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  • echidna_sg

    great article! ASO is hardly likely to give up its grip on the TV revenue for the tour and its other events. Its been building a juggernaut for many years by acquiring marquee events and could well lead to a breakaway from the UCI altogether. It reminds me of the regular, ongoing battle in F1 or any number of pro sports like the NBA and even the AFL for the teams/athletes to get a bigger slice of the TV revenue pie… which is interesting as the business of TV and of TV advertising as a revenue generator is under great threat from online streaming services (legal or not). Give us another 10 years and I highly doubt the majority of people will have TV as a standalone device with its own infrastructure, it will simply be a streaming service supplied via a data connection.

    • Dave

      Don’t be so hasty to write off TV just yet. In 2005 people were saying the exact same thing, that there was no point in buying a set-top box because the internet would replace it in a couple of years. Ten years on…

      I think I still have my original DVB set-top box, it’s probably buried under a pile of paper somewhere in my paperless office.

      • DavidM

        The UCI cross country and downhill MTB races (along with many other off road cycling events) are all on the free RedBull TV service (website or phone app) and it is awesome! I can’t recommend it enough. They play the races both live, then on demand at any time after. If only road cycling had something similar. Hope it stays free, though they could easily expect people to pay at some point?

  • Peter

    Cycling is identified with doping among non-cycling afficianados. So it has a bad rep to start with. If Velon & ASO & UCI start power plays and teams boycott the big races to try to get their way, it will just do more damage to the image of cycling and the damage won’t be undone in just a good season or two.

    As far as I understand it, German TV, until recently, has almost completely abandoned broadcasting cycling because of doping issues. How many other broadcasters will become frustrated and abandon cycling around the world if this fight hots up?

    In Aus, the SBS TV channel has done a huge amount of work to bring cycling to the mainstream in a country where Rugby League and AFL rule supreme. There has already been talk of SBS dropping its broadcast of football (Soccer), including A-League games due to funding cuts, I’m sure cycling is just as tenuous.

    I sincerely hope that Velon & ASO can sort things out before they make mince meat of the image of the cycling profession worldwide, and before we lose the wonderful TV coverage that has been built up over the last 10 years in Aus.

    • jules

      but the point is that ASO is compromising the sport by imposing its business model on the teams, UCI, etc. they are blocking reforms that are needed to broaden the appeal of pro cycling and bring new, additional revenue streams in. because they see those reforms as a threat to their own position.

      the position of pro cycling now is untenable, most of the teams are 1 step away from folding and it is holding the sport back. TV coverage is a commodity – anyone can provide it. but ASO have got it for the Tour and they aren’t letting it go.

      the question is – are ASO/UCI/teams willing to go to war to protect their patch or achieve reforms? it may reach a point where teams see no alternative, where they are left with little to lose. ASO’s rights to the Tour are worth a lot less without participation of the major contenders, so the teams/Velon have cards to play too.

    • alexroseinnes

      SBS would never cut their cycling coverage – it rates very well, makes good money, and has marquee advertisers.

      • Dave

        [citation needed]

        This year I counted more station promotions for SBS primetime shows than commercials which is not a sign of good health. The total time spent on advertising the new Rachel Khoo series was probably longer than the actual series.

        Another alarming sign was the shuffling around of broadcast start times to fit with whatever primetime programming was prioritised.

        • alexroseinnes

          SBS have the ASO broadcast rights until 2023. Their cycling coverage is not going anywhere.

          • Dave

            If only it were actually that simple.

            On-selling their rights to the World Cup is a contingency that SBS has in place for dealing with potential cuts to their taxpayer funding, it would be silly to think they would be willing to do that with the World Cup but not cycling.

    • Damien

      ARD the national broadcaster had it back this year

  • alexroseinnes

    The ASO keeps broadcasters and fans happy, that’s 90% percent of the job. There’s no way that Velon teams would boycott the TdF and so the ASO have them over a barrel. RCS Media Group is on its knees and I’m sure they have considered selling RCS Sport (Giro d’Italia) to the ASO. If and when that happens, you’ll get nothing but middle fingers from the Amaury family.

    • alexroseinnes

      I mean, the ASO gave SBS the rights to all ASO events until 2023 back in 2013. There was no bid process as far as I know. That is unheard of in the world of sports TV rights. The ASO are not naïfs, they have been at this game for a while.

