. The idea comes from corporate America where if a bidder came along to takeover a company then the company board could start deploying blocking tactics to thwart the buyer. For example if someone tried to buy a controlling stake in the company, the board could issue more stock so that the buyer can never get enough. It’s plain terms it’s the equivalent of running up an downwards escalator, no matter how fast you try, the incumbent board at the UCI have their hands on the speed lever so the outsider can never make it up.

It won’t happen
If you find the idea frustrating, the good news is that it won’t happen. Any constitutional changes to the UCI require a two-thirds majority in the vote, as opposed to the simple majority to elect a candidate. The UCI Congress has 42 delegates and 14 of these sit under the European confederation who are supporting Cookson. 14/42 = 33% so all it takes is one other delegate to side with the Europeans and the plan is sunk.

Given this, the risk is the proposal will collapse faster than a prototype carbon wheel in the Arenberg forest. In which case it leaves the Malaysians and Pat McQuaid standing by the road with mud on their races. The idea is already getting a terrible press.

Pat McQuaid gun

Cookson’s Choice
I’ve no idea whether Brian Cookson is the right man to lead the UCI although it is apparent that Pat McQuaid is not the person the sport or the UCI needs. However Cookson has to treat this with care. He has two main options:

  • declare the idea preposterous, asking why the rules need to be changed with a back-dated element and using this an example to illustrate the crony tendencies within the UCI and make a virtue of improving the UCI’s murky governance
  • support it and seek further nominations from other federations. He’ll need to pick the right backers, after all McQuaid has already taken the care to line up extra African and Asian nominations. If Cookson finds ready support in Europe having an all-Euro ticket makes him look insular so he too needs to phone a friend on the other side of the world. Indeed Cookson could play this side well too, hinting that McQuaid’s Swiss nomination could be bogus and that it’s better to have a contest, playing the magnanimous type who rallies support

I like the idea of broadening the nomination process and allowing candidates to build-up nominations from around the world, it’s not a bad idea to debate for the future. But the retrospective element is procedural nonsense and needs a quiet and calm rejection. Governance reform is supposed to be high on the agenda following the Stakeholder report and the UCI should be above these kinds of stunts.

All the same, even if it requires a humiliating Malaysian parachute, perhaps it’s better if Pat McQuaid is allowed to take part, that a choice at the Congress is better than a coronation? That said McQuaid has had years to plan for his third term and the services of the UCI’s legal department to help and if he can’t secure a fair nomination by now then it suggests he’s struggling with the very rules he’s supposed to uphold. A governing body that bends its own rules risks putting its Congress and its President above its own constitutional legitimacy. Bend the rules today and who gets the cosy treatment tomorrow?

However for all the outrage, amusement and pity this proposal generates, it’s likely to lead nowhere. Each time McQuaid thinks he’s got the nomination in the bag he makes a procedural blunder. Bungling in Ireland meant his nomination got put to a vote which he lost, there’s uncertainty over Swiss Cycling’s nomination with a legal challenge and now this Malaysian plan could get palmed off.

Regardless of the outcome the UCI as an entity suffers from a low level of trust – even they acknowledge this via the Deloitte report – and moves like this only make the recovery task harder and make an organisation and indeed the sport suffer because of the wild actions of senior managers.

85 thoughts on “McQuaid’s Poison Pill Strategy”

  1. Thanks for the insight.

    You really couldn’t make it up…the one upmanship between the UCI and FIFA continues – who will “win” this enthralling governing body race to the depths of humanity?

  2. Option 3 for Cookson: Support the idea but remove the backdating amendment? It is a good idea to have candidates nominated globally, rather than tied to their own federation.

    • Good point, it would take an amendment to fix this.

      But given the backdated element, the adjusted deadline and McQuaid has sought extra support from Thailand and Morocco I don’t think there’s much thought into improving the procedure, it looks like a plan to help McQuaid.

      • I agree that Pat’s intentions were far from honourable and probably weren’t serving the sport. But it is an interesting option that might allow Cookson to turn the tables on this latest sham and garner some positive spin for his campaign.

    • But is it really a good idea? …will it really change anything at all?

