Over To You Brian

The UCI’s Congress met today in Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio to pick a President. It chose Brian Cookson by 24 votes to 18.

If attendees wanted a clue to the direction of events, they needed only to check their tourist guides as the palace was once the workplace of Niccolò Machiavelli, author of The Prince and probably the world’s greatest political schemer. However the procedure lacked finesse and with the world watching the meeting turned into a farce.

The Congress had its bizarre moments with debates on whether to vote on a vote and other tautological curiosities. Much of the tragedy came from attendees being unprepared. Everyone knew there were problems with Pat McQuaid’s nomination, whether the debate over his Thai and Moroccan nominations or the shenanigans of Swiss Cycling. But only the UCI was ready with a lawyer flown in from Geneva to advise that McQuaid’s nomination was valid. This was a clever ambush by the McQuaid camp but Cookson and every single one of the voting delegates walked into it. These people should have sought clarity on the matter long before they boarded their business class seat to Italy and it provides yet another example of the dire governance of the UCI. The most important administrative meeting of the year needed more planning.

As debate raged over the validity of McQuaid’s nomination it was Brian Cookson who moved. He stood up and declared “We’ve had enough of this. I propose that we go straight to the vote between the two candidates“. It was bold and said to the Congress that he’d trust the delegates. But also an explicit acceptance of McQuaid’s candidacy and for a man hoping to uphold the rules of the UCI, Cookson showed he can drop the ball. Plus the UCI’s ethics committee might be busy tomorrow:

Machiavelli once wrote a leader should either be loved or feared and McQuaid seemed to prefer the latter. This blog’s long pointed out McQuaid’s mistakes to the point of ignoring some because it felt repetitive but also because also pseudonymity requires restraint from personal attacks. But others more involved in the sport have been reluctant to go public with criticism for fear of retribution in case McQuaid won again and he’d get four years to extract cool revenge upon them.

But if fear was McQuaid’s choice, it didn’t reach everyone and sadly for the UCI as a corporate body the President had become a distraction, no more so that the desperate attempts to fight USADA and WADA over jurisdiction for the Armstrong/US Postal case. It’s these things that undo any of the good work achieved. Yes there was anti-doping improvement but some of that was prompted by WADA and ASO: it followed a pattern of being bounced into tightening the net after scandals threatened to stop the Tour de France. But there was improvement in other areas, see the UCI publishing its financial accounts for small example or, best of all, the World Cycling Centre which helps develop talent from around the world.

McQuaid will leave the UCI but remain within the IOC where hopefully his skills can be put to better use, he’s effective at marshalling others – part pitbull, part shepherd dog – but executive leadership and collegiate management have not been for him.

Exit stage left

The Campaigns
McQuaid’s campaign was questionable at best. A gaff-prone media performer over the years, his entourage were sending ever-more bizarre press releases that rather than informing recipients or framing the debate just left journalists and others wondering what was going on in the minds of whoever pressed the send button although the UCI has sent several of these too under McQuaid. If McQuaid has a media image for stumbling into fights, his campaign strategy confirmed this and even showed the world a dirty side to the fight. It was an odd choice when McQuaid could have played “old safe hands” by looking Presidential and rallying federations in support and making Cookson look like the risky outsider.

Apparently “UCI Overlord” Aaron Brown had been advising McQuaid during the campaign and he showed up in Florence. Having someone suspected for fraud on your team is never that useful.

Cookson’s campaign was slick but odd at times too. He seemed to be popping up regularly in the British press. Sure there were other interviews for foreign newspapers but the British media were relaying most of his campaign. Only most of the European delegates probably don’t read The Guardian or The Telegraph, yet alone South American, African or Asian cycling officials he needed to reach. It felt like Cookson was talking with his own countrymen rather than the electorate. Presumably the communications agency hired by Cookson was adept at planting press releases with with local media but not beyond; Cookson also led a decent web campaign but neither you nor I vote so it was an odd strategy. Still it worked and knocking an incumbent President is a big deal given all the advantages at McQuaid’s call.

Whilst the campaign got personal at times, it never got very political. Can you name three McQuaid pledges or three Cookson promises from memory?

