The Finances of Ag2r La Mondiale

Ag2r La Mondiale’s latest set of accounts are out and the budget for the team in 2014 was €13.6 million, up 15% on the previous year.

Having looked at Team Sky’s accounts recently here’s a look at the numbers for the French team.

€13,619,005 is the precise number for 2014. Team Sky’s budget has a lot more items listed compared to Ag2r La Mondiale so it’s hard to go over the numbers for the French team in as much detail. Instead here is what we’ve got:

  • €13.5m in sponsorship income and other earnings, presumably race participation fees and more but there’s no breakdown
  • €0.6 million is spent on “purchases of stock and other supplies”, presumably raw materials like fuel for the team bus
  • The team spent another €2.7m on “other purchases and external charges” which can might from rent to travel expenses
  • €7.1m on wages
  • €2.5m of payroll taxes on top of the wages

The wage bill is rising but still modest. The whole team, riders and staff, costs what Astana, BMC Racing, Team Sky or Tinkoff-Saxo can spend on two riders. Of course wages always have a skewed distribution in sport with a few top athletes earning more than the next one hundred on the scale and so on: nothing new there. But it does help us reflect on the differences within the sport. Knowing team budgets and wage spending, data shared with the UCI but not made public, could help fans appraise each team differently.

One specificity for French teams is the high costs when hiring riders. As explained here before jobs are heavily taxed in France and for every €1,000 in wages the team paysa rider it must pay a tax of €350 too. This doesn’t happen in other countries, either at all or on the same scale. It makes comparing team budgets harder as a sponsorship Euro collected in France doesn’t go as far as the same sum raised elsewhere. This puts French teams on a perpetual competitive disadvantage when it comes to bidding for foreign riders. But if doing business in France can be costly it works the other way as French teams race at home in the Tour de France and enjoy the publicity bonanza and should a team fall out of the World Tour they’re still likely to get the hottest invite in town, it’s why Bretagne-Séché get a wildcard for Tour and, say, Wanty-Gobert don’t. Of course you can see the rider perspective of healthcare, pensions and more but this article is about team budgets rather than rider welfare.

The team earned a modest profit of €83,155 but no pro team is run for a profit and if owners want to take money out they pay themselves wages and bonuses rather than dividends.

Rising budget: the budget has grown at an average rate of 13% since 2011. Wage inflation or growing ambitions? Probably both as the sport has got more costly for all participants but the team has improved a lot too. It wasn’t long ago that the team was fishing for Iran’s Amir Zagari to buy in riders with UCI points and prevent relegation from the World Tour while existing riders were tasked with winning points rather than races. Now with the likes of Domenico Pozzovivo, Romain Bardet, Alexis Vuillermoz and Jan Bakelants they sit mid-table in the UCI rankings.

Foundation: The team is part of a wider structure with the Chambéry CF U23 team as a feeder. This isn’t some loose deal with an amateur club but a linked team that rides in identical kit and shares staff and based out of the pro team service course. It brings talent on a conveyor belt and has produced the likes of Romain Bardet, Pierre Latour and Nans Peters is tipped to turn pro next. The team recruits outside of this too.

Ag2r vs Team Sky

y/e Dec 2014 Ag2r La Mondiale Team Sky
Budget €13.6m €31.1m
Payroll Taxes €2.2m
Wages €7.1m €23.1m

The table shows the differences but there are similarities too. Ag2r is the latest French team to boost spending on “performance”, the term used for coaching, marginal gains and more. FDJ were the first to adopt this route in a bid to escape the empiricism of Marc Madiot and it’s beginning to pay dividends. It’s not visible in the accounts of Ag2r but anecdotally it’s not long ago Romain Bardet was buying his own powermeters; now Ag2r has three coaching staff, riders have been visiting windtunnels, doing altitude training camps and mountain recons too although obviously it’s all on an appropriate scale.

Other teams? BMC Racing are said to have the biggest budget in the sport but nobody can get the accounts to verify this. Only a few other teams have publicly available accounts. But what if we could compare the team budgets? Is this a niche subject for blogs or would it become a universal way to appraise the teams, to see the results obtained for money spent? Certainly money makes a big difference and there is a correlation between budget and results but fortunately sport reserves some surprises and this is why we watch. Returning to Ten Dam’s tweet above if Giant-Alpecin had started the Vuelta with more money would they have brought more help for Tom Dumoulin or spent it on the sprint train? Having lots of money is one thing, spending wisely another.

