The Finances of Groupama-FDJ

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.

45 thoughts on “The Finances of Groupama-FDJ”

  1. That’s very interesting, many thanks. The business model of cycling never ceases to amaze me. How is it possible that the main actors of some of the biggest sporting events in the annual calendar operate on such small budgets? Adding to this, sponsorship is the main (and relatively volatile) source of income and the prize money pots are tiny, leading to a fairly precarious position the teams are in. I assume there is a lot more money in the sport, so where does it go? Do the race promoters make a huge profit?

    • Why do you assume there’s a lot more money in the sport though? No one pays for a ticket to watch, it’s incredibly expensive to broadcast and not particularly popular, so tv rights aren’t large. And for the same reasons, sponsors won’t pay much (as you see from Groupama and FDJ here).

      Put simply, there isn’t very much money coming in. Cycling has never really had much of a business model, and it still doesn’t.

      • Exactly. People so often assume that there must be more money to make from cycling. Why? It’s not a very popular sport. And why would more money be a good thing?

        • Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to suggest that more money is necessarily a good thing. There are many fairly popular sports where everybody is essentially a (pseudo-)amateur. Having said that, cycling is a bit unusual as it is a team sport with individual winners, and many riders are not meant to win. The often low wages and precarious contracts of all but the most outstanding professional cyclists therefore mean that many talented kids eventually stop pursuing a pro career. I can certainly see that in the circles I am familiar with, and it is bad for the sport and for those who unsuccessfully try to break through.
          As for my believe that there must be more money in the sport, this is indeed something I just would have assumed. Am I wrong here? For example, what is the combined value of the TV rights for the WorldTour races? While cycling might not be as popular as football, the WorldTour teams have a global audience but seem to have a smaller overall budget than many national football leagues. Also, the prize money pot of cycling compares so unfavourably with that of, say, tennis or golf. I find this surprising. I appreciate the lack of income from ticket sales, but is this such a big factor? So is it indeed limited revenue, or is it that the money doesn’t reach the teams? This is a genuine question, and if anybody had the figures to answer this, I would be very grateful.

          • Thanks for the reply. I’d like to see higher wages for non-men’s World Tour riders, but sadly if there was more money (I think cycling is nowhere near as popular as tennis and golf, but that could be just my British bias), it would inevitably go to the top riders.

      • Exactly there really isn’t much revenue in this sport. It appears very similar to sports like America’s Cup sailing where the racing is more often than not funded by people as a hobby.

        Cycling teams are sponsored but how much value they provide their owners is not completely known.

        • Value for sponsors can be assessed in many different ways. What was the sponsorship value to Sky Broadcasting in the UK of having multiple TdF winners, whose names and team success was covered by rival broadcasters like BBC and ITV? When Sky won, their broadcast rivals had no choice to avoid publicising Sky on their nightly news programs, to millions of viewers – this is sponsorship value that money simply can’t buy!

  2. The main problem with this team doesn’t seem to be money, it seems to be the way they’re run.
    I like Madiot and I like the ‘traditional ways’, but they seem to have a wilful desire to remain stuck in the past. Similar seems to be the case with AG2R. Both of these teams have shown baffling tactics this year: Pinot was allowed to ride like an idiot in the Giro, throwing away two stages, and in the TdF, AG2R made no attempt to win the polka dot jersey when they had a great – and fairly easy – opportunity to do so.
    As much as I hate to admit it, riders tend to improve when they leave French teams, and many seem to get worse once they join them.

    • Many still think Madiot is the team but he’s more a figurehead – and often misunderstood abroad at that – they’re quite innovative, FDJ have their own research centre run by Fred Grappe and arguably the best U23 development team. Plus isn’t Gall a contradiction to your idea that riders get worse, most would say he’s improved greatly?

      • The squad for the Vuelta looks really exciting. It will be interesting to see how they use them. Certainly the team seem to have raced very effectively in recent races.

    • Seems a lot but a fair amount of customisation is needed for these vehicles. Not so much for the busses but certainly for the mechanic’s truck. This is for sure ups the prize, I’d say.
      Apparently the seller was not inclined to offer any discounts? One would think enlarged logos or the such serving as commercials could be re-imbursed one way or another. “Minor gains”… also in the money dept.