Now the hard work begins
Can you feel the fresh air? Maybe but note we’ve swapped one sixty-something man from an island in the north-east Atlantic with another sixty-something man from an island in the north-east Atlantic. As we’ve seen over time the UCI is about much more than one President so what happens over the coming weeks and months is crucial. It might be that Cookson starts opening some cupboards in Aigle and skeletons fall out; hopefully the sport can try shape the future rather than wade through the past.

Today’s vote shows that change is possible. After a divisive campaign the 18 McQuaid voters need to be brought onside, as do other supports to put the union back into the UCI. Over to you Brian.

66 thoughts on “Over To You Brian”

  1. I know relatively little about Cookson or what he intends to do but, whatever other qualities he might have, he has the overwhelming advantage of not being Pat McQuaid. I am very glad that the UCI has seen sense and replaced McQuaid as he was so stained by the mistakes (to be generous) of the last twenty years that the sport couldn’t move forward with him in charge.

    As you say though, the problems with the UCI and cycling go deeper than McQuaid so the next few months will tell us much as to whether Cookson can move the sport forward.

    • phat , i hope has been locked out of the UCI piggybank , that he has come to rely on , certainly he will have lost confidence in the ” lawyers ” he has come to rely on in the endeavour to dish dirt on cookson !

      With UCI appointing 3 new VPs to assist the way forward , i would hope some of the issues i have raised in ” parrabuddy.blogspot ” will get to be addressed ? Looking forward to additional ideas being offered by those reading this ! Having irritated some of the main players in the farce , leading up to the election , they are looking at my offerings , but then again , most of what i regurgitate is mostly common sense to any follower of Cycling ?

      there , got thru without using the caps lock ! Hope my views are welcome to more than timojhen ?

  2. In an election fought between two men with broadly similar promises it was never going to be about politics, likewise McQuaid was never really going to go down quietly.

    I have my fingers crossed that Cookson will be a quiet and solid leader who will work in the boackground to improve both the UCI and cycling as a whole. I’m concerned that he’s too focused on the professional road scene but in the end all we can hope from Cookson is that he is competent. Four years of competence will hopefully put the UCI on the road to change and allow more reformists to come out of the woodwork without worrying how the UCI president will take retribution.

    The best outcome for cycling (from Cooksons presidency) would be for the governance changes to encourage two or three more candidates to stand in four years time and to make the next election a real debate.

  3. The whole election reminds of the 1998 presidential elections in Colombia. THe man that was voted into office, Andrés Pastrana, won not because people were voting for him, but rather because people were voting against his rival, Horacio Serpa (no relation to José, btw). Of course, the stakes in a cycling election are much higher 😉

      • They debated the case and McQuaid didn’t bother to show up despite being afforded every chance. He even tried to smear them saying those campaigning against were being funded by Jamie Fuller/Skins which apparently is not true.

        • As I’ve agreed, McQuaid beat himself. But Fuller had his hand in everything. Until he got bored or was asked to pipe down. I don’t remember all of the Fuller allegations, I guess we know he didn’t pay for busing.

      • Since when is standing up to a tyrannical, corrupt bully-boy whose seen the governance and reputation of our sport dragged through the gutter and worse “selling out their own” LM?

  4. @ INRNG,

    About the lawyer ambush, good point indeed, and expectable considering the situation and the heat it was in. When I read it this morning, the only thing I could think of was “why the hell did Cookson not have any lawyers with him to counter?”

    Second, how crucial do you consider Cookson’s move to go ahead with the vote? From what I’ve read, delegates were getting very tired and hungry, and Cookson’s decisive move might just have won over some of their guts and stomachs to vote for him. Could it be considered a strategic move to charm some delegates in this secret ballot?

    Third, what’s your opinion on the alleged Greece bribery and the Ethics commission? Mike Plant had some negative comments on them (article http://www.velonation.com/News/ID/15436/Plant-questions-independence-of-UCI-Ethics-Commission-says-that-is-reason-McQuaid-dossier-wasnt-handed-over.aspx), making me think this whole bribery story is just fiction. If anything, I find it remarkable that out of all news outlets, the British Sky was shown the evidence, with its strong link to British Cycling.

    Fourth, I’d love to see your view on how Russian cycling, along with Makarov is involved with Cookson, and how it affects his Cookson’s integrity and position as President.

