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by Shane Stokes
December 7, 2015
Photography by Cor Vos
Following the news that former Australian espoir champion Benjamin Dyball, compatriots Ben Hill and Jesse Kerrison plus thirteen others have been left reeling after the Dynamo Cover Pro Racing squad stopped prior to its debut season, team management has commented on the matter.
According to Alex Mills, who is the owner of title sponsor Dynamo Cover, the squad will likely not race in 2016 but will return in 2017.
He forwarded CyclingTips an email which had been sent to the team riders after founder Eifion Weinzweig told them via another email that the squad would not proceed next season.
That message began by apologising to the riders for both the shock announcement and also how it was broken to them.
He then continued by explaining what the problem was.
“Sometime ago, the team enlisted the help of a sponsor agent, whose role was to manage sponsorship contracts and obtain other sponsors from it’s list of clients. As well as the team having sponsors such as my company who approached the team direct, due to the additional prospective sponsors that the Sponsorship Agent had brought to the table, it was agreed that they should look after all team sponsors’ contracts and management.
“This seemed a sensible move as key people like Eifion could focus their attention towards the team itself, rather than be concerned with sponsors.
“Everything was going great, we had all sponsors in place and all contracts were being signed and exchanged ahead of next year. Yes, it was tight – But Eifion, Marc, Yann and everyone else was working around the clock and over weekends in order to deliver this project.
“On Wednesday this week, we were informed of a potential multi-million pound legal case brought against the sponsor agent. Although the case did not concern the team or our sponsors, given that all sponsorship contracts were now managed via this agent, we had to try and find a solution to secure the sponsors’ money (so that it wouldn’t be at risk) and also the team’s position.”
He said because of the nature of the relationship with the agent, the sponsors cannot back the team directly. He said he has spoken to those prospective backers and got a commitment from them.
“Every sponsor is still interested in making this team happen, as we all (sponsors) believe that it is a fantastic team with an unlimited future potential. However, because we cannot fund the team directly, we would have to put our money with the agent, to then distribute to the team and given the current legal case we simply cannot do this.
“The reason is that we (sponsors) could put our money with this agent, and then they pay off their legal case, and send no money over to the team. We (sponsors) would then lose our money, and also the team wouldn’t get paid.”
He said if that happened no sponsor would back the project in the future, and that the team had decided to delay sending any funds to the agent until the issue is resolved.
CyclingTips asked Mills a number of follow up questions to that email. He said that while the sponsor agent wasn’t involved in his own decision to back the team, that because of the nature of the contract with that agent, Dynamo Cover nevertheless had to go through the agent in setting the deal up.
Asked if it could be an option to simply pay the agent whatever commission it was due and thus end any obligations to that company, he said the option was being looked at.
“However, due to the commitment by some sponsors for two years the team would have to pay those commissions upfront, which would affect the cash available for the team to operate in year one,” he said.
Although Mills told the riders that the team was doing everything it could to solve the issues and was committed to continuing in the future, he admitted to CyclingTips that the upcoming December 10 deadline for Continental team licence application was one that couldn’t be met.
“Sadly, we don’t think we’re going to have enough time to straighten this issue out before the tenth, given the complexity of the situation,” he said. “It is highly annoying.
“We think we’ll miss this year, but the good news is that all sponsors are still interested in creating this team. The annoying thing is that we have (/had) a team ready, riders ready, and sponsors with money ready. This unfortunate legal situation means that we cannot connect the two together, without the sponsors’ funds being at risk.”
In March the company BlurGroup was named as acting in an agent capacity to secure sponsors for the team, which was then labelled We Are Wales.
However Mills denied this company is the one concerned. He said that for legal reasons, he could not name it at this point in time.
Aside from the three Australian riders mentioned above, thirteen others are also left without a squad for 2016. These are the Kiwi Nick Kergozou, the Britons Owen James, Stuart Balfour, Tom Smith and Ollie Maxwell, Frenchmen Maxime and Mathieu le Lavandier plus David Chopin, and the Irish quintet Mark Dowling, Philip Lavery, Ryan Reilly and brothers Sean and Mark Downey.
Also stranded are the staff, some of whom gave up jobs elsewhere to became part of Dynamo Cover Pro Cycling.
They are now facing unemployment, and will need to spend the build-up to Christmas trying to find something else.
“Being a sponsor and assisting with the team management, I can see the frustration from both sides, which is annoying,” said Mills. “All we want is this team to go ahead, we have money (well over a few million) of funds ready, staff ready and riders ready but we just cannot put them together without running a risk to either the sponsors or the team.”
Dyball has been competing in the Tour of Bright, and took fourth on Friday’s opening time trial. He then received the email about the team’s problems, yet was able to keep his focus to place eighth on stage two and win Sunday’s concluding uphill stage.
He took the overall standings by 48 seconds, underlining both his ability and also his fighting spirit.
“I’m definitely extremely disappointed as I was really looking forward to racing in Europe next year,” he told CyclingTips on Saturday. “Alex Mills has said that there may still be a chance that the team will go ahead next year but the chances of that are slim. I have contacted a few teams but I haven’t heard anything yet.”
Also see: Dyball and many other riders left without a team as Continental squad Dynamo Cover collapses prior to debut