CyclingTips has received a copy of a document which calls into question denials by Velon that the so-called Velon addendum exists.
A major topic of discussion has arisen between WorldTour riders and their representative group on one side and teams and the Velon organisation on the other, with that addendum raising questions about image rights, personal privacy and other matters.
Mentioned in vague terms by the Italian site Tuttobiciweb last week and then played down by Velon to CyclingTips, this website has since received a copy of the document and also a copy of a letter sent by the riders’ representative association CPA instructing them not to sign it.
Rider agents have separately confirmed the existence of the addendum and said that they too have advised the riders they represent not to sign it at this point in time.
As it stands the document is a controversial one, imposing obligations on riders that appear to extend beyond their normal team dealings. Its introduction has created questions between riders and teams. It has also led to a situation where Velon’s aim of increasing the economic stability for its members could be hampered if a compromise is not reached soon.
Background to the current situation
The Velon group was launched in November of last year and currently comprises 11 out of the 17 WorldTour teams. It has the general aim of trying to create a better and more sustainable economic future for the sport.
It currently comprises the BMC Racing Team, Etixx – Quick-Step, Lampre – Merida, Lotto Soudal, Orica GreenEdge, Cannondale – Garmin, Team Giant – Alpecin, Team Lotto NL – Jumbo, Team Sky, Tinkoff – Saxo and Trek Factory Racing.
At least two others are understood to have informal agreements with the group, but have not yet become official members.
Last week the Italian Tuttobici site reported on a document it titled the Velon Addendum. An add-on to regular rider contracts, Tuttobici described it as something that would hand over to teams “in one fell swoop their image rights, intellectual property rights and also the declaration of personal data and even more.”
It also said that it would greatly weaken riders’ bargaining power. However it did not enter into any specifics.
Contacted by CyclingTips at the weekend, Velon played down the report. “From Velon’s position we’re not involved in any rider contracts and, as such, are simply not placed to be discussing matters that are between the teams and the riders themselves,” a spokesman said.
“We’re also not involved in any rider agreement, whether it’s the terms discussed by the CPA and AIGCP under the Joint Agreement or between the teams and the riders.
“The idea that there is a “Velon Addendum” is not correct. Velon doesn’t make any proposals to riders on their contracts or act directly with them and certainly does not insist they sign anything.”
However this was subsequently contradicted by a source who asked to remain anonymous: “It was a smart response because it is technically true. But it is absolutely misleading,” he stated.
One of Velon’s major offerings has been on-bike video from within the bunch, giving a riders’ eye perspective that previously didn’t exist. Its chief executive Graham Bartlett told CyclingTips in the past that this is one area that the group hopes to use to build an alternative revenue stream for the teams, thus ending the sole reliance on title sponsors for budget.
The group believes that such alternative revenue streams are vital to increase stability in the sport.
The source told CyclingTips that the Velon addendum has largely been created because of this planned direction. He said that Velon and Tour de France organisers ASO are currently battling over image rights.
“The cameras on the bikes are creating the most exciting content ever produced in cycling. Velon wants to own it. Of course, ASO is saying, ‘no, we own it, you are in our races, so we own it.”
He said that the Velon teams want to tie down the riders’ image rights with a contract, in hopes that ASO or other promoters cannot then lay claim to the images.
However while this may seem logical in light of ASO’s historic protectionism and a related reluctance to consider major changes in the economics of the sport, the source suggests the measures have been rushed through, have not been clearly thought out and are unreasonable.
“Rider’s image rights are immensely valuable, and most of them don’t realize it. Not only should riders be involved in the discussion about what happens to their images and what their image rights are worth, team’s rights to rider’s images should not reach beyond team-related activities like races, training camps, team events, etc.
“The current ‘Velon Addendum’ gives team’s ownership of a rider’s image, even outside of cycling, and then allows Velon to sell those rights to anyone, including people who might misuse them. All the while, riders would then have no voice, or any recourse, if their images were misused.
“At the very least, riders should be part of this negotiation.”
Several areas of concern
CyclingTips has received a copy of the document, which is clearly titled the Velon Addendum.
It begins by defining Image Rights as ‘the right to use and exploit the rider’s voice, nickname, name, image (including any footage of sporting or other performances), appearance, autograph, biographical material, photograph, likeness or other representation or relevant details, in each case in whatever format or media, in whatever capacity, on an unlimited basis.’
