The UCI has reportedly been offered an undisclosed stake in a proposed “breakaway league,”presumably intended as a sweetener to the governing body to give its blessing to a planned new ten-race competition called World Series Cycling. In July, UCI president Pat McQuaid revealed in an exclusive interview with road.cc that some of the people behind the proposals had been in discussion with the governing body.
In March this year, it was reported that sports marketing business Gifted Group had approached the UCI on behalf of some of the sport’s leading teams for permission to set up the competition, which would not clash with the three Grand Tours or major one-day races, for the 2014 season, with 14 teams taking part.
That approach was rebuffed by the UCI, but according to Bloomberg, Gifted Group has now offered the organisation an equity stake in the company that would promote and run the races.
UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani told Bloomberg that the governing body had no comment on the latest report, while its president, Pat McQuaid, has been an opponent of the idea from the outset.
In an exclusive interview with road.cc at the end of July, McQuaid was adamant that he saw no prospect of the proposal getting off the ground, or at least not without the governing body's approval, and he revealed that those involved had been talking to the UCI.
“It’s not going to happen, it’s not,” he said, interviewed at a Central London hotel on the eve of the Olympic Games.
“There won’t be a breakaway league, it was something that was looked at, it was something that there were people trying to do, but they realised they couldn’t do it without the UCI.
“The sport of cycling is unlike football or basketball or other sports, and so some of the people that were behind that league are talking to the UCI in terms of working with the UCI. So it’s not going to happen.”
In light of the latest reports, it’s open to question whether those concluding remarks mean that such a proposal might be more acceptable to the governing body if it were itself involved – in which case, it would of course no longer be what McQuaid has referred to as a “breakaway league,” but rather one that had its blessing.
The idea behind it lies in a longstanding dispute between leading professional teams, represented by the AIGCP which is chaired by Slipstream Sports CEO and Garmin-Sharp manager Jonathan Vaughters, and the UCI, with teams wanting a greater say in how the sport is run.
They also want a share of television revenue, which in the case of most major events goes to private companies organising them such as ASO for the Tour de France and other races such as Paris-Roubaix, or RCS Media for events such as the Giro d’Italia and Milan-Sanremo.
The UCI itself has begun promoting its own events including the Tour of Beijing, and derives a major part of its revenue from the annual road world championships, including through the sale of TV rights.
Bloomberg’s sources, who remain anonymous, say that Gifted Group has already lined up a broadcaster for World Series Cycling, and that it has raised investment of €20 million and lined up ten of the 18 UCI ProTeams to participate.
In a presentation to investors made by NM Rotschild and Sons last year, projected first year earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization was €39 million, and profits would be split 64 per cent in favour of the teams, 26 per cent to investors and 10 per cent to Gifted Group.
Daniel Malbranque, former general secretary of the professional riders’ union and now working as a consultant to the UCI, told Bloomberg: “The UCI doesn’t want to get involved in something unless they are absolutely sure it will be a success,” but said he had no details of discussions that may have taken place with Gifted Group.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.