A look at a the budget for a World Tour team, this time it’s Groupama-FDJ. The French team publishes detailed accounts with info all the way down to how much Lapierre and its parent company pay for bike sponsorship.
First these are the accounts for 2021. It feels like long time ago – Pogačar won that year’s Tour de France – but only when the year’s finished are the accounts prepared, then they’re audited and they weren’t filed until earlier this summer, so these are the latest numbers we have to go on. Next the name of the legal entity behind the team is the Société de Gestion de l’Echappée, literally “the breakaway management company”, almost poetic but less “fugitive business” and more evocative of a peloton controlling a breakaway.
That’s the budget for 2021 highlighted in red, €20.1 million. You can see two lines above it, €161k of merchandise sales and the rest as the production of goods and services, all €19.9 million. It’s worth dwelling a moment on the merchandise sale as €161k is small compared to many other sports like soccer or NBA basketball where clothing and derivative product sales are big income items but in cycling team loyalty isn’t so big. That said you can often spot weekend warriors in FDJ kit so this might be one of the better selling jerseys but since few teams publish accounts, let alone tell us what kit sales are, well that’s all there is.
If you look to the right of the red circle you can see the previous year’s budget of €17.5 million, so a 15% bump in the budget, not bad? But it’s a question of perspective and context. Here’s the budget for recent years:
Here 2021 looks a lot more like 2018 and 2019. Indeed 2020 is unusual because of the Covid-19 pandemic. This reduced the calendar of races meaning fewer travel expenses and also the French government provided relief on the payroll taxes (“social charges” in French jargon) which meant the budget didn’t need to be so high too. Still at over €20 million it’s a record amount. For comparison rivals Ag2r Citroën had a budget of €23.6 million for the same year. Add them both together and you’d fall short of the Ineos budget. Let’s look in more detail at Groupama-FDJ now.
The cropped screengrab above shows the wage bill (salaires is French for salaries) and the line below is the social charges or payroll taxes mentioned already. The lines combined make up €15.3 million or 76% of the team budget. This is standard for most teams where wages typically make up 70-80% of a team’s budget. One difference for French teams, and some other countries, is that payroll taxes account for a chunk of this. In order to assemble a team with a wage bill of €11.5 million per year, a further €3.7 million is needed on top to pay the employment taxes and this is something some other teams don’t face, some can shop around for low tax jurisdictions – UAE is run out of Switzerland, quintessential Belgian team Soudal-Quickstep is legally Luxembourg – but Groupama-FDJ can’t, it’s backed by two big companies and would not be the done thing to operate in a third country. And while these payroll taxes can be a headwind, they’re not ruinous: there are four French teams in the World Tour and three of them have been operating since the 1990s.
The team is owned 50-50 by mutual insurance company Groupama and French state lottery company La Française des Jeux, FDJ. While it’s shared half and half, Groupama pays in more and in 2021 its contribution was €9.55 million with FDJ paying in €7.6 million. Groupama thus pays a premium to have its name cited first but FDJ also contributes in other ways as well as cash, for example the corporate HQ for the team is FDJ’s offices. The two companies have a deal to sponsor until the end of 2024. They pay in four instalments a year, 30% for the first quarter, 30% of the second quarter, and then 20% for the remaining two which makes sense given up front costs and the busy racing in the first half of the year.
If we’ve got €9.55 million and €7.5 million in sponsorship that’s €17.15 million and so there’s still three million of revenue to find elsewhere for the team. Helpfully buried in the accounts is the line that Accell, owner of the Lapierre brand, paid €1.5 million for sponsorship. This shows the going rate for bike sponsorship in the World Tour, a seven figure sum plus of course many bikes per rider per season supplied too as well. These are taken on for free but immediately booked on the balance sheet as assets. Some of these are sold each year too, the accounts show a return of €186k for the year. Then other sponsors will make up the amount, typically the clothing supplier comes next. Helmet suppliers, nutrition partners and so on, all supplying goods but paying cash as well.
Plus there’s income from race organisers. First there are participation fees, there’s often a base tariff per event set by the UCI to pay to teams to cover some costs, sometimes there can be added amounts whether cost payments or appearance fees, and which total €536k for the team this year. Plus the other race income is prize money, totalling €298k for the year. As a note in the accounts says these are partly shared among all staff so as to link, say, an office worker with the sporting performance of a racer.
Another note in the account says there were 97 staff, of which 38 are pro racers because it’s the World Tour team plus the Conti development team, the other 59 staff work in “technical and admin” roles, or staff in plain language.
Finally the team bought a workshop truck and two team buses, the total is an eye watering €1.557k which proves just how expensive these vehicles are. Also the team bought €22k of bike parts during the year, not everything is sponsored. We often see teams testing products and some unmarked things, other parts can be custom 3D printed TT bars, a few sets of these add up.
Team budgets aren’t often made public so when a set of accounts comes out it’s handy to find the headline annual budget, in this case €20.1 million for 2021.
Groupama-FDJ’s accounts though are the most detailed of all the teams with disclosure covering many things from their bike sponsorship contract to employee numbers, even staff prize money sharing.