    • If winning a vote is thanks to hungry delegates then it doesn’t say much for the sport. But perhaps his “let’s stop talking, I’ll trust you the delegates” stance worked. As for the ambush, this should have all been settled well before the Congress but it shows how the UCI’s systemic problems allowed it to blow up at the 11th hour.

      If you watch summits like the G8 nobody actually decides much during the weekend, all the heavy work is done by diplomats before. This way all the officials can smile for the cameras and announce something positive. The UCI needs to plan ahead like this too.

      As for Russians, we’ll have to watch very closely. Loyal readers will know I’ve been a keen follower of Igor Makarov for some time (http://inrng.com/2011/12/tinker-tailor-cyclist-spy/) and I know others are watching him closely too.

      • I don’t necessarrily think that Cookson was ill prepared for the Lawyer, I suspect he may have been stung by McQuaid’s comments that he was trying to win the presidency by stopping the delegates from voting and decided to let McQuaid at least get on the ballot.

        Pushing for the vote to happen would not been something Cookson decided on a whim and I think he probably went in with a view to allow a vote and to try and win it. If nothing else, he always had the option to challenge McQuaid’s nomination after the fact.

        • Even if he didn’t want to question the validity of of McQuaid running, he should’ve brought some Magic Circle assistance with him. I’d say the greater risk was McQuaid trying to postpone everything based on some shady rule and brute force. I´m a corporate lawyer and I´ve been to numerous nasty general assembly/shareholders’ meetings disputes – if you’re unlawyered in a situation like that, no matter how right you might be, they’ll eat you up.

      • Cookson played a blinder, and he showed leadership with that move.

        As for the criticism that he should have anticipated every single thing that McQuaid tried to ambush him with…I mean, where does it stop?

        The UCI has been run as a dual dictatorship, aided and abetted by UCI senior staff at every turn to try to bend rules. Trying to expect it to be run in the lead-up today as a G8 summit is several steps too far.

        • Agreed – he seemed to be saying that what really mattered was the delegate vote, valid nomination or not. He called McQuaids bluff and also prevented any future challenges to the validity of the vote. If he carries on with that style of governance I have a lot of hope for the future.

  5. Having stumbled across the finish line , Cookson will have to ACT Resolutely to clean up the mess that phat the rat will lay at his feet , we can expect a huge pile of grief to flow from today’s event !

    When a lawyer is flown in from Geneva , at UCI Expense , it is clear that the UCI Administration is in need of NEW GUIDELINES ! From today , a new ETHICS Committee is needed and a NEW SET OF INTERNAL AUDITORS ! Should ANY of the expenditures over the past 12 months prove to be ethical within the UCI Constitution , then THAT CONSTITUTION needs to be REWRITTEN ! Since when has Cycling had to pay for INCOMPETENCE & CRONYISM ? Even employing fraudsters is not part of the UCI Mandate ! Should that turkey , that created the Kimmage Fund , have been employed/paid by the UCI then those responsible shouls be getting a DCM !

    With most Major News Networks broadcasting up until Midday about this Election , there will be Media Scrutiny as never before . Cookson CANNOT do all expected of HIM , but he can DELEGATE and ascertain that as many of his Campaign Promises are introduced expeditiously !

    One thing i would like to see , is Cookson create the basis for ALL Teams to put together 5 year & 10 year Budgets ! Surely even HE will recognise the need for ALL in the SPORT to be able to follow a plan ? If individual Athletes prepare for their NEXT Olympics as they finish the current Events , then surely the Sport can do likewise ?

    Doubt that Dame TanniGrey would refuse to join the other UCIIC members in beginning work on the long overdue Commission ?

    People need to realise that @jaimiefuller & @moran_anto are responsible for our good fortune , without their tenacity , we would still be seeing phat the rat , sharpening his knives , as he prepared to enter a new era of diminishing the future of CYCLING SPORT ! What a shame phat was not an ethical japanese noble ? No doubt in the rear future , we will see him behaving with even more futility as he scrabbles for a semblence of dignity in the mire he has created ?