A rising budget but far from the most wealthy team in the sport. Ag2r La Mondiale enjoys longevity, the sponsor has backed the team since 1999 and has already said it’s staying on for several more years.

Thanks to reader Nicolas for sending a scanned copy of the accounts.

  • Exchange rates at 31 December 2014: €1 =$1.13 = £0.78

47 thoughts on “The Finances of Ag2r La Mondiale”

  1. Interesting comparison AG2R. payroll and taxes 68% of Income, Sky 74%, both approx. on the figures quoted above. Surprisingly close. Would be interesting to see if there’s comparison for wages/taxes % of Income with any other published accounts but without more detail it would be tough to draw any meaningful conclusions beyond those you’ve already made.

    • If you look at PCS Team Ranking :
      Sky are 3rd on 12331 points.
      Ag2r are 10th on 7623 points.

      So, in terms of value of total budget, it costs Sky just over €2,522 per point to date.
      It cost Ag2r around €1,784 per point. Which is about a third less than Sky.

      I don’t know if that represents good value ; it seems to.
      But you have Orica, Lotto Soudal and Movistar teams all above Ag2r in the Team Ranking.
      How do their budgets compare with Ag2r ?
      Plus the season hasn’t ended yet and I’m not sure if the teams’ annual accounting period corresponds with the UCI season ?

      • I suspect that each additional point has an increasing marginal cost. And indeed, are the UCI points the best way to represent the value of a team?

      • Interesting way to quantify things, one way to look at things but you can amass points on the sly.

        One of Ag2r’s problems in the past was it had to hunt for points to protect its World Tour status so it had some expert riders at finishing, say, 8th or some other position where nobody remembered but it earned points. Now it’s liberated from collecting points like this.

        • How are they collecting points ?
          They’re listed as 10th place on PCS Ranking but 11th on UCI.
          They have the four riders that you noted in the top 100 of UCI Individual points scorers, yet NO riders at all in PCS’ top 100 riders for podium places.

          As you’ve noted in your archives (there’s some great stuff in there btw) the whole UCI rankings system is very difficult to fathom.

          • Actually what I have found, and this may be just a complete coincidence or it may be a deliberate Sponsor-led way of keeping the money coming in, their 4 principal riders that Inrng noted all have scored well in races held in French speaking / centric countries –

            Bardet – scored well in TdF, Criterium du Dauphine and LBL (French-speaking Walloon)
            Pozzovivo – TdF, Tour de Suisse, LBL
            Bakelants – GP Montreal, TdF
            Vuillermoz – TdF, La Fleche Wallone

            Pozzovivo did score heavily in La Vuelta, Volta Catalunya and Tour Down Under also, but nevertheless I wonder if this French audience thing is relevant ?

      • Major sponsors of teams dont give a damn about how many points the team earns. Whats the reward after all? No one outside a highly rarified cycling community knows or cares who won. Does nothing for the sponsor’s brand awareness amongst the public.

        Winning big races that get a lot of exposure globally/in the sponsors target market, does a hell of a lot more.

        If you were to ask James Murdoch and Jeremy Darroch if they felt a Tour win was better value for money than a bucketload of UCI points being accumulated via lower placings, it’d be obvious what they’d prefer.

        • I’d say that it’s even *too* obvious.

          But let’s say you don’t have easy access to winning the Tour, like Ag2R and many others, since the riders with a reasonable chance to make it are very few and very expensive.

          Is it better to go for more or less “important victories” or for a constant presence through placing – which, among other things, bring you some UCI points?
          My istinct would say the first.
          Than I thought about a comment on Lampre in a previous post.
          Like, they’re normally pretty invisible.
          I think most people wouldn’t say that about Ag2R in the last couple of seasons. This year they’re scoring similar UCI points – it looks like Ag2R is a little above.
          But whereas Lampre is taking home more victories, and more important ones, I’d say, Ag2R has got on its favour a good number of significant placings.
          Nothing incredible, note that, like barely achieving a top ten in GC, still it’s enough to generate the feeling of a *recurrent presence*.
          Both sponsors can be hugely satisfied, but while Lampre got more big victories (and with less money, I’d say), Ag2R probably got a little more exposure and brand awareness – mainly through not-that-amazing placings.