    • The ASO’s revenue in 2013 was about 166€. I’m not sure what that equates to if someone wanted to buy it, but in the context of professional sports it seems quite inexpensive. As we can see, if you own the TdF, you’d be well on your way to owning the entire sport. I remember some numbers being thrown around in 2008 when Lance was rumoured to be in talks to buy the Tour. Does anyone know what they were?

      • alexroseinnes

        Not sure what multiple someone would apply to the company, but I’d assume they are making about €30m in profit a year (+-20% EBITDA margin based on previously released info). It’s all moot, they would never sell. It’s a private company and it pays healthy dividends to the Amaury family. I remember the Inner Ring doing a blog on this but he incorrectly equated revenue with profit. Anyway, my assumed €30m encompasses all the activities of ASO, and they don’t break this down into events so we wouldn’t know what profit the TdF generates. You might be left with very little revenue to share even if the ASO wanted to share any.

        Seriously, Velon are dreaming. The ASO already have commercial hook-ups with the Tour Down Under and the Amgen Tour of California. Velon is nothing more than blue sky at the this stage. Dimension Data are a major multinational with revenues of $6 billion, owned by a Japanese telecommunications giant (NTT), and Velon couldn’t possibly provide a better data service than them.

        Nothing will change unless the ASO want it to change.

        • Larry Theobald

          I think you are correct. ASO has all the money and like it or not the golden rule applies (he who has the gold, makes the rules) while the other organizers are struggling so have little choice but to throw in with Velon and their so-called “reforms”. Velon barely has room to dance in the room since the elephant in there is so huge, yet they bob and weave around it constantly. The sport’s in a bad way for two reasons: 1 That elephant – the continuing doping scandals (which we hear nothing from Velon about) and 2 A far-reaching economic crisis that keeps out all but corrupt governments, rich chamois sniffers, gambling interests and the bike industry when it comes to sponsorship. Velon needs to remember that this is not the first time LeTour has taken on interests like theirs, it’s not unthinkable for them to respond with national teams and standard-issue bicycles as they did so long ago. As they say, be careful what you wish for!

  • alexroseinnes

    The ASO keeps broadcasters and fans happy, that’s 90% percent of the job. There’s no way that Velon teams would boycott the TdF and so the ASO have them over a barrel. RCS Media Group is on its knees and I’m sure they have considered selling RCS Sport (Giro d’Italia) to the ASO. If and when that happens, you’ll get nothing but middle fingers from the Amaury family.

  • Billy

    The ASO DOES have “the jewel in the crown”. All the teams struggling to survive need the Tour de France for worldwide exposure. No other race is broadcast on such a scale. There are plenty of teams who will happily race if some Velon teams refuse to. Whatever happens the ASO will still own this race and I just can’t see every team sticking together.

  • Persona Non Grata

    By their own admission, WADA conducted 24,500 drug tests last year- 1/3 on cyclists, the other
    2/3 on all other sports combined. No wonder everyone associates cycling
    with doping. As a fan, I think it’s time for the UCI and ASO to go away.
    It will be rough. It will be painful. But like the phoenix, cycling
    would most definitely rise again. Cycling is the largest sporting goods
    industry out there, accounting for $15 billion in sales annually. But cycling would be better next time because of the
    lessons learned from this mess. And more profitable for teams and riders, especially since your
    average cyclist is one of the lowest paid athletes. Where is the outcry
    about all the ‘roided up football players? Baseball? Soccer? Why do
    they keep spending all their time and money going after the cycling
    industry? I think it’s time for the old guard to fall away so a new
    paradigm can take it’s place, with the new structure refusing to allow
    WADA to focus mainly on them. WADA’s time/money should be the same
    percentage as cycling/other sports, with regards to the amount of
    athletes involved in each. Period. What is destroying cycling? The
    UCI/ASO/WADA triad is. I’m sick of what they’re doing to my sport. So
    much so that I will live without cycling coverage/races for a while to
    see it rise anew, better.
    As for what the UNITED STATES Anti Doping Agency is doing with a FRENCH race- don’t get me started!

    • jules

      impressive spiel there :)

    • Derek Maher

      Hi regarding the USADA and French racing.Its a FIFA thing.The UCI and WADA with the USADA have a far to close relationship for my liking.
      Cycle racing has been given special treatment by these groups because they have been allowed to get away with it for years and the cyclists take most of the media flack and lose sponsorship.The Telegraph News ran an article on athletics and doping and there was uproar in response.Velon and the ASO and other race organisers need to get together to protect their interests and stop third parties trying to dictate the agenda.

    • Persona Non Grata

      Just my own “For what it’s worth” opinion.