      Right now all you need is your own federation to back you and you can be a candidate… the proposal is that 1 nomination becomes 2 and it doesn’t need to be your home federation. At the end of the day that makes it slightly HARDER and MORE exclusionary to become nominated (not easier), but not by much at all. And, in the vote, it’s delegates from around the entire world that elect the president… who ever is nominated needs to present qualifications to everyone from around the world.. how can it be more democratic, multi-cultural, international and inclusive than that?

      So right now basically anyone can get elected if they can get the support of the most delegates from around the world.. the proposal says you need to be slightly more more connected than before (by 1 federation?) …so how will changing the nomination from 1 to 2 change anything in any significant way?? It makes no sense… smoke and mirrors guys… don’t fall for this nonsense.

  3. Increasingly desperate & despotic behaviour from McQuaid. Sadly, to outsiders, issues such as this do nothing to dispel the impression of cycling’s insular and conspiratorial governance.

    It was always too much to ask that Pat depart with a measure of dignity, or do what was best for the sport and fall on his sword.

    • +1

      I’m not sure many ‘outsiders’ (by that i assume you mean those with only a passing interest in cycling) really understand the mechanics of the governing body anyway. It certainly leaves a bad taste in an ‘insiders’ mouth.

      Personally, I fear that it isn’t just McQuaid who is rotten to the core. It feels as though in its current form, the UCI is open to huge abuses of power. The UCI doesn’t just need a change of leadership, it needs a complete structural overhual.

      • Isn’t this the case with many international sporting governing bodies? Another comment points out that FIFA is hardly a model of transparency and honesty, and hasn’t it been shown that the IOC is rife with corruption?

        • Followers of motorsport will be very familiar with the highly entertaining shenanigans going on in the FIA when Max Mosley was running things. He might actually have been less popular than McQuaid, yet still managed to win governance elections with 100% of the votes of delegates, probably because no one was standing against him. For years they had special secret agreements with Ferrari, too many to list here, along with other preferential treatment towards them. Now Mosley has left though, and we have a clean slate. He’s been replaced by Jean Todt, long-standing manager of … Ferrari.

          James Hunt used to say that the politics in Formula 1 was more interesting than the races.

  4. Have I understood correctly if the deadline for the nomination is being changed to the 30. august, but the constitutional change wont happen before september? So in fact he is being nominated under a rule which is not certain to go through? Nevermind that this wont happen due to the 2/3 majority voting, I cant believe that it is possible to nominate someone under a rule that dont exist. Also, are you allowed to be a member of several cycling federations? Pat now is a member of 4 or 5 or something?

    Do you have any pieces on the UCI organisation?

    • It’s a provisional nomination based on the vote passing to allow the retrospective rule change. Obviously it’s bad and future nominations should not have 30 August deadline as the campaign needs more time.

  5. Pat looks quite sinister in that photo. But for once he looks like he might shoot something other than himself in the foot.

  6. Phat the rat needs to save his ” skin ” by nominating before 30 August , @Gaudryt as HIS Nomination for President , perhaps he can serve as an advisor for the ” Honeymoon Period “? Doubt that he has the guts to consider working for a Woman BUT i doubt that there is any other ” Voting Delegate ” that is not beholden to the other 39 ?

    Those ” Delegates of the Thailand & Morrocan Federations ” , need to consider their future CAREFULLY , since THEIR Members must be wondering How to Dump them and how quickly ?

    Seems to me that Jim Burn ( aka pat mc quaid ) should think of changing his name to Mugabe and seek Nomination from Zimbabwe ! With enough brown nosing he will get to look like him also .

    Here is Brian Cookson’s take on this subject :

    Is there ANY Man in the 42 ” Voting Delegates ” that can be trusted ? Time a member of the Fair Sex was called forward to sort the mess that this Pig Sty has become ?

    Walks like a Pig , Talks like a Pig , Rolls in the Mire like a Pig , time phat the rat was treated like a PIG!

  7. Thank you for a comprehensive appraisal of the current proposals. Your writing and views would be considered by most as ‘balanced and fair’.
    However, the questions and problems generated by PMcQs presence as head of the UCI require rather more than a balanced and fair view. These circumstances require urgent action if the UCI is to survive with any credibility. If Pat is unable to do the decent thing and walk, then he should be shown the door asap. What little credibility the UCI still has is being lost, day by day, with complete inaction on pressing matters, coupled with shameful behind the scenes duplicity to save the present incumbent from losing the protection afforded by his present position.