  3. The team clothing thing is a bit strange here in Australia and if its like that elsewhere i can see why sales are low. Not that i would expect them to match other sports because the teams sort of lack an ongoing identity.
    In Australia there can sometimes be a vocal group who seem to have suggested that wearing team kit and riding is something to be ashamed of. Therefore wearing team kit is avoided compared to other sports where people wear team kit with pride.
    I don’t know if this is in other countries but i always thought it was immature. If people want to promote there favourite team i never saw the problem.

    • It is similar in the US: cycling in pro team kit is frowned upon. It has something to do with the participatory nature of the sport. A far greater number of pro cycling fans actually participate in cycling events. Your average football fan is not strapping on a helmet and pads three nights a weeks or joining a weekend team league, so they have no qualms about wearing a Steelers jersey at the bbq. As participants, we’d feel like poseurs in team kit.

      • I guess teams can do a separate fan kit/training kit. Tone it down a bit from the pro-team kit.

        On the other hand, I’d be curious about EF’s kit earnings. Maybe Rapha just gives a higher cash sponsorship and bag all the kit sales?

        Lastly, the evidence we have about aversion of pro-kit seems all coming from English speaking countries. What about in France? Do people wear pro-team kit there? I’ve seen quite a few full Sky Pinarellos in China this summer.

        • Team kit does sell in France, helped because it’s on sale with mass market retailers like Decathlon sometimes (the retailer is set to become Ag2r’s co-sponsor from 2024 on). You can see quite a few people around in kit on a Sunday morning ride, but often it’s old kit, not many are rushing out to by each year’s designs. And this includes some Quickstep kit because of Alaphilippe. Ride in Belgium or the Netherlands and you can see similar things, someone riding the other way and for a second you think “is that a Jumbo rider?” and then clock they’re in last year’s jersey. Also remember €161k probably isn’t 1,600 €100 jersey+shorts+socks combos at retail, it’s the merchandising royalties so presumably a multiple in kit sales.

          But a lot of people belong to a club so get their jersey for free etc, plenty want a more neutral or fashionable kit so the market for team kits isn’t big. At least the team hasn’t gone down the “commemorative NFT” route that briefly happened 😉

          • I would guesstimate that 20% ride in their local club kit, 20% in a kit they bought on their cycling holiday in the sun or in the mountains, 50% in a kit with nothing but the manufacturer´s name and logo and only about 10% in the colours of the old or current favourite team.

            The big difference to spectator sports such as football, icehockey or basketball is that the people who watch the race don´t wear team colours. That´s the huge market gone…

          • Add to this, if the clothes is to be used, the quality must match. This causes the prize of a team jersey, bibs or kit to often be a fair amount higher in cycling than other sports. Also ciclists tend to be rather fuzzy about which brand, they “comply” with, again another reason for the small sales.
            Finally, I think the “outside fan” realm would benefit from personal jerseys more. The outside fan will support a rider, not the team so having jerseys (T-shirts) in team-layout with a rider name om it – like a soccer jersey – I think could boost sales quite substantially. Especially if a commercial department took hold of this and really made an effort ot promote it.

    • Currently in Sydney for work (from the UK originally) and the main thing that struck me (apart from 20 degrees in your winter!) is that almost every cyclist seems to be wearing Rapha, Maap or a combination of the two. Not seen Team, or even Cycling club, kit once so far.

    • I suppose in England a lot of/most keen cyclists are in a club and wear the kit of their club. The common alternative is just to wear nice kit, rapha say, with small logos on. You see very few people in team kit and it is generally frowned upon. You never see it for sale anywhere but you could say that about any high end cycling products. If you want anything decent you would have to buy it online. The thing I would have with team kit is that to not look rubbish it would have to match, therefore you would have to wear the entire kit – jersey, shorts, possibly socks too – and you would be in real danger of looking like a 7 year old in a full Man Utd kit for a kick around with their dad.

