• Ian Robathan

    As to the facts that is not in dispute but cycling is unique as a sport. Spectators pay nothing to watch it and no charging model is possible except right on the finish line.

    PPV TV is interested like Eurosport but little other competition to get more cash and the likes of Sky etc will not pay the huge amount needed. They talk about selling bike camera footage etc but come on guys that is going to raise relatively little cash to spread amongst the teams.

    Velon and the likes of Tinkoff talk a game but it seems their only idea is take over the running of the cycling so say all the TDF revenues goes to them and not ASO for example.

    • Larry @CycleItalia

      Can Velon and their ilk bamboozle enough people to create their model for pro cycling? I hope not. The only mention of one of the two big problems the sport is facing the consequences from (doping) is explained away by claims that “stability” will remove the need to cheat. I would suggest one thing to all these folks who seem to require a profit…skip sport and go into business instead. Name your sport – increased money interest = less interest in sporting values. Same as it ever was.

  • Whippet

    There might be another way, but Velon might not be the vehicle. Lower level teams could partner with smaller race organisers to more organically grow a different system. The teams on the current world tour cannot afford the time or the budget cuts that would be involved. Teams that have no chance of participating in the Tour de France or Paris Roubaix could aspire to take a different path.

    It is a bit harsh to criticise the current teams though, at the end of economic growth, in a situation where ASO & RCS hold all the rights to revenue, what else can they do?

  • donncha

    Shane, is it possible to present what actual ideas Velon have? We’ve had a couple of articles now with Velon teams complaining that they can’t compete financially, which, let’s be honest, is not a problem that’s unique to cycling. It’s common across all sports. They make all these claims about building the pie, but as is briefly mentioned, that’s completely irrelevant without a salary cap, as they’ll just spend any additional money on riders and the wealthiest teams will still win a bidding war. It doesn’t appear Velon is making any progress on that front. Have they even started discussions with the UCI and riders’ reps?

    What is the real beef with ASO? ASO couldn’t care less about a salary cap, so that’s not the problem. As Ian mentions, they’re unlikely to get much money from selling riders’ data, and, as INRNG mentioned last week, if they were given ASO’s entire profit from all races it would only amount to an extra 1-2 million per team, so that’s not going to make much difference either.

    The simple fact is that although you need a team to win a race, there’s always an individual winner so the focus is always on an individual, not the team. People will then generally identify with a rider, rather than a team, e.g: people support Richie Porte at SKY will probably still support him at BMC. Velon seem to think they are involved in a true team sport, where people support Porte because he’s at SKY and wouldn’t be interested in him once he moves to BMC. They also seem bound to the traditional team-sport model of a long season building to a climax with one overall winner. Cycling isn’t that sport, and any attempt to make it so would just end up butchering everything that makes it interesting.

    Also, we haven’t even touched on teams destroying their brand and sponsor trust by running doping programs etc. It will take time to build that trust again. Why would a sponsor invest $20-30m/yr when there’s a chance that all your marketing will be undone when a rider on your team tests positive? I know Festina loved the publicity from ’98, but not all sponsors want that association. The sport’s improving, so perhaps these teams are just having to deal with the inevitable hangover from the EPO years?

    • Hey Donncha,

      It’s the middle of the night for Shane right now, so I’ll answer the first part of your question. Shane has done a couple of really good articles on Velon over the past few months:

      In general terms, Velon has three goals:

      Velon has listed its core ideas and objectives as being:

      1) A more exciting sport: looking for a race calendar that tells a season long story, and is better understood by a growing international fan base, with more entertaining racing for the fans.

      2) New technology: bring the race alive from the rider’s perspective, showing the fans what it’s like from the saddle.

      3) Underpinned by sustainable, credible teams the fans can follow now and long into the future. Creating a new, better economic future for the sport, through collective action and increased co-operation between the teams and other stakeholders.

      More precisely, Velon’s CEO Graham Bartlett said:

      “What we are trying to do now is not just about cameras on bikes,” he explained. “We are talking with race organisers about stitching together the whole technology package. That covers everything from tracking to video to data to lots of different aspects. It is a pretty multi-faceted problem which covers hardware, transmission, graphics, and more.”

      …and talking about their partnership with race organisers:

      “No-one has ever joined up those rights and those packages in a clever way in the past,” he said. “So, if I am a sponsor or a technology partner, I want to be able to tell the story of the race with the teams. I also want to be able to talk about the race, which is from the race organiser. That should upscale the revenue stream potential for the money that is flowing into the sport, because for the first time you join two halves of the equation together.”