    • BC – we have ‘required’ urgent action for a decade or more. The point is that the UCI can only be changed from within, and using the scope of it’s own rules and regulations. These rules enable the likes of PMcQ and Blatter to prosper. Ultimately, no matter how ridiculous/embarrasing/farcical PMcQ looks, the UCI has credibilty because it is recognised by the IOC… and that is probably the smelliest rotten apple of the lot.
      just hope Cookson wins, and then pressure him like crazy to make the governance changes required.

      • Noel – I understand and agree with you sentiments. I also hope Cookson wins, if only because a change at the top is urgently required. That the problems go far deeper than the President, is evident from the total lack of action, comment and direction over the years from the UCI as a body. Good men and women, once given a chance to understand the inner workings soon depart.

        Although Cookson might be considered a fresh change, I have my doubts. I have written to him in the past over concerns of the now well documented problems the sport has faced. I have never had a response ! The UCI has, to me the appearance and signs of a cosy cabal, following the pattern of many other international sports federations – IOC at the head.

        In summary, the big question is, given the current situation, how can meaningful change be implemented ? In the longer term I can only see real change coming from the outside.

    • Excellent point BC, McQuaid must now be shown the door surely the managememt committe can see the shameful Rat for what he is, an absolute disgrace. take the action required, do the right thing and befin the journey to repairing the damage he is being allowed to do.

  8. This proposal does appear to have some merit; however, the underlying attempt to “move the target” during the competition is a disgrace. It is also very disturbing that Pat was able to convince three federations to back this effort. Mind you they are all small feds that were probably/possibly offered something in return for their support. It sure sounds like the heads of Malaysia, Morocco and Thailand need to be look into as their integrity is questionable on this topic.

  9. In September 2011 there were only 40 voting delegates (14 from Europe), have they increased this number to 42 in an attempt to marginalise the power of the European cycling federation, which might help McQuaid because of his pro-globalisation ideas?

    • In terms of the actual vote for Presidency, Cookson has Europe (14) + Oceania (3). McQuaid has Asia (9) + Africa (7).

      All hinges on the Americas.

      In terms of this, Europe + Oceania is enough to defeat Pat.

      • No, I understand that, it’s just that now there are 42 delegates, and two years ago there were 40.
        McQuaid clearly is popular outside of Europe, so the more non-European delegates, the stronger his power base.

        The irony is, that nobody seems to really care how good Cookson is, they just want McQuaid out.

          • Though since Cookson has been part of the UCI Management Committee, he hasn’t really shown himself to be inclined towards fighting for/acting on anything in his manifesto (anti-doping-wise, women’s cycling etc.)

            You could say ‘better the devil you know’ and things stay as they are, or you could say ‘the lesser of two evils’ and hope Cookson carries out his promises.

        • Surely though even if Cookson’s not much good, it wouldn’t be as difficult to get rid of him as with our current incumbent. PM’s rivaling Robert Mugabe right now. I think the best option is remove PM while you have your chance because you may not get another one, and then worry about whether Cookson’s actually good at the job once he’s there, and hope it’s a bit more easier to get him to vacate his seat if it becomes clear he’s not wanted.

      • Except of course the danger with that approach is that the whole idea isn’t preposterous. The fundamental idea is a very good one – one which taken in isolation from the current ballyhoo would in all probability be quite popular. It is the backdated element of it that is preposterous and goes counter to the principles of law of civilised nations.

        In order to ensure the loyalty of their home federation, the current system effectively encourages a president to put the interests of that home federation ahead of the greater common good, so a system that allows nominations from a broader base would probably be a vast improvement .. but introducing it with a retroactive element – in order to override the established constitution under which an ongoing election is being contested and benefit one single candidate – is nothing short of obscene.

        • All true but what if a President started doing things to “sell” their nomination, for example they might ignore their home country but could make promises to another federation in order to gather support. Obviously the vote is the safeguard to this, we get 42 people to judge if they think a candidate is suitable or not.