          • interesting points… especially about “visibility”…

            i have no clue where teams rank in points (not something i care about, so i don’t keep track of it)… if you asked me “chris, which of the two teams are more successful”, i would answer (based on the races that i can actually watch), “ag2r” without even thinking twice…

            i thought a little bit about this, trying to figure out why my response would be that, because i “know” lampre has won more/better races (i too saw that post about lampre, and agree with your response), yet my immediate response is for the other team being more successful…

            and as much as i think about it, it comes almost all down to visibility… then i thought “why more visible? lampre is in as many breakaways and so on”…

            and, after trying to come up with “good reasons” why, i think it’s the kit… as much as some people despise it, it’s the kit that makes them stand out*… i’m a very “visual” person, and those ag2r kits “jump” out of the peloton to me… if they show a pack of leaders whizzing by, i have no problems noticing “there is an ag2r rider in that group”… thus i “see” them more, and my brain translates into that into success**…

            * there is room for a carlos betancur joke here… 🙂

            ** not that visibility doesn’t always translate into success for me… there were europcar riders on my tv screen a lot this year… but i didn’t see that as successful, since the rest of my brain knew why they were trying to get as much tv time as possible…

        • I was about to say something in those lines. The sponsor shouldn’t care much about results, it’s probably more about exposure. Maybe a more appropriate aproach would be to somehow measure the amount of time on TV at certain races that brings the target public of a sponsor to the front of the TV. Flamboyant riders like Voeckler probably draws more attention to a sponsor than, say, a sprint victory from Trek’s Van Poppel.
          So, budget VS UCI points or any other perfomance related indicator shouldn’t be to useful. I’d go with comparing budget VS exposure or increased brand awareness.

          • Yes, that was my point.
            Ag2r’s main riders are showing up particularly well at events in French-speaking areas – potential customers for their sponsors’ business ?
            Today at GP de Wallonie, they’ve got Bakelants riding. Apart from Pinot (on another French team), Bakelants is the second highest ranked rider present.
            So he should be in with a good shout of a podium.

            It’s visibility, but is it *specific* visibility ?

          • @special eyes… i would imagine the answer to that question is “yes”… if i was a sponsor, i would want the racers who are “interesting to the people who live in my business footprint”… after all, it’s not like i can buy anything from ag2r… same deal with the “lottery” sponsored teams… i can’t buy lottery tickets in france/holland/belgium… but the people who live there can…

            @henrique… i would bet my eye teeth that “they” (“they” being any number of people) have very exact statistics of how much time “rider x/team x” is on the coverage… it might not be commonly available, but i’d be shocked if those metrics aren’t measured…

          • I would think the key for sponsors outside the bike industry (Sky or Europcar rather than Trek or BMC for example) do rely on results and particularly results in big races.

            These are the results that make the wider press. As noted elsewhere Sky got a namecheck most nights on the BBC news during the tour for a fraction of their traditional advertising budget.

            We fans may remember Voeckler’s gurning in a failed break but it’s not likely to make the main nation news (maybe in France?). I wonder if this is why somebody like Europcar didn’t see the value in staying the sport but also their failing. If they had invested to Sky’s level they may have got greater the international coverage for a bargain price.

          • {Great race at the GPW today, it’s worth catching up with on Youtube or whatever. And great credit to the moto cameras as the weather conditions were horrible}

  2. Fascinating info, thank you for sharing.
    One thing that I am scared of is that cycling will go the same route as football with the influx of teams which can garner ‘mega budgets’.
    We have,in my opinion, managed to retain some semblance of reality but the writing may be on the wall.
    Armstrong,apologies for taking him into the conversation, tried to use the money and power combination to be at the head of a pyramid and we are now paying for the schisms which that has caused.
    Are we in danger of creating an irreversible split in the world tour similar to that in Formula 1 with teams who can and those who can’t afford it?