    • You overestimate the Olympics. For many individual sports it is their only public stage, they more or less get paid for the whole four years depending on a one day performance. And so they prepare for that. Good thing for many cyclists this is not the case ( My guess the track riders are more affected by the dilemma, but as long as a few six days remain, they might be safe, and crossers aren’t even in the Olympics), they have reoccurring highly followed events every year and a decent income (well, the men at least, unfortunately not all of the women, something that could be changed Mr. Cookson, minimum wage? Protour teams also have to have a womens’ team?)
      Many companies are unable to put together a five year plan because of certain interests( in my opinion bad for the companies only planning from one shareholder meeting to the next to put it a bit drastically), so demanding a 10 year budget plan from a team is impossible, but to improve the conditions for the team to plan for a longer time frame than one year until the revision of the license would be a good starting point.
      I really don’t hope cycling will become that insignificant that only the Olympics count and that the top athletes only prepare for them.

  6. Nicely written, as always, and an accurate assessment.

    Machiavelli would have admired Cookson and his supporter’s tactics. In addition to watching the Russian contingent, I think an extra diligent watch should be kept on the US Cycling crowd. Cookson didn’t float a reduced ban for Armstrong out of the blue and Armstrong was not the real ringleader of that scandle.

      • Actually, the only thing that happened today in cycling was that a new UCI President was elected. Time will tell how that effects the future of the sport. I did not lose, the fellow I believe had the better interests of the future of cycling in mind, he lost. For me personally, there’s nothing to get over, just a recalculation of the facts for now.

        • LM, you seem to be pointing a finger at the “US Cycling crowd”?
          What do you mean exactly?
          The New World controls a small number of UCI delegate votes given its population and the $$ they spend on cycling goods.

          LA will be lucky to compete in senior ironman competitions!

          • This has little or nothing to do with LA’s desire to compete.

            LA has made a lot of people a lot of money, they do not want that to stop. His redemption starts to turn the faucet back on. The Bergen Report or, the dossier, while presented by Plant and attributed to Makarov was put together in the states by “retired US government employee investigators”, whatever that means. There’s a pretty good chance, with Plant the original presenter, that Johnson and/or Weisel were actually behind it. The consortium of investors behind LA is at least as powerful as Makarov and probably a whole lot more savvy. It’s great and all that LA got busted and banned, but don’t forget that he was just a troubled kid growing up in a trailer.


          • For all the talk, it’s surprising that no one has seemed to have had a look yet, except for the synopsis. Regardless of who is on the record of the paper trail, do you really think that it was Makarov acting alone? How does Plant all of the sudden become a Russian ally? And don’t Armstrong’s backers have a lot more to gain by McQ’s ouster than anyone else?

  7. I can see it now, Hein Verbruggen as Frank Butcher, staggering around Aigle shouting

    “Paaaaaarrt, Paaaaaart, I love you Paaaaaart. Come back Paaaaart”

    Admittedly this probably means nothing to anyone other than the UK and Belgians with big aerials.

  8. I don’t think you’re giving Cookson enough credit in calling for a vote. I’d be amazed if he went ahead without first getting a good informal head count. By conceding the procedural question, he thus denied McQ grounds for an appeal. Time to move on and we what the new guy can do.

  9. I certainly do not know all there is to know regarding either Cookson or McQuaid. However, I do know that McQuaid certainly maintains an air of obstinance & entitlement. His condescending statements & press releases throughout this campaign stand in stark contrast to the measured, thoughtful missives from Cookson. Whatever he does over these next four years, a service to cycling has been done with the ouster of McQuaid. I know that today I feel something regarding the future of cycling & the leader of its governing body that I’ve never felt previously: optimism. For that I’m grateful & hopeful that Cookson will deliver on his campaign promises to remove anti-doping from under ther auspices of Aigle & to facilitate a T&R process to exorcise the ghosts of the past that haunt my beloved sport to this day. Chapeau to the electorate for choosing optimism & change over the horribly flawed status quo!

    • In the long list of great accomplishments, and I’m not saying McQ belongs on it, but I would guess a smaller percentage of the people behind those successes are all warm and fuzzy.

      Additionally, I had a friend talk of his pure joy the day after the American President was elected; everything was going to change for the better, all wars would end, the economy would run smoothly and minorities would be helped by the majority at every turn. He doesn’t feel that way any more.