          But I agree, the proposal is good in the round, it’s just the backdated aspect that makes the UCI look bad.

          • Well, if your are on such unstable ground that you need to bribe your way to securing two paltry nominations – from a total of around 190 member federations that would be eligible to nominate – then you are probably already well into the territory where you are going to have to grease the palms of at least 20 delegates in order to get yourself elected. No? 🙂

  10. Surely this is the latest desperate act of a man who knows his days in powers are numbered. My concern is what happens next. As various commenters have already suggested we don’t know enough about Cookson to know if he is the answer. My impression is that he has the credentials and the track record to do a good job but others will rightly be concerned by his close connections to Team Sky or his role as a UCI insider. What cycling really needs is a third candidate so we can have a proper election campaign to allow us to find out more about Cookson; if he ends up winning then hopefully a few of the questions will have been answered and he can start with the confidence of cycling fans that he is the right man for the job.

  11. Given how obsessive the UCI is about creating and enforcing rules for riders and teams, there’s no little irony in Pat McQuaid’s attempts to circumvent the UCI election nomination rules.

  12. This latest turn of events reminds me of the following quote: “Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed.” – Mao Zedong.

    McQuaid is fighting for his life. It’s war.

  13. Is it just me or is anyone else looking at that picture and thinking that Pat looks way too comfortable with that 9mm? Makes you think what else he has got upto in his youth…

  14. If Pat McQuaid has been a member of the Morocco federation since 2009, why did he need to ask Switzerland to nominate him? Morocco clearly would have been willing to do so and there would have been an argument that a Moroccan nomination would have looked better for a globalisation ticket.

    So, either McQuaid isn’t as confident about the success of this as he is claiming. Or he’s learnt a lot from Lance Armstrong about the value of backdated documentation…

  15. Anyone who thinks this is about public opinion is fooling themselves………..
    This is about backroom politics, pure and simple. Money and promises buy votes.

  16. Someone should tell Pat he’s the president of a sporting administration body, not a dictator of a former Soviet republic, or ex-colonial African country.

  17. Thanks for the great piece, Mr Inner Ring, and your balanced view is much appreciated.

    Apart from PM’s desperate clinch to power, what is as sad (or sadder) in this situation is the fact that small (Asian) Federations can only get their voices heard by either dumping a lot of money or becoming the personal political tool of the incumbent president in this European centric sport.

    While I do hope Cookson to win, I also he would change the current Euro-centric power structure within UCI by adopting maybe an Ronan’s option c.

  18. Why do people assume that Cookson has 14 European votes? I suspect he will lose 2-3 of those. The ballot is secret so delegates can vote whatever way they want. Secondly people keep saying McQuaid should stand for the sake of democracy. We are long past democracy we need him gone from the sport with his tail between his legs. I would prefer another candidate other than McQuaid and then I would agree about the competition being of use. Cookson isnt perfect but by jaysus he is a far better option for the sport than McQuaid.

    • Good point. The worse thing with this Malaysian proposition is that it is directly related to McQuaid. Rather than debating a new nomination procedure for everyone, the backdated element means the idea is likely to appeal to pro-McQuaid and be rejected by anti-McQuaid rather than being discussed on the merits.

  19. I find McQuaid almost delusional. He says he has three valid nominations. The Swiss ticket is under legal review and the Moroccan and Thai ones are 100% invalid, as the rule has not been voted through.

    If he can bend the rules and lie in public how can anyone believe him or the UCI?

  20. Wish inring could be voted 🙂 man cycling would change in a lot off good ways then !
    Btw with Pat and Cookson for me it feels a bit as if you had to vote one off the 1998 List Riders for a mpcc Position ): would prefer someone whos young and from the new Generation so much more !

  21. Dear oh dear. This is a man that makes Blatter look level-headed these days. He seems to be the only person that doesn’t see anything wrong with this amendment.

    For democracy’s sake, it’d be better having him lose in a straight fight rather than be put out of the picture and Cookson walk in unopposed, but then the worry is that he’d win. It’s a rubbish situation all round, but the bad taste that was left in the mouth when Blatter waltzed back in last year would rather be avoided given the choice.