It then defines other areas such as intellectual property rights, licencing rights and promotional services. It also includes a set of restrictions pertaining to Velon’s use of licencing rights, but these do not appear to apply to the teams themselves.
The source who spoke on the issue said he had no issue with the team owning image rights when riders are on team duty, both in racing and training, but said that the definition in the Velon Addendum was far too broad. He said that it could in theory extend to photos taken at any point of the day.
In addition to that, he expressed concern that such restrictions could prevent personal endorsement deals from happening as the teams’ claims would extend to images used by third parties.
The section marked Data Protection is perhaps the most contentious. It requires the rider to give permission to the employer to process personal data ‘relating to the rider for legal, personnel, administrative and management purposes including in particular to the processing of any sensitive personal data relating to the rider’
Three examples are outlined and are quoted below:
“a) The rider’s physical or mental health or condition in order to:
(i) monitor, analyse and help maintain and improve the rider’s condition ;
(ii) monitor unavailability due to sickness or injury;
(iii) comply with any doping control requirements imposed by the Team or any competent authority;
(iv) inform race tactics both during and prior to races;
(v) create a database and/or a live or near-live data feed for internal employer purposes
b) the rider’s racial or ethnic origin or religious or similar believes in order to monitor compliance with equal opportunities legislation
c) information relating to any criminal proceedings in which the rider has been involved, for insurance purposes and in order to comply with legal requirements and obligations to third parties.”
Clause 4.2 requires the rider to consent to the employer processing personal data, including sensitive personal data, in order to create data bases and/or live or near-live data feeds “for commercial purposes which may be published, processed or exploited in any way whatsoever by the team including without limitation by licencing, sub-licencing and assignment.”
The next clauses require the rider to also give such consent to any third partiers working for or with the employer, and state the employer can make all of the rider’s personal data to various third parties.
Clause 4.6 is one that has led to concern, as it requires the rider to consent to the transfer of such personal data ‘to the employer’s business contacts outside the European Economic Area in order to further the Employer’s business interests even where the country or territory in question does not maintain adequate data protection standards [our italics].
“We invite and advise you not to sign anything”
Given the contentious nature of some of the requirements, it isn’t surprising that those representing riders have cold feet about the addendum as it stands.
One of those is the former pro Gianni Bugno. He is the current head of the CPA association, which represents riders’ interests. Last week he and the CPA steering committee issued a strongly-worded letter to its members which makes clear its opposition to the addendum.
This message has been acquired by CyclingTips and reads as follows:
“The Steering Committee of the CPA with surprise and dismay, is aware of a document named “Velon addendum”, which was recently submitted to some riders of certain teams to be signed.
It contains important and sensitive topics such as the image rights, the intellectual property rights, the statement of personal data, etc.
We note with astonishment that the text proposed to the riders forces them to hand over these rights to their team which is not acceptable.
We also remind that this procedure does not comply with the Joint Agreement which, according to the UCI regulations, refers to the drafting of all contracts.
We have contacted our legal advisors in order to prepare our position and we will keep you informed in the next few days about what is going to happen. We have also contacted the AIGCP (International Association of Professional Teams) and the Velon group in order to see what can be considered appropriate on this issue and work together to develop an acceptable text for the riders.
In the meantime, we invite and advise you to not sign anything at the moment, and we are at your disposal for any further information.”
CyclingTips also reached out to riders’ agents for their responses.
Eelco Berkhout said that his SEG International agency advised caution.
“I know the document, I got it from my riders,” he said. “We’re looking into it with our legal department. We support the ideas of Velon but on first side we represent our riders. So on this moment we advise not to sign until we know sure it will benefit the riders.”
He added that he would see how things transpire. “Maybe the document is good for the riders, maybe it could be better.”
Another agent, who didn’t want to be named, was similarly cautious.
“We are aware of the letter and the CPA’s advise for the riders not to sign it, which we agree with,” he said. “At the end of the day what we continue to see is that each stakeholder is really just concerned with their interests. Velon is trying to establish itself and needs early wins. In our opinion they are too focused on the small things.”
The anonymous source quoted earlier who spoke to CyclingTips about the addendum said that he didn’t necessarily think the document was drawn up with ulterior motive in mind. “Maybe it was just badly drafted. But they really need to go back and look at it again.”
CyclingTips understands that Velon is currently speaking to the CPA about the matter. It is possible that an agreement will be reached, but indications at this point are that modifications and clarifications to the addendum will be necessary before that can happen.