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Project Avignon becomes Velon as top teams combine as new stakeholder group

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The long-talked about need for teams to create an alternative revenue stream to traditional sponsorship and thus give themselves a more sustainable and guaranteed future has moved a major step closer, with the news that the former Avignon project has been officially launched under the new title Velon.

Comprising 11 of the UCI’s current 18 WorldTour teams, the joint venture has been set up with that goal of being a more stable financial model.

It will see more than half of the sport’s top squads pulling in the same direction on a wide range of topics, thus strengthening their position as stakeholders and, in theory, putting an end to the lack of cooperation which hampered those squads in the past.

The company has been created to work on behalf of these teams for new business creation. Each team is represented on the board and Graham Bartlett (formerly of UEFA, Nike and other major sports brands) has been appointed as CEO.

Bartlett said: “The existing, sponsor only, business model is fragile for all teams,” said its CEO Graham Bartlett, who previously worked with UEFA, Nike and other companies, and was a director of Liverpool Football Club. “We need to change this to a more rounded one with fans at the heart of it, investing in new technological initiatives to generate greater excitement from the races and bring the sport closer to its fans. The company will look to use the combined commitment of the teams to create new revenues.

“This combined commitment can help to deliver more of what the fans want to see from the sport – exciting races brought to life with great technology. What we’re trying to build will hopefully create a virtuous circle where it’s easier for fans to engage with the teams and riders and gives the teams even greater incentives to maintain credibility.”

Velon is comprised of almost a dozen top teams, namely Belkin Pro Cycling, BMC Racing Team, Garmin-Sharp, Lampre-Merida, Lotto-Belisol, Omega Pharma – Quick-Step, Orica-GreenEDGE, Team Giant-Shimano, Team Sky, Tinkoff-Saxo and Trek Factory Racing.

It said that other teams with shared objectives and values are welcome to join at a later point, or to simply partner with the company on new business.
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.

The amalgamation of teams has already shown a little of what can be done, with the use of on-bike cameras premiering this year in many major races and giving an hitherto-unknown angle into the peloton.

Velon has been working alongside other stakeholders in the sport, with the company describing its working relationship with the UCI, the various race organisers including ASO plus the AIGCP teams’ association as being productive.

Bartlett points to the on bike cameras as being a sign of what can be done when a large number of teams pull in the same direction. “This could only have been negotiated and delivered with the organisers by having a unified group. Initially co-operating with IMG for the Tour de Suisse and then continuing with A.S.O. at the Tour de France, the Vuelta and a number of other big races in the calendar.

“By using new technology, and by working very closely with the race organisers, the teams were able to capture fantastic, never seen before footage showing the riders in spectacular fashion and the response from the fans was even better than we expected.”

Those videos had well over a million views, thus giving a glimpse of what could be achieved.

“Fans and financial partners must trust the sport and the teams must be open, honest and transparent,” it said. “The integrity of cycling is also the foundation for a healthy following, increased investment and further growth. This must be based on a sound, stable business model for the teams.”

Also see: Reaction: riders, teams hail creation of Velon group, which is pushing for a bigger future for the sport

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