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December 14, 2017
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  • David9482

    Well, this isn’t exactly a crisis, it’s been the state of cycling for the past 10 decades. It has been and currently is and likely will be an underfunded sport, purely because it is extremely difficult to secure a reliable revenue stream.

    Every successful sport has very strong TV deals and/or fans who actively pay to watch each event. I’ve always been confused why cycling’s TV deal isn’t better. Does any industry insider have information to compare cycling to other European/International sports, such as soccer/football in terms of TV deals? I’m really interested to hear that.

    • Spencer Martin

      While this structure is old and part of the history of the sport, the new, unsustainable money coming into the sport is jeopardizing the traditional sponsor channel.

      I would be curious to see actual viewers numbers. However, a huge difference between televising cycling compared to soccer/football, is that the kinetic nature of cycling means the cost of televising cycling are astronomical compared to static stadium sports like soccer.

      • DaveRides

        It has been confirmed that road cycling was by far the most expensive of all the sports for OBS (Olympic Broadcasting Services) to produce at Rio last year. Even sailing (which provided on-board cameras in most events) was cheaper.

        Going outside the Olympics, Formula 1 is more expensive than cycling again. However, this is only because they make an absolute killing and can afford to reinvest in making a superior product that is about 25 years ahead of what is on offer in cycling. If necessary, F1 could cut their cloth and still be ‘only’ 20 years ahead.

        The difference between cycling and F1 is that one is generally programmed as cheap filler, while the other is an event that people deliberately sit down to watch.

    • donncha

      No point comparing it to football. Latest 3yr Premiership TV deal was STG5.2 BILLION (USD6.75bn) and that’s only for the UK TV rights. Add another approx. STG3bn for global rights. Cycling is a rounding error.

  • zosim

    A lot of sports are in this situation. NASCAR, one of the most popular forms of motorsport in the USA is suffering a bit. So much so in fact that teams are getting rid of drivers with big contracts before the contract has expired to bring on the next (and much cheaper) generation as soon as possible. It’s a fact of life that as media becomes fractured, it’s harder to have a single point of sponsorship.

  • winkybiker

    The cost of running teams exactly reflects how much money is available. More sponsorship equals bigger budgets equals higher salaries but also results in exactly the same number of races broadcast and the same number of winners per race (one). I’d contend that none of this really matters. Cycling doesn’t “need” more money, nor bigger budgets, nor higher salaries at the pro level. All that will come automatically if viewers’ eyeball time is worth more. That arguably comes from greater grassroots participation. Unlike many other pro sports, cycling fans are overwhelmingly cyclists (How many Nascar fans are racecar drivers? How many NFL fans are football players?). If the the sport needs money anywhere, it is to make events for people to participate in possible, affordable and of high quality. The pro side of it hardly matters.

    I’m never sympathetic to the argument that changes to the number of, and remuneration of, the vanishingly small number of people who are paid to ride their bikes (and support them) is at all important.

    • Wily_Quixote

      Are fans overwhelmingly legit Lycra clad cyclists? Many of the fans in the classics look as if they need to put down their beer and frites and get out cycling more.

      Even my mother in law religiously watches the TdF-and owns a Skoda, I suspect, influenced somewhat by the coverage.

      • DaveRides

        > Are fans overwhelmingly legit Lycra clad cyclists? Many of the fans in the classics look as if they need to put down their beer and frites and get out cycling more.

        Be aware that winkybiker is speaking from an exclusively Anglo perspective, even more so than the general Anglo bias in this forum. The TV audiences in Australia and the USA are practically limited to only dedicated fans (because they have to stay up to 1am or get up at 6am to watch European races) while cycling is simply not that remarkable in Europe, as shown by the 53% of Tour fans who wouldn’t bother turning up if it didn’t have the bigger spectacle of the publicity caravan. It reaches more people in Europe, but with less engagement.

        • Wily_Quixote

          yes, good point. it depends from where you are watching.

      • winkybiker

        I think you make good point. The fan base seems more “broadly spread” in Europe.