    • Yes, very likely.

      The UCI’s perspective is they look on with envy at the revenue Bernie’s system generates. If you are the UCI, there is lots to be envious of with F1’s governance/management structure.

      • The UCI for now is just trying to keep it’s place as the sport’s regulator, the governing body for pro cycling. There have been plans for F1 style leagues, see the breakaway proposals of the recent past but they have been about excluding the UCI and letting participants (teams and financial backers) set the rules.

        • F1 is very different in that Formula One Group controls the product entirely (although how it came to be in thag position is murkier and more complex). If anything, the UCI is analagous to FIA, essentially a rule-setting body that covers lots of stuff, much of it unglamorous.

          These financial pieces are always interesting, thank you Inrng. Despite the talk of disparity between Sky-level funding and the poorer relations of the WT, it doesn’t seem like that much money compared to other professional sports. Perhaps a reflection of where the cash goes… does anyone outside ASO make money from pro cycling?

          • RCS make some too but promoting races is costly and has yet to bring in big money. There’s plenty of industry around. Of course the best riders are making the big money but salaries reflect the sport’s status and budgets. A couple of years ago the entire World Tour salary budget (roughly 500 riders) was equivalent to that of Olympique Lyonnais, a French football team famous for not winning much.

          • @Nick yes, but they didn’t win anything particularly of note prior to that or after, especially on on the European stage. Besides, winning the French league is arguably like winning “Tallest Dwarf” 😉

        • And let’s hope these never happen: nothing could be worse for the sport than these breakaway leagues. All based on greed and whilst the sport suffered, look at the sort of people who would gain.
          I’m still yet to comprehend how anyone can support a team that makes money for News Corporation.

          • JE – I guess it’s the same 10m+ folks who read the Sun, 10m+ households who get the TV channels, plus the Times, plus all the overseas stuff (20th Century Fox etc etc…). You may not be wrong, but there’s plenty who don’t care

          • I don’t know. The UCI since Verbruggen has done a good job of monetizing the sport. So, greed is relative I guess?

            The UCI have a very rigid structure that risks becoming irrelevant, thus opening the door for a competitor. In my country, the UCI has lost most relevance for mountain biking. Most of the popular mountain bike races are not UCI/national federation sanctioned. I don’t think the same will happen with road racing, but it demonstrates the organization’s failure to adapt.

          • actually, considering how screwed up the uci is, i don’t think much could be “worse for the sport”…

            i don’t care “who gains” (and yes, murdoch is an absolute creep, as well as some other team sponsors/owners)… i only care about the racing… other sports i follow have owners that are just as bad, i can’t factor that in to my judgments… and i’m a huge NFL fan, which requires me to ignore the fact that the guys are killing themselves on the field of play for my enjoyment…

            imo, anything that causes the uci to cease to exist can’t be a bad thing… cycling was born out of “trying to make money”, so i can’t sit here today and say that “they shouldn’t try to make more money”…

            12-15 solid teams, 20-25 races, one single testing authority (no more of this “every country gets to test their own athletes” crap)… fully integrated media deals, allowing monetizing of the process… etc. that would work for me…

            like fifa, the existing process is irretrievably broken… and the only way to really make it better is to blow the whole dang thing up…

          • Careful what you wish for. Spectacularly incompetent the UCI may be, but once the people who are running cycling have the primary goal of ‘profit’, we’ll see that competence can be worse than incompetence. Many more races will fall by the wayside than do now. As for the poorer teams, the gap between them and the rich teams will only increase.

          • Noel, most people don’t care about anything except themselves and their immediate loved ones. That’s why the world is in the state that it is in.
            Putting that in cycling terms, that’s why it’s far better for fans if (to name one example of each) ASO are more powerful than Velon. ASO have their own selfish reasons for doing so, but they do protect their races.

          • a fair point, and one that cannot be ignored… having had my position “eliminated” on more than one occasion, i’ve felt the pursuit of profit for profits sake alone…. so yes, i see where you are coming from…

            i will allow that my viewpoint is colored by the fact that i am so utterly disgusted with the uci, and see no way that it can ever be made into a semi-competent organization… i have no faith in them at all to guide cycling forward…

            i also believe that if cycling ever wants to move past the level of “mickey mouse” sports, it needs to wean itself somehow from from the “entirely sponsor-funded” team model… i believe the whole sport needs to be restructured, and in a not insignificant way… one of these days inrng will have a “what would you do if you were king of cycling?” blog entry… that would make for a real interesting discussion….