  10. Please note that the Greek rider in the World Championships was unsure if he would be able to attend as the federation did not have any money to send someone over…

  11. The wind of change has blown. I wonder if any skeletons will talk. Well done Brian you always seemed a descent bloke in the Lancs & Lakes Division so I wish you all the best.

  12. “Can you name three McQuaid pledges … promises from memory?”
    Something about doping.

    “Can you name …three Cookson promises from memory?”
    Yes! Especially growing women’s cycling, independent anti-doping, and TRANSPARENCY!!!!

    McQ was slimy and unresponsive. Cookson reached out, even Twitter answered a question from a 14 year old fan and budding journalist of the sport (Luke Allingham).

    Inner Ring’s skepticism aside, Cookson was the best option and I hope he turns this around, just like he helped rejuvenate British cycling.

    Half baked claims of bribes to Greece from a Rupert Murdoch reporter for 25K Euros? (really, that’s all it would take????) A bit hard to believe. And failing Cookson (“dropping the ball”) by not bothering with a failing nomination system? That bullshit. Everyone knew this would drag on and on. Cookson did the right thing and ended it.

  13. A comment on the “farce” (now that BC won, the interest in this should be just academic).

    I understand that the UCI meeting was held under Swiss law. So, here’s the case: the Swiss nominated PMQ as a candidate. In doing so, they possibly violated their own statutes and, therefore, decided to withdraw the nomination later. PMQ’s side argued this is impossible. BC’s side had no good response and appeared “not prepared”.

    Even when assuming the Swiss statutes in fact HAD been violated (notice that this has never been decided) it is highly questionable whether Swiss law allows a proposal to be withdrawn, once it is on the agenda. Here’s the reason: another member of the association might have wanted to submit the same nomination (before the deadline which seemed to be the problem with the nomination by Morocco/Thailand), but did not do so in good faith because the Swiss nomination was already there. So Swiss law values good faith of the member that didn’t nominate higher than the possible violation of Swiss Cycling’s statutes.

    I don’t have any clue whether BC’s side anticipated that. Assuming they did, what should they have done else than appearing “not prepared”. The long debate that ran in circles, then BC’s final word, then the vote appears to be a better strategy in retrospect than just admitting that PMQ’s side was correct and going straight to the election.

      • Well, those PMQ lawyers knew the issue but, for sure, UCI can’t pay them as employees. I guess it’ll be cheaper for the UCI leader(s) to return to a path of good reputation for integrity, honesty, and respect. This is a good insurance not to stumble into such traps in the future.

  14. I used to watch wrestling as a kid on Saturday afternoon’s on ITV’s World of Sport, remember Giant Haystacks, Big Daddy and Kendo Nagasaki! Well that all seemed more reputable than this total farce which has been going on. Lets hope for the sake of sanity the UCI gets more sensible, credible, transparent, simpler even. I cannot take another Honcho change like this one.

  15. I don’t know much about Cookson, but I do know that over the past few years McQuaid has done little to meet his job description. He needed to go. How do I know? His silly statement last week that he is the best person to repair cycling’s image. IF he was effectively performing his job, there would be no need to repair the image.

    My question is what were you waiting for?

    The answer is nothing. His mission was to stall, obfuscate, and delay to protect the angle cronies. If nothing is unearthed or discovered, the status quo remains just as he likes it. He never intended to repair cycling, just wait for the next phenom to believe in so we can forget the past without learning from it or changing things for the future.

  16. A few days have passed and I still find myself shocked that a voting system of maximum inertia could come up with a change. I guess McQuaid really was that bad, made the wrong enemies (Makarov) AND Cookson did a half decent job too.

    The result has given me hope at least. I sincerely hope that’s fulfilled a year or three down the line.

      • Yes, makes one wonder how many votes were swayed in that one decisive moment.

        Glad to hear he is straight down to it. It’s certainly got the potential to be a busy off season for him…

  17. Cookson did better NOT having lawyers. All that would have done is add legitimacy to Pat’s debate and annoyed the delegates even more. By not having lawyers it was the delegates themselves who argued against it.
    At the end of the day more lawyers would have just lengthened the debate and annoyed the delegates even more. Brian had and played his trump card to perfection.

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