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Satellite broadcaster poised to make major move into cycling? 12 teams said to be signed up so far

British Sky Broadcasting (BskyB) is reportedly planning to make a major move into cycling in partnership with the proposed World Series Cycling ‘breakaway’ league. The satellite broadcaster, which sponsors Team Sky, will apparently outline its plans at a meeting in Paris today to be attended by a number of leading teams.

The latest development in the prospect of a breakaway league, first mooted when investment bank Rothschild presented the idea to potential investors in early 2011 on behalf of Gifted Group, was broken on Thursday by the business news website Bloomberg, which has proved itself in the past to be a reliable source of information on the issue.

Last November, Zdenek Bakala, the Czech billionaire who owns Omega Pharma-Quick Step, outlined plans for a series of ten four-day races to sit alongside other major races in the calendar, including the three Grand Tours and one-day Monuments, in what he termed a “Champions League of cycling.”

Days later, UCI president Pat McQuaid admitted that the sport’s global governing body was also involved in the project, with plans to introduce the new calendar from 2014.

In early February, however, he changed tack, saying that the plans for ten new races would not now be moving forward, and that the parties behind the breakaway league would be working alongside the UCI to develop the sport.

In December, Bakala aligned himself with Gifted Group, which is run by Jonathan Price and Thomas Kurth who developed sports rights and sponsorship expertise while working respectively with Manchester United and Real Madrid.

According to Bloomberg, the backers of World Series Cycling believe the UCI’s position has been weakened due to the continued fallout from the Lance Armstrong affair, while theirs has been strengthened as interest has expanded from an initial eight teams to twelve, with another three said to be wanting to be involved.

As they stand, the proposals would see teams get 50 per cent of the revenue generated by World Series Cycling races, which would be reduced from the previously proposed ten and aligned more closely with the WorldTour in order to make the package more acceptable to the UCI.

Currently, all revenue goes to race organisers, of which Tour de France owner ASO and Giro d’Italia organiser RCS Sport are the most prominent, both organising several one-day races or week-long stage races besides their flagship events.

BskyB, according to Bloomberg, would be looking to broadcast races to viewers in the UK, and it also has a subsidiary in Italy. News Corp, which owns a 39.1 per cent stake in BskyB – its attempt to make it a wholly owned subsidiary was abandoned due to the phone hacking scandal – would take the broadcast rights elsewhere in the world.

Bloomberg says that BSkyB, whose involvement in broadcasting cycling to date has been confined to documentaries following Team Sky and occasional races such as the Tour Down Under, has already met with 12 teams in Geneva last month, and is keen to expand its portfolio of sports rights as well as capitalising on its investment in Team Sky.

It adds that cycling represents an attractive proposition to the broadcaster because of the relatively low costs involved in acquiring rights compared to football or Formula 1, for example.

Bloomberg says that prior to publication it approached representatives of parties potentially involved including Gifted Group, ASO and BskyB, but had been unable to secure a comment from any of them.

However, it did say that British Cycling president Brian Cookson, a member of the UCI’s management committee, had confirmed on Monday that McQuaid was speaking to Gifted Group.

“They’re talking,” he admitted. “The answer is not to have a breakaway league but to do something that improves the existing system and takes the sport in a new direction.”

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.

45 comments

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bohrhead [67 posts] 2 years ago
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I don't know if this is a good or a bad thing. I just don't want to have to pay to watch cycling.

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ubercurmudgeon [169 posts] 2 years ago
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bohrhead wrote:

I don't know if this is a good or a bad thing. I just don't want to have to pay to watch cycling.

...I wouldn't mind paying, if it was a fair amount, for just what I wanted without bundling in a load of other stuff, but not under any circumstances if any part of it goes into the pockets of that slim-ball Rupert Murdoch.

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pjay [246 posts] 2 years ago
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Hopefully this will fall flat on its face.

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mrmo [2013 posts] 2 years ago
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FFS, i don't want to give money to Murdoch, and you can guarantee that the events will be scattered across mutliple channels so you can't even just subscribe to one channel.