  • Wily_Quixote

    Very interesting article. I have always wondered why the sponsors of European cycling, when I used to watch the TdF, were so euro-centric. Belgian flooring companies, Spanish charities…. if I had been influenced by advertising what could I buy? Well, Motorola as it turns out. My second phone was a Motorola, influenced ( no doubt) the the presence of a team in the TdF.

    2.5 -10 million doesn’t seem like that much for a global company wanting worldwide exposure with predominantly European market penetration, but obviously the big companies do their research. I am a little surprised at the difficulty in attracting, at least, co-sponsorship.

    Who pays for the coverage of a race like the TdF? I presumed French TV owned the infrastructure and footage and on sold it to, for example, SBS in Australia. Why does the cost of filming the event affect team budgets?

    Anyway, interesting article, thanks.

    • DaveRides

      > Who pays for the coverage of a race like the TdF? I presumed French TV owned the infrastructure and footage and on sold it to, for example, SBS in Australia. Why does the cost of filming the event affect team budgets?

      Yes, basically.

      The high cost of producing cycling on TV and low interest (outside the Tour) means there is less profit coming in to the races and no room to increase the payouts to teams. Most races make a loss that is underwritten by a government at regional/provincial level, not a profit.

  • DaveRides

    Two points:

    1. The constant switching between € and $ of some kind (assuming USD for the NBA talk near the top and AUD when talking about Orica?) is giving me a headache. Can it please be edited to have Euros in brackets for all figures?

    2. Soft cap and luxury tax please – but with the cap being on total spending rather than just salaries.

  • winkybiker

    Oath, mate. ‘ckin oath, mate.

  • Luke Bartlett

    Super interesting. Did anyone see how much money that soccer team ‘printed’ after signing Neymar and selling his jerseys? I spose theres not much of a team identity within cycling in that people don’t barrack for a team like in traditional H2H sports which limits merchandising (plus the snobbery of not wearing pro kit). Largely because they come and go i suppose.

  • eppolley

    As for the cycling game it’s nice to have the best rider however most marketable is most likely what you want. A rider has got to do a whole lot more than ride a bike. Cipollini, Bonnen and Cancellara and now The Boss Sagan have all proved they could deliver the goods, yet I’m sure their real value to a sponsor is their picture. While we as cyclist all admire the Gran Tour rider they couldn’t sell me anything with their emaciated bodies and lack of anything else of interest besides riding a bike. Even I can do that.

  • HamishM

    Maybe Vaughters needs to read Moneyball. The winning formula is not hiring overpaid underperformers, but the other way around.

  • Larry @CycleItalia

    Interesting article, but blaming the insane cost of fielding a competitive WT cycling team only on the “rich chamois-sniffers” and oligarchs leaves out the creation (Heinie’s Folly) of the WT as part of the problem. Let’s face it – does cycling NEED to have multiple events going on at the same time, creating the need for multiple squads (and all their support staff and equipment) competing in the same jersey at different events? Does the sport NEED the huge buses and trucks to haul all the equipment around? Most of this started with Heinie’s Folly, the big globalization pipe-dream for pro cycling. Vaughters and his Velon-ilk want to create a franchise, North American style sport so they can cash in like the plutocrats who own NFL and NBA teams since they believe they’d be grandfathered into the program since they already have teams. I enjoy cycling because it’s NOT a “sport” like NFL and NBA, though some sort of salary cap idea may have merit – but it’s a tough argument when lowly Cannondale came within 54 seconds of cycling’s biggest prize in 2017 against a team with a budget of 40 million.

  • Mike Williams

    I normally loathe salary caps (and penalty taxes) in sports because it punishes the home team fans who get out to a team’s games and watch/listen/follow a team in order to payoff the loser franchises. But in cycling it may just work because there is no local fan base, no gate, no local TV contracts, etc.

    The problem is that it can punish the stars who really attract the fans e.g. Sagan. But again cycling is unique in that allows them to be paid directly by the main sponsors (e..g Specialized).

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