  • Urbanrider

    If ASO won’t come to the table and discuss possible change, then the big teams should boycott the TdF. I agree, it would be painful. But it is the only thing that would make the ASO realize that they are not the only player in this game. I guess all of the big riders would sign up for the Giro!

    • Dave

      Painful = career-ending.

      Would YOU do it?

      • Urbanrider

        I meant painful for us fans who would not get to see the biggest race of the year. Sadly, ASO leaves little option by being so stubborn. Also sadly, I’m not a pro or a team manager/owner, so I’ll never have to make that choice.
        I just know what other sports have gone through, such as baseball in the USA.

        • Dave

          But in the event of some teams boycotting the Tour de France, other teams would simply replace them on the start line and we’d never hear of them again.

          Cycling is a dog eat dog world, there’s no place for the kind of solidarity that makes player strikes and lockouts work in professionally organised sports.

      • 900Aero

        it happens all the time, its just for other reasons. Where was Kittel or Gilbert or Boonen this July? For various reasons they didn’t ride the tour and everyone accepts that. Boycotting doesn’t need to be confrontational, it can be just a case of making different choices. I’m not endorsing this approach or even commenting on whether it will happen – I just think that its more feasible than we imagine – and in some ways, already happens. Is Contador “boycotting” the Vuelta now? He’s even Spanish, surely if a Spanish superstar can “pass” on a race then others can too. The teams is a trickier issue than riders but its still possible.

        On the main topic: perhaps a useful analogue is pro surfing where the contests are dominated by a few large corporates who also sponsor the surfers. Years ago it was chaos where the organisers were running stupid events in tiny waves . Surfers opted out (“free surfing”), disruptive sponsors arrived (Red Bull, Monster, Go-Pro), direct net coverage emerged……the sport survived, people made money. TV became irrelevant. All of these things are happening in other forms of cycling now too (MTB/BMX), road racing is the hold-out. Can’t last forever though.

  • touristeroutier

    @Jules I don’t think you understand who the real bulk of the TV audience is. It isn’t fans, it is often French housewives. The majority of TV viewers are watching more for the scenery (think about all of the non-racing shots you see) and the general spectacle. As long as there is a show, it doesn’t matter whether there are Pro Teams or Continental Teams

    General comments-
    The teams are all independent businesses. ASO provides them the platform to compete and to showcase their sponsors; exposure at the tour is often a primary reason why companies sponsor Pro & Pro-Conti teams,at least at the current budget levels. ASO provides travel stipends, housing during the race, prize money, etc. How much more shoud they be subsidizing independent businesses, who can’t get their own acts in order?

    No Pro Tour team will boycott major Pro Tour races, especially Le Tour. Not only will they run afoul of ASO, but they will violate the terms of their UCI license (which compels them to compete), but they are shooting themselves in the foot sponsorship wise, not to mention it is the main target of many of their athletes. And even if some did boycott, there is a long line of teams raising their hands saying, “pick me”.

    The teams need ASO; ASO doesn’t need the UCI or the teams to succeed.

    • Dave

      Entirely correct. If some teams* boycott the Tour and other ASO races, then the races will just get opened up for other teams to fill their slots. No sponsor would stay on board through such a fiasco, they’d take their money to a different team or a different sport.

      * it is ridiculous to suggest any more than a couple would actually do it.

      • 900Aero

        If ASO ran races which were missing major teams, they would come under pressure from their advertisers and the French media/public. They are not immune from error or bigger than the sport. They are a business with customers and they don’t want their customers saying: “hey, where are all the big names that I was expecting? Why am I watching U-23 kids all racing on one-design bikes? What are you doing to our event/sport? “. But they would not let it get to that, they don’t want to kill the golden goose. There is more tension in the wire than might be obvious and if Velon play a smart game, they’ll have a seat at the table.

        • Dave

          ASO could certainly replace a couple of teams without much issue. Nobody would ever hear of those teams again because the cheques from the sponsors would suddenly start getting lost in the mail and the riders would get poached by those teams who are racing.

          They could get away with a huge amount more before facing a widespread boycott because the teams won’t stick together when it really counts, cycling is a dog-eat-dog world.

          • 900Aero

            I understand the nature of cycling as you portray it but still disagree to a point. I don’t see that ASO would really contemplate playing hardball like that with WT teams. They need the teams (and good ones) or they don’t have a valid race. They could only do that to wildcard slots – which are their call anyway. The WT teams are locked in by UCI licence status and ASO need to have UCI support for their races. Everyone has skin in the game. Velon is just a way for the teams/riders to organise themselves better.