I guess i better hope i can get streams over the internet.

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TheHound [113 posts] 2 years ago
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Rather than just moaning about who you want to pay money to, consider how it can help the sport.

It's going to bypass the UCI from what I understand, which can be nothing but a good thing and what you've all be begging for the past few months.

Also you can't subscribe to just 1 channel on Sky anyway. Sky is also by far the best sports channel around.

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mrmo [2013 posts] 2 years ago
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Quote:

Sky is also by far the best sports channel around.

Best is very subjective.

There is nothing on Sky sports that i want to watch, there is on Eurosport, so to me Eurosport is the best.

As for not involving the UCI, i suggest you read the last 2 paragraphs a bit more closely.

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colinth [191 posts] 2 years ago
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More money into cycling, more cyling on TV, more people watching cyling, more people riding bikes.

Great news, well done Sky for continuing to support our sport. Maybe one day we'll end up with a dedicated channel on Sky like they have for Forumla 1

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antonio [1103 posts] 2 years ago
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If this move gets rid of McQuaid I would be happy, I would willingly have paid the deposit for a hit man. Seriously though, he (McQuaid) is the Berlusconi of cycling, he's a canny man, the fact that he's talking means he doesn't want to miss the boat.

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WolfieSmith [1244 posts] 2 years ago
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I bet that Russian gangster Abramovich is looking at Katusha as I type. If it gets more people on bikes I suppose it can only help.

As far as coverage goes if Sky can actually schedule cycling - instead of Tennis from Taiwan and World Tiddly Winks from Bangkok as Eurosport are apt to do then it's a price worth paying.

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farrell [1950 posts] 2 years ago
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Yeah, because grass roots football is so brilliantly looked after by Sky.

And grass roots rugby.

But lots of rich people at the top of the sport are much richer.

This move has been coming for a while, if you've ever been on a sky ride or worn a sky team jersey you should hang your head in shame.

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sidesaddle [77 posts] 2 years ago
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So from one hated organisation which does nothing but hinder the sport to another evil empire which does at least help it. At least Sky isn't incompetant, so I'd give it a chance.

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koko56 [330 posts] 2 years ago
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Do not like simply because of how they fuc"ked up to f1 coverage.

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farrell [1950 posts] 2 years ago
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sidesaddle wrote:

So from one hated organisation which does nothing but hinder the sport to another evil empire which does at least help it. At least Sky isn't incompetant, so I'd give it a chance.

The UCI, to my knowledge, have never hacked in to the voice mail of a murdered school girl, giving her parents false hope that she may be found alive, but hey, wrongly defending the biggest name in your sport is much more unsavoury...

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colinth [191 posts] 2 years ago
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farrell wrote:

Yeah, because grass roots football is so brilliantly looked after by Sky.

And grass roots rugby.

But lots of rich people at the top of the sport are much richer.

This move has been coming for a while, if you've ever been on a sky ride or worn a sky team jersey you should hang your head in shame.

And how would pulling the Sky money out of top level football help grass routes football exactly ? Without Sky we wouldn't have a British tour winner and it's very doubtful we'd have so much attention on cycling in general. Try looking at the bigger picture for cycling in general rather

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farrell [1950 posts] 2 years ago
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So, I'm pointing out that Sky's investment in sport comes at the detriment to everything outside of the very top level and I am the one that should look at the bigger picture?

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Simon E [2539 posts] 2 years ago
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+1 to farrell's comments re. grassroots sport.

Sky is only using sport as a billboard to advertise its wares. The Murdochs don't give a toss about the sport beyond getting to ride in the Sky team car.

The skyride mass participation events are just another means of getting their logo displayed prominently on a million t-shirts, coupled with the kudos of supposedly "promoting cycling".

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sidesaddle [77 posts] 2 years ago
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farrell wrote:
sidesaddle wrote:

So from one hated organisation which does nothing but hinder the sport to another evil empire which does at least help it. At least Sky isn't incompetant, so I'd give it a chance.