      In other words, not chasing after a slice of the existing TV deals. “We don’t want to have a fight with people about taking from them what they feel they own,” he underlined. “What we have got to do is actually work with people who say, ‘look, we are bringing this, you are bringing that, how do we work it together for both our advantage?’ That is in essence the business discussion Velon is having with everybody.

      Much more in this article:

      • donncha

        Thanks Wade. It looks like they’re pretty set on this data integration thing, but I’m not sure it’s the golden goose they seem to think it is. All they really own is a rider’s data, e.g: power, HR, etc. and that’s only really interesting during a live broadcast, in conjunction with the actual TV images. Ergo it’s a package that they could perhaps sell to ASO, RCS etc. but again, how much is it worth and would it generate any significant extra revenue when sold to the TV companies?

        Same with on-bike footage. It’s interesting in a sprint finish, crash, or descending a mountain, but probably not so much elsewhere in the race when all you’re looking at is the arse of the guy in front. It would also require increased investment from the production company, so that would probably swallow any revenue increase.

        Anyway, I was mainly curious whether they had fleshed out their plans at all since January?

        • Leroy

          Good question, any word on how this “Underpinned by sustainable, credible teams” is going?

          • Shane Stokes

            Hi guys, thanks for the comments. I’ll see if there is any advance re Velon but, as Simon Thompson (who is also on the board) says here, ASO is doing its utmost to block any progress.

            • Dave

              If Nathan Lyon could spin as well as Simon Thompson the poms would not be 3-1 up in The Ashes.

              The teams are just jealous that their best efforts at trashing the sport have still not stopped the ASO team from working hard enough to stay viable, and that the ASO’s backing of the UCI’s proposed reforms would force them to become a bit more agile.

              Maybe the teams could try working harder to clean up the sport and attract big companies back again, although that would be anathema when those Velon teams have senior figures like Jonathan Vaughters and Matthew White who always had a pharmacist to do the hard work for them.

    • Bryan Duggan

      Whatever bad things people have to say about Sky, they have gotten one thing right IMO, and thats to identify themselves as a ‘British team’ (even though a lot of the investment in the team comes from Italy). Its not specifically that they’re British but moreso that they identify themselves as being from a certain place. This guarantees a fanbase in that area and I think more teams should follow suit. Gone are the days where there are multiples of Italian, French and Spanish teams, so the remaining teams from those countries (as well as America, Switzerland, Germany, Australia, etc) should start promoting their national identity a bit more.

      What you say about Porte is 100% correct, but you will also have a (predominantly British) fanbase that will always follow Sky. Probably the same for Orica. Now we have MTN-Qhubeka doing the same. Once you have that fanbase you can then work on how to make that work for you in terms of $$$.

      Other teams that have done this in the past have been too regional (Euskatel, Europcar), and it wasn’t really sustainable.

      I wouldn’t advocate going back to the national team model from bygone days but I think it needs to tend more in that direction. Building a fan base for a cycling team is analagous to building a customer base for a business. Cycling shoots itself in the foot with its sponsor model as it can be hard to keep up with who is who, from one season to the next.

      Maybe its only a small point, but teams having a sense of place about them seems to work for other sports.

  • Callum Dwyer

    Disappointed to hear Greenedge is being prop up by CA members and tax payers. Hope this ends soon.

    • Sean

      Isn’t ‘Green Edge’ is another way to say ‘Advertise here’.

    • scottmanning

      Really? Why would you want to see the team fold? Government spends big bucks on sport and I can’t see why greenedge can’t have some of it. From what I hear (from within the industry that is Orica’s home ground) is that Orica might be pulling the plug. If that happens, you wish could well come true.

      • Callum Dwyer

        I don’t want GreenEdge or any or team to fold. My wish would be GreenEdge becomes financial sustainable.

      • Dave

        But Greenedge doesn’t “advertise the country to the world” – it’s just a made up word (named after a horse the team owner Gerry Ryan once owned, apparently) which has far less value (even in Australia) than ‘Quickstep’ does to a non-Belgian race viewer.

        You are right that Orica is in deep trouble at the moment, bad enough that the CEO got unloaded earlier this year. The company needs to have a major turnaround before they can even consider renewing their Greenedge sponsorship which currently finishes at the end of 2017 – assuming the plug doesn’t get pulled from the other end before then.