          • @channel_zero you couldn’t be more right about popularity of events. Also, interestingly, I read Rachel Atherton, who’s won both the women’s DH World Cup and World Championships this season (both UCI of course), placed more value on winning the World Cup series than the one-off World Championship, for which you get the rainbow jersey.

  3. Thanks for this interesting article.
    One may also say that team Sky’s budget is less than lionel messi’s salary (excluding other income)… Seems odd when you know how hard and disciplined you must be for this sport, but this is of course a question of how visible/famous is the sponsored item…
    In any case, I agree on the fact that even if there is a correlation between money and results, this is quite reduced because of the uncertainty of the sport. Things are not as easy as ten dam says…

    • Which goes to show what a bargain Sky have got! Certainly for promotion in the UK, where their name appears all the time – pretty much all press coverage of cycling will have a Sky logo in it. I’d guess they would have to pay a lot more to get their name on football jersey that has as much exposure.
      (which in turn makes Team Sky’s sponsorship very stable, and able to plan further in advance then most cycling teams – a point Oleg Tinkov was talking about earlier in the year).

    • Not to mention that Lionel Messi does not risk his life by riding at 100 km/hour with a skinsuit and a helmet as his sole protection. BTW Messi is my favorite footballer.

  4. Really interesting stuff, INRNG. Lob in the fact that they got very little (20th in the Giro and nothing else) out of Carlos Betancur, who I suspect might have been amongst their higher wage-earners then they really had a thoroughly decent year against their budget.

  5. I have to say that I’m a romantic when it comes to sport, and try and do everything possible to forget the fact about the business side of things, but this is strangely fascinating…thanks.

    I agree with the point made by some above that sponsors probably care very little about UCI points. If Ag2r manage to get Romain Bardet all over the media and on the covers of magazines, and featuring prominently in the big races, it’s job done sponsorship-wise, regardless of points won.

  6. Quite a few comments on points above, they used to be a very valuable currency in cycling but they’ve fallen away thanks to changes in the rankings and 17 World Tour teams in a system designed for 18, ie relegation is impossible at the moment. Sometimes “so and so is racing for points” pops up on TV and online but it’s something that’s really fallen away. It’s probably time for an explainer piece to illustrate this in more detail.

    • an “explainer piece” probably wouldn’t hurt… especially since many “newer” fans likely don’t have a very good grasp of the points system, if they even know it exists at all…

      for usa-centric people, the concept of “points accumulated by finishing position” is a bit of a foreign concept, since “our” (speaking parochially) sports are basically measured by wins and losses… my wife once asked me “why are those guys sprinting so hard when someone already won the race 5 minutes ago”, and i had to explain (not very well, i might add) that those guys were still racing for points…

  7. Interesting to look at this in terms of cost per point earned, although clearly the metric that really matters is advertising value equivalent for the sponsors. But if we look at the data for 2014 and just focus on World Tour points the difference is extreme between Ag2R and Team Sky.

    Ag2r 919 World Tour Points: Cost per point €14,819
    Team Sky 890 World Tour Points: Cost per point €34,944

  8. The Tour de France rules when it comes to generating advertising value equivalent (AVE) for sponsors. As an example at the 2012 Tour 96% of Europcar’s total AVE for the season was generated by the Tour de France. For Team Sky it was 87%, so one race alone generated $482m of AVE!! So, there in a nut shell is why the ASO won’t share TV revenue with the teams and why the teams can’t then afford to boycott the race.

  9. And what about hiring as a general manager the former director of one of the most important UCI’s Departments (Sport & Technical)? 15 years in the UCI, leading the Department that was entitled of managing calendars, registration and sets of rules. Wow.

  10. Another point to consider is that while the budget is modest for WT standards, it still amounts to a healthy average salary. Say there are 60 FTE on the team (which is probably an overestimation), that would still amount to EUR 116,000.00 per FTE before taxes.

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