The UCI, to my knowledge, have never hacked in to the voice mail of a murdered school girl, giving her parents false hope that she may be found alive, but hey, wrongly defending the biggest name in your sport is much more unsavoury...

All that yes, but at least they were competant. Lovable, no.

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Dog72 [106 posts] 2 years ago
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Fresh from the Battered Corpse that was the Rapha Spring Product launch the Angry mob then moved on an attempt to broaden the commercial appeal of cycling, and maybe a wider audience.
Later the mob where sighted in a Garden Centre Cafe stewing in a bitter huddle while boasting about who had the cheapest kit & oldest groupset. A recently converted Mamil mistakenly approached the group in search of common ground and received a torrent of Tuting and blank expressions, he is currently recovering from serious injuries to his pride, but remains hopeful of general acceptance once his gear looks a bit fucked and rubbish.

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Simon E [2539 posts] 2 years ago
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colinth wrote:

Without Sky we wouldn't have a British tour winner and it's very doubtful we'd have so much attention on cycling in general. Try looking at the bigger picture for cycling in general rather

Yes, Team Sky's exploits should enthuse kids but the point is that the company's involvement does nothing to support grassroots sport. This interesting article might help explain the situation of where UK road cycling participation is going.

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colinth [191 posts] 2 years ago
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farrell wrote:

So, I'm pointing out that Sky's investment in sport comes at the detriment to everything outside of the very top level and I am the one that should look at the bigger picture?

You could try answering the question if that's too difficult. How, exactly, would pulling money out of top level football or cycling help grass routes sport. Please explain it to me. I would have thought a less successful professional cycling team would have meant less people wanting to cycle, less people wanting to join their local club, less people spending money in bike shops. Intersted, genuinely, to hear why the opposite is true

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mrmo [2013 posts] 2 years ago
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I think a read of the history of the premier calendar would assist on understanding where road racing stands in the UK.

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colinth [191 posts] 2 years ago
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Simon E wrote:

+1 to farrell's comments re. grassroots sport.

Sky is only using sport as a billboard to advertise its wares. The Murdochs don't give a toss about the sport beyond getting to ride in the Sky team car.

The skyride mass participation events are just another means of getting their logo displayed prominently on a million t-shirts, coupled with the kudos of supposedly "promoting cycling".

Simon, do you think other companies who sponsor sport do it because they're nice people ? They give our sport a fortune, it gets more people interested in the sport. Our profile has never ever been higher. Putting any personal dislike of Murdoch aside, wheres the downside ?

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Geoffroid [17 posts] 2 years ago
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I, for one, am vehemently opposed to Murdoch. In particular, how he has undermined our democracy. You can see the power of his media when Bradley Wiggins gets so much support from Sun readers.

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stumps [3184 posts] 2 years ago
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Sky putting money in at the top end will surely help grass roots sport, wont it ?

The way i look at it is, Sky have made cycling more popular now then probably ever before by pumping money into a pro team and ultimately giving us a TdF champ.

That has inspired a multitude of young and old to start cycling and joining local clubs (can anyone produce figures on club membership to confirm or deny this please) and also buying gear from local and national dealers, hence putting moeny into an economy being woefully run by our current govt.

As for football, my son - 9yrs, has started playing football at junior level and the club are opening a new academy with some of the money coming from a donation from Sky Sports.

The journalist side of things needs to be overhauled massively but you cant clump everything together, both good and bad, and say its all S**t.

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Simon E [2539 posts] 2 years ago
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colinth wrote:

Simon, do you think other companies who sponsor sport do it because they're nice people ?

.
I don't know about nice but many existing sponsors are doing it for personal reasons(company MD is involved/a friend etc). Look how many events are sponsored by bike shops and companies rather than by businesses from outside cycling. The sport has been an unattractive backwater until recently.