      • I often wear the kit of my club, I´m a member but I have never raced and the only club rides I join on are the easy long or recovery rides. I have every reason to feel a bit phony or to worry about people who recognize the kit of being something I´m not. In fact more phony than when I wear my Euskaltel – Euskadi kit – because the danger of someone seeing me as a pro rider is much tinier than that of seeing me as a club level racer 🙂

        I´ve always found the (Velominati?) rule about the pro team kit being only for the members of the pro team eminently silly. It could *possibly* make sense in case you looked like a pro, rode like a pro and rode somewhere where pros were a fairly common sight. But I wouldn´t ridicule a middle-aged man with a beginning of a pot belly just because he is proud of respecting the rule 🙂

        I wear the club kit because the chairman tells us is the proper thing to do. “When you go out on a ride, always wear the club colours – and make sure that your kit is clean and that it is complete!” he say. I´m not sure it much matters to the sponsors, but I have to agree that a group riding in tight, disciplined double file looks better than a ragtag bunch…

    • I only want to wear an old-fashioned jersey of my local football team,without any business logos.
      Why should I buy a jersey with nothing but some brand names on it? Normally they have to pay me if I promote their products, not the other way around.
      And 2 years later I end with a jersey where the brands stopped to sponsor that cycling team. Wearing a Lidl-Trek while the team is now Aldi-Bianchi? Makes no sense at all. Also, I’m fan of some riders, not teams.

      • Why would I want to pay good money to be a riding billboard for a cycling wear manufacturer?

        The thing is, I don´t care a damn if I´m a billboard for Castelli or Sportful – or a Spanish telecommunications company or a German international discount retailer chain.

        The only relevant question to me is what do I communicate and to whom when I wear a particular pro team kit. For me the answer is: that I am an avid road cyclist – which is rather evident anyway – and that I follow the sport and that I am – for whatever reason – or was a fan of that team and/or a rider in that team.

        Obviously I didn´t purchase the kit so that I could communicate that message to other avid road cyclists. I didn´t pay good money in the belief that he pro kit would make me feel or look like a pro cyclist. I bought it simply because it pleases me visually, it makes me feel good to dress in it and to go out and ride.

      • And what companies some of them are (never mind countries). A guy near me rides around in an Ineos top – I wonder if he’s thought about what that company actually does.

        • I must respect anyone who would like to buy and wear Ineos or UAE or Astana kit, but chooses not to.
          But in my mind riding in an Ineos top is not all that different from buying a newspaper in which Ineos has bought advertising space.

          Somehow I cannot bring myself to believe that anyone would actually be influenced this or that way by seeing me ride in my pro team kit. Cognoscenti see and think of the team and the man in the street sees a MAMIl in a kit with lots of different brand names and thinks of how much he hates cyclists…

          • “But in my mind riding in an Ineos top is not all that different from buying a newspaper in which Ineos has bought advertising space.”

            So after you bought the newspaper you wander around the streets holding the newspaper and showing everyone the Ineos ad page?
            Interesting mind and technique.

          • Different but not all that different…

            The ad in the newspaper I bought probably gets more attention than the one in the pro team kit.
            In my experience a person sitting next to me in a metro train or in a café is more likely to peek interestedly at what I´m reading than a pedestrian, cyclist or motorist is likely to pay any attention to what it says on my cycling jersey.
            Maybe I should resort to pointing at the brand or the logo the way a pro cyclist points at the name of his team when he approaches the finish line on a solo victory ride? 🙂

      • True but in past years Cofidis out of the World Tour was invited. Huge audiences in their home Tour gives them a head start compared to other teams, it’s a big foundation to build on. And the Tour being more than just a race but a socio-cultural event helps further.

        • Add the fact that guaranteed entry to the tour regardless of world tour status makes it easy for them to sell to sponsors and marketing people. Although for most of the French teams the biggest sponsors do not change often. It’s still an advantage though especially for the teams when they are not in the world tour.

        • Is there a danger that the ASO are taking for granted the socio-cultural aspect and in danger of losing this given that the Tour de France is becoming more and more a slightly expanded Dauphine? If they continue to ignore 80% of France then 80% of France might choose to ignore them.

