British Cycling Fan membership launched - priority tickets, access to training sessions and more
Governing body also launches search for Britain's Biggest Cycling Fan
From today, supporters of the country’s top cyclists are being given the opportunity to become an official British Cycling Fan which the governing body says offers “unrivalled access” to the national team.
The new fan membership would appear to be an attempt to get armchair cycling fans off the sofa and in to the velodrome if not actually on to bikes.
Costing £20 a year, the package includes priority booking for top events including the Track World Cup and exclusive access to Great Britain Cycling Team training sessions, as well as discounted travel to events and “money-can’t-buy” competition prizes.
People signing up - which you can do through the British Cycling website - will also receive a welcome pack, a monthly email, breaking news, a fan card and pin badge, discounts on magazines and tailored digital downloads.
To underline the star power at its disposal British Cycling wheeled out Sir Chris Hoy and Olympic triple jump gold medallist turned TV presenter, Jonathan Edwards to help announce the new membership.
Six-time Olympic champion, Sir Chris Hoy, said: "Racing and winning in front of a home crowd is the greatest experience that any athlete could ever dream of. British fans are amongst the most passionate in the world and cycling is a sport that we’re really excelling at.
"The launch of British Cycling Fan is an acknowledgement that the sport is now mainstream and in an incredibly exciting place. Ahead of another great summer I’d encourage as many fans as possible to join us and show their support for our incredible sport.”
The first fan to sign up is another Olympic gold medal winner - former triple jumper Jonathan Edwards, who now presents sports, including cycling, for the BBC.
Edwards said: “I’ve loved watching the outstanding successes of our British cyclists over the last few years. As a fan of cycling, I am really looking forward to showing my support this summer and getting behind the team. I’ll be watching from the sidelines and cheering loudly for our heroes as they cross the line!”
British Cycling also said that it is looking to find Britain’s Best Cycling Fan - with the winner receiving an "an ultimate fan experience package" during September'sTour of Britain.
It says: "Cycling enthusiasts are being asked to tell British Cycling just why they are Britain’s Best Cycling Fan. The best stories and personalities will be featured on British Cycling’s website and social media channels with monthly prize draws throughout the summer as the cycling fan community builds."
Sky’s ongoing sponsorship deal with British Cycling was extended for a further four years two years ago to take it through to 2016, focusing not just on backing elite athletes through the national squad and Team Sky, but also grassroots initiatives such as Go Ride and Sky Ride. However, all good things come to an end eventually and 2016 is now just 18 months away. Today's initiative can be viewed as part of a strategy to ensure that if the relationship with Sky does end the organisation won't be left with a massive funding gap to fill.
With British Cycling’s membership booming it would also seem to make sense for the governing body to look for ways to capitalise on the kudos and raised profile the orgnaisation has enjoyed amongst sports fans over the past few years - due to the exploits of British riders on road and track.
The launch of the new Fan Membership is timed to coincide with growing interest in cycling with the Grand Départ of the Tour de France a little over a fortnight away to be followed by the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the Tour of Britain in September.
It is perhaps surprising that the organisation has taken until now to launch the initiative, given the huge support for the country’s cyclists at London 2012 and the rapport its elite riders enjoy with the sporting public in general; three cyclists – Sir Chris Hoy, Mark Cavendish, and Sir Bradley Wiggins – have won BBC Sports Personality of the year since 2008.
One of the big draws of the membership package will no doubt be the priority ticket allocation for the annual British round of the Track World Cup, which plays each year to a packed house, and London will also be hosting the Track World Championships in 2016.
Only time will tell if the lure of priority tickets for these events will prove a draw - it may well be that the fans most likely to take up British Cycling's new membership are those who already flock to the velodromes in London and Manchester for headline events. If that isn't the case, and Fan Membership takes off some of the existing audience for track cycling events may find themselves displaced.
We asked British Cycling whether there are any plans for priority ticketing for such events to existing members, as has happened in the past, or if people will have to take out the new fan membership to benefit from it.
A spokesman told us: "Yes, existing members have access to all the Fan benefits, except the pin badge, through their British Cycling member dashboards, which is being updated now."