Endura Racing team was/is sponsored by a cycle clothing firm. Why didn't Sky invest in them, or Rapha-Condor? Because they wanted a bigger stage for the brand, they have the money to be one of the top-spending teams in the world.

Your phrase "They give our sport a fortune"
translates as:
They give one top level team a fortune (and throw some money at a few trackies) for the exposure it gives their brand. That's why team vehicles, jerseys, caps and every Skyride participant's garb is plastered with that 3-letter logo. You seem to be ignoring the word grassroots in your response. Did you read the article I linked to? Where is Sky's influence when the Premier Calendar is perilously close to collapse and a road race is cancelled?

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colinth [191 posts] 2 years ago
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Of course they want a bigger stage for the brand, the marketing team aren't likely to say let's sponsor a team nobody has ever heard of and won't get any significant attention. They have to justify their spend.

Existing sponsors are mostly doing it for exactly the same reason as Sky. Wheelbase sponsor (or used to) some CX races, at which they have a stand with items for sale and brochures etc. They sponsor to increase sales and raise their profile, exactly the same reason as Sky do. If they didn't have the same motives then they'd just write a cheque to the event organisers and ask for anonimity.

I'm not ignoring grassroots, getting more people on bikes IS helping grassroots. Maybe, hopefully, they can be persuaded of the marketing benefits of starting to sponsor a few UK races. We should be doing everything we can to encourage them into the sport more and more and hope the cash spreads around.

Sky have been good for cycling in the UK, I'd say that is an indisputable fact. Would I like to spend more on grassroots ? Of course, but we're in the best position we've ever been and Sky not being here wouldn't make the local racing scene any stronger, surely it's just be worse.

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Sam1 [220 posts] 2 years ago
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For every poster who bangs on about the evils of Murdoch, there's another poster who demands that he funds the domestic racing scene. How funny.  39

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farrell [1950 posts] 2 years ago
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Sam1 wrote:

For every poster who bangs on about the evils of Murdoch, there's another poster who demands that he funds the domestic racing scene. How funny.  39

That isn't what's happening at all, it's more a case of 'Don't piss on the back of my leg and tell me it's raining'.

Sky have kept quiet about broadcasting until the idea of breakaway came up, much like has happened with football when they brought in the Premier League to ride roughshod over the FA, like they have done in Rugby with the Super League leaving traditional clubs to be crippled financially.

With a breakaway, they can fund it so they can take ownership of the "product" with no care at all for those that actually make the sport - the fans.

Do you think Sky will be fronting up loads of money for say womens cycling? Will they fuck, what they want is the Giro and the Tour and they want them on their terms and to hell with anybody else.

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notfastenough [3661 posts] 2 years ago
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This debate seems to hang on a presumption that because Sky sponsor a team (and the national squad, and a recreational scheme encouraging group family rides on closed roads), they should automatically fund the rest of the sport, grassroots and all. If you look at other sports I think you'll find an array of different sponsors at different levels, to suit the sponsor's budget. Sky are the big-budget fellas. Wiggle-Honda are a bit lower down the spending league, and so on.

I'm no fan of the Murdochs, but it sounds like some of you people would prefer that cycling was still a minority sport without all these 'fancy johnny-come-latelys' or whatever. If so, that's fine, but be honest about it. Sky have put an enormous amount into cycling and ultimately that has paid off with huge competitive success.

Really LOLed at Dog72 - "remains hopeful of general acceptance once his gear looks a bit fucked and rubbish" - makes me think of my teenage nephew apprenticing on a building site - the boss jumped on the toecaps of his new work boots just so he wouldn't get the piss taken by the other lads on site.

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farrell [1950 posts] 2 years ago
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No, its not about saying that because they sponsor a team they should suddenly fund grass roots cycling, don't be so deliberately obtuse. It's seeing Sky rubbing their hands with glee at the thought of the breakaway and their careful manipulation of the sport so they can get their claws into the sport and take full control of it for their own gains and not caring about anything else other than their own greed.

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