        The biggest problem with the Orica sponsorship is that it’s done as a PR move rather than a legitimate advertising strategy. Companies with good reputations don’t need that sort of PR strategy, and Orica’s filthy reputation is why the Greenedge placeholder is there instead of a secondary naming sponsor. If there was a more reputable company in first position and still no external interest in the second position, Gerry Ryan would use his own company Jayco in the second position instead.

    • Kim

      Happens in all sports. Over the years my daughter has played tennis, volleyball and netball and a fair portion of her annual fees (as a junior) for each of these sports went directly to the state and national governing bodies. I find this particulalrly gauling when you consider Tennis Australia provides financial assistance to the likes of Tomic (until recently) and Kirgious long after they have started earning big bucks in their sport.

    • Klaus

      Well said. Not really the economic climate for this sort of stuff as much as cycling is fun.

  • JP

    Interesting article. I think that cycling has always had an issue with weak team franchises. i.e. who really has a strong attachment to a corporation-based team as opposed to a city- or province-based team? And when the team sponsor changes the history of that franchise largely vanishes!
    I know that F1 has a similar issue, but somehow they make it work. Maybe because people have stronger attachments to auto manufacturers and longer-standing teams?
    An exception to this is the “pseudo federation” teams as described above, but they too can dissolve; US Postal for example. It also surprises me that a large European cycling club haven’t established a “pro-team” arm. No doubt there are reasons for this; and these reasons would also explain why we don’t see a CCCC or SKCC in the NRS.

    • jules

      F1 teams hold more power as:
      1. it is hideously expensive and requires lots of knowledge to run an F1 team, they can’t be easily replaced if they strike/withdraw, and
      2. one of them is Ferrari

      the pro cycling teams hold lots of power too though. the Tour is nothing without the top riders. they should get more bolshy with ASO I reckon.

      • Peter

        OK, my views have been swung to agree that a new economic model would be good for the sport.

        The question is then: where will the money come from?

        It seems there needs to be a mix of TV rights, merchandise, sponsor investment, national/federation investment, etc.

        Could a new league be set up based on manufacturers, like in F1 racing?
        * Trek, Colnago, Giant, Merida, Specialized, Cervelo, BMC, Bianchi, Cannondale, Scott, LaPierre, etc.
        Or a World Cup League based on National Teams?

        * 4 weekend races per month for 6 months of each year?

        Multiple categories to follow through the year.
        * Race winners
        * Overall Sprint category winner
        * Overall Climber winner
        * Overall time winner
        * Overall Most aggressive rider winner
        * etc

        Do bicycle companies make enough profit to support this model? Only the big bike companies could afford this, but I guess they are the only ones that get involved now anyway.

        Maybe the way forward is indeed to do something new, outside of the existing race calendar. The UCI World Tour teams remain, but a new league is created? There are enough riders out there who could fill a new league.

        • jules

          the ultimate solution is to retain the marriage of World Tour teams and the Tour de France (and similar events). but ASO will continue stonewalling until they feel a genuine threat that they may lose top-tier riders and that the Tour’s appeal may wane. this is partly the riders’ and teams’ fault, as they’ve helped shape the Tour as the premier cycling event and effectively helped ASO manoeuvre itself into an all-powerful position, in which they keep all the booty. if the teams were smart, they would work with other events and organisers – i.e. make those events key targets for their top riders – and take some gloss off the Tour. that would leave the teams and riders as the key asset in pro cycling, rather than the big events. they don’t seem to be organised and tactical in the way ASO have been. what could ASO do? potentially start a rebel cycling league. but they would then face the issue of: who would want to join your league when you won’t share the revenue?

          • sps

            Part of the issue here is that team sponsors see the Tour as a huge return on their investment, more so than almost any other race or set of races especially on an international level. While the classics are huge for the NL, Belgium, France and the current fans of cycling there is no race that gets quite the recognition that the TdF gets especially for the casual (or non) cycling fan. Winning a stage at the TdF gets huge recognition in the press where rarely cycling is mentioned. To change the current model you would have to increase the recognition of other events in order for sponsors to feel they are getting their money’s worth.

            • Dave

              The other part of the issue is that riders are loyal to neither their teams or each other.

              World Series Cricket, for example, only worked because cricket was organised purely around national representative teams at the time.

              “World Series Cycling” could not be so successful as creating replacement grand tours and classics would require extremely big money (i.e. much more than needed to hire football grounds for non-sanctioned cricket matches) behind it all.