            Put it a different way, if Velon were not to be taken seriously then ASO would welcome them and it would be hugs all round. The fact there is a some tension is demonstration of the power which Velon (potentially) has. We can argue from our armchairs all day but ASO’s actions tell us how seriously they take Velon.

  • Marcus

    Maybe I’m over simplifying it, but if Velon gets the backing of all the world tour teams, they could simply create their own race in France. Let’s face it, the ASO doesn’t own the roads, just the name and the history. I would rather watch a race called ‘a race around france’ featuring the world tour teams, than ‘le tour de france’ made up of the lesser teams. If Velon gets broadcasters onboard, why could they not do that? Stupid idea? maybe… At the end of the day, I love watching the best teams and riders race against each other. To be honest, I don’t care if it’s in france, spain, italy or timbuktu. I just want to watch them race…

    • Dave

      The teams don’t have the money, the leadership or the solidarity to do that.

      The only realistic chance of a breakaway league is if ASO gets control of a few more races and then decides they can do without the UCI. The teams need the Tour de France a hell of a lot more than they need the UCI World Championships (there would be an ASO-backed replacement in no time) and the Olympic Games. An ASO breakaway league could also go for relaxed doping rules, without the UCI, WADA or IOC meddling in their made-for-TV races.

      • Urbanrider

        We could do without the UCI. I’m not sure what they do other than randomly enforce their archaic rules.
        But there is a whole season full of races other than the ASO races.
        I agree with the earlier post – the ASO does not own the roads.
        And the pro teams could put on their own races if they all joined together.

        • Dave

          I’d like to see a bunch of cycling teams successfully organise a joint pissup in a brewery before rating them as capable of organising even an exhibition criterium.

          Even if said pissup went off without a hitch, I still wouldn’t rate a team-organised race as getting far enough along to worry about who does or does not own the roads. They would go bankrupt just from trying.

          • Urbanrider

            you’re right. The teams could form a union, but someone else would have to put on the race. I was hoping velon could be part of that.
            I’d rather deal with the ASO than the UCI anyway

            • Dave

              Velon is just a teams association, it doesn’t have the capability to put on races or the money to pay somebody else to do it for them.

              The one thing that the teams can do to give themselves a chance of getting a revenue sharing deal with the ASO (and other race promoters) in the future is to take care of their own backyard and clean up cycling’s reputation. Better reputation = more ASO revenue = more chance of revenue sharing.

      • Derek Maher

        Agree with you there Dave.I regret the day the UCI got together with the IOC and got pro cycling involved in that political can of worms.

        • Dave

          I’m not sure that changing the Olympics back to amateurs-only for cycling is really an option. It would be a huge setback for track cycling, BMX, MTB and women’s road cycling. How many people outside of cycling fans in Australia had ever heard of Sam Willoughby or Caroline Buchanan before London?

          Changing the men’s road events at the Olympics to be U23 events or at least barring members of WorldTeams and Pro Continental teams would be a possible solution, but not an immediate priority. Cycling has many other problems (e.g. its reputation as a doping sport) which need to be solved well before dealing with WorldTour riders racing at the Olympics.

          My point was more that a breakaway league wouldn’t need to be a clean sport – although cycling (unlike sports contested in a stadium) has the problem of needing government support for racing on closed roads.

    • Robert

      Can’t see that happening. In France during the Tour, ASO does own the roads. The organisation and the family have the backing of the French Government from the top all the way down to the bottom. You only have to see how the town mayors almost wet themselves when they meet Prudholme and the rest of the blue-shirt brigade at stage starts they are so excited. So you may be able to create another race and other races, but ASO, the French governments and media are so intertwined I’d say nothing can threaten them seriously. Not to say the teams shouldn’t try. In some way’s it can be seen as an industrial relations dispute and just a matter of who blinks first.

  • Kenneth Sanders

    From where I’m sitting VELON is dreaming! The only way to effectively disrupt the ASO is to boycott ALL ASO events. Now is that realistic? NO!

    Here is a list of all ASO events: Criterium du Dauphine, Tour De France, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, World Ports Classic, La Flèche Walloons, Paris-Roubaix, Criterium International, Paris-Nice, Tour of Oman, Tour of Qatar, Paris Tours and the Tour of Norway.

    Please note that the ASO is also making headway with Tour of California and Tour Down Under. So what is left? Not very much. This makes up the better part of the season.