    Cookson may be not be the answer, long-term, but he’s made some decent noises, and he’s not Pat. That’s good enough for me at the moment.

  22. Interesting article. Certainly looks unethical and legally problematic.

    BTW, this isn’t a poison pill. Poison pill is a share rights plan that is automatically triggered to dilute the acquiror’s holdings. But there is similarity in that this is a way to entrench an incumbent officer. But even a poison pill is forward looking and doesn’t involve backdating anything.

    Without reading the constitutional doc of UCI carefully it’s hard to tell, but generally backdating is bad and there are many minute conditions one has to meet for a backdated vote to be effective, for example, the current crop of delegates generally should be the same who were entitled to vote months ago… In many jurisdictions, backdating is accepted only in the absence of fraud, manipulation, etc.

    But the legal mumbo jumbo aside, Pat’s acting like a dickhead, and the sport of cycling doesn’t need him.

  23. All world governing sporting bodies have an element of corruption at worst and cronyism at best. The sport of football suffers through Blatter and Fifa, as others have mentioned, but there is one major difference. When football supporters look towards the governing body in relation to their week to week involvement, it is the leagues that have the most impact. The vast majority follow a club first and foremost and besides the World Club Championship, Fifa has nothing to do with the day to day running of club football. It’s only really world cups that bring out the fans despair in Blatter and his henchmen. The UCI, however, is all powerful at the elite level and is therefore more pertinent to the running of the sport in the eyes of the average fan. Whether the UCI is overseen by PMc or BC, the issue of transparency and self serving decision making will remain.

    What the sport needs is the UCI involved in only the Olympics, track World Cups, the road World Championships, etc and a new body, a la the EPL, to run the team based elite level. This will still have its own issues and problems but it dilutes the powers of administrators looking to line their own pockets or continue their power trips. As for trying to retrospectively apply changes that suit only PMc at the moment, all I can think is that is very lucky for him that he won’t suffer the same fate as disposed dictators often do at the hands of their oppressed masses, but here’s hoping!

  24. I don’t understand the hold of the UCI. What does UCI add to the sport? ASO, joined by a few key teams, probably could make the UCI superfluous. If PMc wins, it may be a pyrrhic victory and lead to full-fledged revolt.

    • ‘The sport’ is more than pro cycling. Its also track, MTB, BMX, paracycling, CX, trails etc.

      Cycling in all its variants is an Oympic sport – an increasingly important Olympic sport. The UCI sit under the umbrella of the IOC – thats the nearest thing they have to a reporting line.

      • We see cycling as pro cycling and road racing but it covers all the other disciplines. Some other disciplines have their problems too but all sports need a governing body; the Olympics and the IOC are what give the UCI its legitimacy.

        • Does the UCI have divine right to be the governing body though?
          And is there any reason that all forms of cycling have to be represented through one governing body? I know mountain biking is not keen on the UCI (massive generalisation, i realise)

          • No devine right at all, but breaking away is hard. You’d need to convince enough involved people that you can do it better, then there are the links to the IOC, ASO, RCS etc.

            No reason at all that every discipline of cycling has to be covered by the UCI, for instance rugby union is governed by the IRB, rugby league by the RLIF. There is a fair amount of cross-over though, particularly with newer teams like OGE and Sky, so with riders competing in both track and road it makes sense to have the same governing body.

            I do wonder how much of the money brought in by Road Racing is funneled into other disciplines, particularly track, which is the only interest of many national federations.

  25. The whole circus is a farce, an effing disgrace. I would hope the Swiss govt might have some view on the organisations they accommodate running a clean shop and not tarnishing their national image but this is a business for them too and they have centuries of form showing non-intervention so they’re unlikely to bit the hand that feeds them.

    • Swiss more corrupt than some mid-south-eastern Asian junta’s.
      Sad to say, but say it isn’t so.
      UCI HQ is where it is for one reason and one reason only.
      Money laundry management.

  26. Why not just allow incumbent to run irreguardless. Then all a president need do is opt out. He can stab all and sundry in the back, lie, resign, retire, die and still get elected. Simpler and less obnoxiously flagrant abuse of power and access…than what we see today.

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