    • Complain about the Tour’s proven and successful business model all you like, up until someone comes up with a better way to do it. By rewarding sponsors with a presence at this institution, ASO uses its commercial media asset in a way that benefits pro cycling. That Groupama and FDJ, or any of the many other businesses put up money for teams is largely thanks to the way ASO uses its influence.

      No other GT gets the same traction in politics and commerce and certainly no other media owner has been able to copy, let alone beat the success, so ASO wins in terms of organising competence too. It has shown no interest in owning teams or running rider contracts, which most other companies in market-leading/monopoly positions would do, and there are remarkably few complaints from athletes about respect.

      The ‘Future of Procycling’TM is not going to be the National Cycling League (look it up) or crit racing, which is really what all the newest race formats boil down to. Many countries are struggling to keep any meaningful form of road racing so sponsored teams paying actual wages don’t happen there.

      ASO isn’t perfect but it doesn’t abuse its position and it keeps sponsors long term. If it does it to the greatest benefit for French business, which supports the teams that ride, absolutely nobody complains and the race goes on. You can argue this is partisanship and makes a global event look petty, but where is it actually taking place?

      • ASO Wild Card Tour Invites:
        2018 TdF Wild Cards: 3/4 French: Cofidis, Direct Energies, Fortuneo- Samsic
        2019 TdF Wild Cards: 3/4 French: Cofidis, Total Energies, Arkea-Samsic
        2020 TdF Wild Cards 3/4 French: Arkea-Samsic, B&B Hotels, Total Energies
        2021 TdF Wild Cards 3/4 French: Arkea-Samsic, B&B Hotels, Total Energies
        2022 TdF Wild Cards 3/4 French: Arkea-Samsic, B&B Hotels, Total Energies
        2023, TdF Wild Cards 1/4 French: teams: Total Energies (The ONLY French team at UCI’s “Pro” Level)
        Past 6 years, 16/24 wild card spots went to French teams. Every season their 15-20 eligible Pro Tour level teams.

      • Good point Inrng about the wildcards – I was merely responding to FDJ’s team invite being due to it’s WT status.

        Regarding the majority of wild cards going to French teams, what’s the issue? It’s the Tour de FRANCE, in France, with a French audience, French TV channels, mostly French sponsors, French organisers, and with the vast majority of the roadside fans being… wait… FRENCH.

        French teams deserve as much coverage as possible, they are one of the biggest reasons we have this sport to love.

        • There’s eligibility and then there’s availability and suitability, it’s here there’s not much competition for the spots. Over the years the Italian teams like Bardiani are tired from the Giro etc, the Spanish ones are aiming for the Vuelta instead so there’s not been much to chose between, you can see why the likes of Cofidis and Total have been easy picks.

          This is changing now with the 18 World Tour teams plus best 2 Pro teams qualifying (Israel+Lotto) which leaves two spots, Uno-X look a solid pick already for next year as they’ve added significantly to their squad which leaves Total but they might be in the last chance saloon as others like Tudor and Q36.5 improve.

        • @CA last time I looked it was one of the biggest global sporting events with global sponsors, global TV feeds with a global rider cast. It’s long since ceased to be a ‘French’ race.

          • KevinR – it really isn’t that global of an event. We can argue about this but except for a very minor niche set of fans the TdF gets very little coverage outside of Europe. It is never on my local North American sports highlights. None of my friends follow it (other than my bold riding friends – a small group of my friends). Far more watch F1 or Tennis or international Football plus all of the major North American leagues. Cycling is on no one’s radar – except mine, I love this sport more than any other haha.

  4. A fascinating look at team finance.

    Their site is interesting too as it lists the role of all staff (61 non-riders linked to the WT team and 8 non-riders to the Conti). I suppose that many of the full-time staff are required to take annual leave and banked time during November – January (mechanics must massively exceed the standard 35h week while on GT duty). I also expected ‘hospitality’ to be a former rider trading on reputation but that’s not the case – or at least I can’t find him (Fabrice Zanoli) on PCS.

    The loss of Pinot and Démare in 2024 should free considerable budget though Grégoire will certainly get a slice of it.

    What will happen to my favourite team when Marc and Yvon Madiot retire?

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