          • Kenneth Sanders

            This is the only real shot the teams have in their bag of tricks. As mentioned above TV rights, on bike footage, and rider data is not enough to generate the money they are needing to stay a float. I also think that salary caps, and caps on the total budget teams are aloud to have would help make racing more exciting and even.

      • Dave

        The cycling teams’ power is real, but limited by their lacking a source of genuinely big money to retain the riders if a dispute with the powers that be gets nasty. They can bluff and bluster all they want, but without somebody else signing the cheques to organise a breakaway league they’ll always fold rather than bet.

        Previous big sporting ‘rebellions’ like World Series Cricket and Championship Auto Racing Teams only worked because they had big interests backing them – but CART later failed and was brought back into the fold due to their inability to create a showpiece event to compete with the Indianapolis 500.

  • Derek Maher

    Sport is a cruel world when it comes down to money.Football survives because of massive media investment and a share out to the clubs of the media revenue and still clubs go broke getting into bidding wars for players and paying huge sums out to players and their agents.Plus many of the clubs need private individuals chipping in to keep them going.
    Pro cycling is getting into the same trap without the media backing.
    Cycle teams under the present economic climate are between a rock and a hard place.either the race rules change and limit the rider numbers to a max of 6 riders per team in any race allowing more teams to compete in the big tours or an upper cap is put on rider saleries.The latter would be hard to police but may put the brakes on the more outlandish agent demands.
    Plus lets not forget the race organisers.Its damn hard work and costly to set up and run a good race event and takes real dedication to keep a race event alive year after year and fight for sponsership and private donations and help from people who give their time just for the love of the race.
    The largest challange to the pro racing world is getting a bigger chunk of media and public interest so the money pie grows and the teams and races can thrive.

    • Dave

      A salary cap could work if each team was allowed just one marquee rider (most likely a big GC contender, a top classics winner or a top sprinter) outside the cap.

      The UCI’s proposed reforms that the ASO is backing and the teams are blocking would help too – by reducing teams to two race squads (instead of three) plus a few riders on the bench and eliminating the problem of there being multiple races in the same division happening concurrently. Running teams would become cheaper while they would enjoy better publicity courtesy of there being only one WorldTour race on at a time.

  • Simon Bird

    Nice article. The points raised are all very valid, but I wonder if some of the teams are missing a trick though with corporate sponsorship, in so far as it doesn’t seem they presenting a clear value proposition to investors. It’s easy to lament Sky’s big bucks, but I’d be surprised if at the team’s genesis there wasn’t a series of powerpoints and charts with clear performance goals (British rider winning TdF in 5yrs), returns on investment, SWOT analyses etc etc that made it a far easier decision for the Sky board to sign off on. Hardly the most exciting thing in the world and I doubt many team managers dream of doing presentations to a row of suits, but if they want to run teams as a successful business, they may need to start acting more like one.

    • Tour de force Todd

      Good article and i agree with Simon. Cycling needs to run as a proper business and ROI for sponsors.Sponsors can see the massive publicity they generate as a moving billboard. To get this kind of advertising from TV , radio etc would cost in the tens of millions. Also it surprises me that Trek are calling foul when they are quite possibly the biggest bike firm in the world – They could easily up there sponsorship dollars.

      Cycling needs to have a Grand prize with grand pots of money to generate more publicity – A world cycling prize based on your peformance in x number of events. You have an F1 World Title , World cup in Football – These are run over many weeks not just one day like the world champs. 450 k or thereabout for winning a 3 week event is pathetic. Tennis events these days are worth 1 million plus to the winner. Maybe the focus should be more on teams – your points are awarded for everyones performance not just 1 or 2.

      There also needs to be a Zero tolerance policy on Doping – You get caught and you are out for good and all your prizemoney will be clawed back.

      The sport can be so much greater – People can relate to jumping on a bike and going cycling. You can’t do that in F1 , Playing tennis on wimbledom centre court or playing football at wembley except for paying a massive fee.

  • touristeroutier

    The largest problem with the Velon initiatives is that they are not creating anything tangible. If they hold the rights to on-board footage, great, they have improved the coverage, but they haven’t expanded the audience. So this has limited economic benefit. Further they are still beholden to the races or the UCI selling coverage, and negotiating a percentage of that.