    Also, everyone should understand that ASO isn’t just in the cycling world. They have their hands in Golf, Motorsports, Sailing and Huge running events for additional revenues.

    VELON is living a dream. It all boils down to two things who understands the art of business better and who has the money; the teams, ASO or the UCI. My money is on the ASO and UCI. The UCI needs the ASO more than the ASO needs the UCI. It is what it is. Welcome to the new world economy.

  • The business interests of the top teams are not in the interest of the sport as whole. I wrote a piece about this a while back, when an American group put forward a proposal similar to Velon’s. By concentrating power at the top, you starve the smaller teams and races that make the sport such an important part of the everyday culture in Europe. That popular appeal is what makes events such as the Tour de France so successful and where hope for the future of the sport, around the world, lies. More here: http://www.keirplaice.com/post/66169067771/with-the-release-of-yet-another-strategic-vision

    • H20

      I was just about to make that point and it’s a pity your point and your article seem to have been overlooked. Connections between the grass roots and the pros seem to be vital if a sport is to remain healthy (although maybe not so much in the USA).

      So many of these articles about the pro scene seem to ignore the junior, amateur, masters and club scenes which create the riders, the volunteers and a lot of grass-roots support. Other sports have moved to a pro model that has seen a tiny number making big dollars while the rest of the sport dwindles; cycling should make sure it doesn’t go down the same path.

      As just one example, SBS’s broadcasting of the TdF came about almost entirely because of the efforts of Mike Tomolaris’ personal interest in the sport as a participant. Many pro teams have been underwritten by people who were cyclists first and then team owners later….if we lose those who will promote the broadcasting of the sport and those who will create the teams, how will pro cycling survive?

  • DJP

    Easy solution – Velon start buying up smaller events or ASO do a JV with Velon. Whatever they do they are both needed as ASO has the main races and Velon has buyin from a lot of the top teams. Problem is that ASO are too French in thier approach and my understanding is that Velon originated in the UK. Velon is needed to pull the sport into the 21st century and start making it the same as F1 or any of the US sports in terms of longevity and certainty for riders, teams and the fans.

    • H20

      The problem is that F1 and many of the US sports don’t attract many participants, because of their elitist and restrictive model. Why would cycle racing benefit from the F1 model, which consists of a whole bunch of people do don’t do the sport watching a tiny and dwindling number of people who actually race?

      Formula Money, the review of F1 sponsorship, says that the basis of F1’s revenue growth is the cash coming from circuits – but that isn’t available in cycling where most of the major races are on open roads. And many of the F1 teams are struggling like many of the cycling teams, so why assume that the F1 model is more sustainable?

      Cycling is in the top 4 participant sports (in most English speaking countries, at least) while car racing, US football etc are way down the list. Do we want to follow that model and kill off local racing and group rides?

  • Tobias

    In order for sports to be successful in today’s environment – TV is a critical component – it generates revenue and brings in eyeballs. The Events need to be combined together and sold as one TV package. The numbers are staggering,… in part because the eyeballs, have been built in to an awarding/addictive viewing experience.

    There are successful examples showing that sharing the revenue with the teams (and thus athletes) work.

    I don’t want to suggest that I have the only good answer on this – but cycling will not be successful if ASO captures all the spoils. Right now the Tour de France is the big Kahuna, the world cup finals, the superbowl. The other events build up to the value that it creates.

    Cycling is at real impasse right now – financially it just doesn’t work – what is good for the ASO is essentially bad for the athletes. It is not possible for billionaires to continue to fund the teams at a cost of $10-$20m negative a year… I also believe that team salaries caps in other leagues (US based) have largely been successful. The team owners should be able build longer term equity… if they go negative… instead of helping ASO.

    If you look at Tennis, it is a big money sport, yet one could argue that cycling has now eclipsed tennis players in many countries. There are numerous articles making the point that cycling is the new golf.

    I believe we need Velon, the RSO and other non-ASO groups to band together to create a professional mens and women’s cycling model that works. I think it has become clear that the UCI is not bold enough to make the right moves.

    Is a team point system the way to make team aspect more interesting ? How do you create an award that is relevant to viewing – Chelsea, Bayern Muenchen, Golden State Warriors? To fan support ?

    Let’s be clear there could be a solution to the problem …. The 2014 TDF stages in UK had exceptional turnout…. This could be recreated in different ways!

  • Steve Fowler

    Hopefully cooler heads will prevail. CART and Indycar racing killed their sport. Remember how big the Indy 500 used to be?


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