Dutchman wants mass-owned team to compete next year

Fancy owning a cycling team? A real live one, not just something turned out of the PlayStation factory? Well, for €55 a year you could not only own and manage your team but watch it compete in multi-stage competitions and classic races.

Sounds too good to be true? Well, the idea of a cycling team owned by many – 40,000, to be exact – has been launched by Dutch entrepreneur Marc Frencken, the first of its kind in the world.

And Mr Frencken has high hopes. He wants to enter the new CrowdRiders team in the 2010 cycling season, possibly riding in the Tour de France and Milan-San Remo.

By registering and paying a membership fee, CrowdRiders members automatically become co-owners and managers of the CrowdRiders team, allowing direct voting power in all major decisions affecting the team, including which high-profile cyclists are hired to ride on the team. Members’ favourite cyclists will be approached by CrowdRiders and offered a professional contract to race in the 2010 cycling season.

All decisions will be made through democratic elections on the CrowdRiders website (www.CrowdRiders.com) and members will have a say on which managers, sports directors and trainers the team should sign with, the race calendar composition, team structure as well as the design of the team’s jersey and internal team policies.

The project is working to build up a budget of €4 Million, of which 51 per cent will be supplied through membership fees by the 40,000 members, who each pay €55 annually. The €4 Million budget is comparable to the budgets of other pro cycling teams such as Barloworld, Agritubel and Skil-Shimano. The remaining 49 per cent of the budget will be provided by official sponsoring partners, who will have no influence over decisions related to the team.

“In its current phase, we are looking to entice 40,000 cycling enthusiasts who have a genuine interest in pro cycling team management and ownership to become aspiring CrowdRiders,” said Mr Frencken. “Registration will be free of charge until we have reached the 40,000 members mark and the mass-project finally kicks off for real.”

In addition to ownership and management rights, other advantages for CrowdRiders members include access to ‘members only’ season opening and closing events, the opportunity to ride with the pro riders during specially organised global members events as well as getting the first-hand inside info on CrowdRiders through internal live newsfeeds, video footage, interviews and chat room sessions. Each member’s name will be depicted on the official team jersey and team bus, to visually showcase their ownership.

“Developments on the new media front are giving the online space an empowering ability. The distance between fans and athletes is becoming less remote, and people are now even able to communicate directly with their idols through for example chat rooms, forums and Twitter. For true cycling fanatics, the CrowdRiders concept is another way of bringing them closer to their favourite sport, with the opportunity to take their passion into their own hands”, said Frencken.

Registration as a member can be done on the CrowdRiders website. Until the 40,000 members target has been reached, no membership fees will be accepted. Once the 40,000 mark has been met, members will receive formal notification that the CrowdRiders project has taken off, at which point the voting processes will be activated and membership payments will be collected.