    Cycling Teams are not engineered to make a profit; they spend what they take in. Other than perhaps drawing a managers salary, an owner has no financial incentive, unless they can consistently generate profits. This means taking in more than they spend (duh). Only then will they have an asset that has true worth.

    The only space in the road racing universe that has potential for meaningful profit is race ownership, due to the possibility of TV rights revenue. ASO, RCS, and Flanders Classics do well here, but their big events subsidize their smaller events. Many races are organized on a passion/subsistence level, barely scraping by; many fail each year. But races are somewhat tangible assets, and have the opportunity to grow on many fronts.

    If Velon (or any other initiative) wants to succeed, they can’t hope to piggyback on someone else’s success; they need to create their own. This means controlling the playing field (owning events). But this takes capital, consumes a boatload of resources, and comes with risk. In order to succeed they have to come up with something special, like a Ronde, Strada Bianche, etc. Owning events would also make them competitors of ASO, et al, since they will be competing for TV rights, sponsors, and calendar spots.

    • Tour de force Todd

      How about Velon partnering with ASO to run a super event – I am happy to co-ordinate if Velon and ASO like the idea.

      Event Name : Let’s Call it the Red Bull Race of Truth – It would be a series of events aimed at finding the best Climber in the peloton – This would be run on iconic mountains like Mt.Ventoux as an example.

      The best riders would race against each other in a classic time trial against each other for 2 sessions – 1 morning and 1 afternoon on the Saturday. On the Sunday it would be a shortened team event with only 5 riders or less from each team in a one day Race of Truth to the top.

      The Best results would be tallied up and the winning team would receive in excess of 500k. The Teams would supply all the data , power , HR , cadence and each rider would be weighed before the time trials and on the day of the race to the top.

      The television rights would be sold to Amazon or Netflix and this could be distributed amongst the teams.

      The event would then roll on to Alpe d’huez and the Izoard and mayeb Zoncolan and then you would have a final winner of the challenge and a super bonus would be awarded.

      Any member found doping would be sued for the prize money plus 10 times that amount and this would be valid for 10 years.

      Spectators would be charged 5 Euros to watch and there would be no cars allowed on the mountain for the race. Shuttles would run all day to specific areas. Sponsors would supply spectators equivalent value of 5 euros so it is a win-win for the spectators.

      A portion of the overall prize pool would be put towards a Super Champion (across all UCI Events )and the best rider with the most points would win 1 million Euros.

  • DJP

    I do not understand why cycling teams and thier management, Velon, ASO or the UCI (or everyone!) produce a sponsorship pitch that highlights the media value expected in the full year (ie: where the impressions are shown globally, frequency and rate card equivalent) and put that against sponsorship packages just like other sports? Eurosport, ESPN, NBC Sports, BBC and Foxsports as well as little old SBS in Australia all have cycling programming and the teams and their riders getting coverage is what this raw media value is worth (over a season). There are plenty of examples – Formula 1 to Aussie Rules Football all have these pitches containing media value available (reply here and I will send you examples from the Renault F1 Team 2012 sponsor package and the Sydney Swans sponsorship package for the 2013 season). Surely the sport has these things covered already?

  • Nathan

    The models of successful sports exists. American Football, Basketball, Hockey, Tennis, Golf, American college basketball, football… the key element they have is massive media contracts where the events are sold as a package. The structure of the events should be influenced to increase the value for the media rights holders.

    If the access to the the Tour de France (and Tour de under etc) were all sold as a package media would pay more. The summary of the events needs to have a meaningful outcome.

    There is a counter argument that streaming is making media less valuable if this was the case – the above mentioned sports would have massive contracts running up to 10 years from now.

    The problem is that the ASO is stronger than the UCI, and the teams. At some point it is likely that they will boycott the TDF…

    Sky is not a comparable sponsor – as they generate substantial return via their media rights… Quite frankly there should be a ban on broadcasters also owning teams to avoid conflicts of interests.

    The problem is how gullible the public is in thinking that the ASO is an innocent bystander. The TDF has a massive asset value – to France and ASO, and likely covers many of their money loosing legacy businesses.

    It is possible that the officiating, needs to be separated from the league management with the UCI – different managers? They are better now then before but far where they need to be.

    It is possible that the Year might end with the Tour de France (superbowl) – and subsequent league champions …. and start in August … with a midyear transfer process?

    Most importantly every discussion needs to include women’s cycling – the men and women should be working together. For example SHAME on Sky for not sponsoring a women’s team


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