BSkyB reportedly joining forces with World Series Cycling breakaway league as TV partner; meeting today in Paris

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

by Simon_MacMichael   March 1, 2013  

Giro 2012 S6 Scenic 2 (pic Daniele Badolato - LaPresse - RCS Sport)

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.”

45 user comments

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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".

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1884 posts]
1st March 2013 - 11:59

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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.

posted by sidesaddle [64 posts]
1st March 2013 - 12:26

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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.

posted by Dog72 [108 posts]
1st March 2013 - 12:33

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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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posted by Simon E [1884 posts]
1st March 2013 - 12:43

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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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posted by colinth [183 posts]
1st March 2013 - 12:56

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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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posted by mrmo [1006 posts]
1st March 2013 - 12:57

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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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posted by colinth [183 posts]
1st March 2013 - 12:58

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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.

posted by Geoffroid [17 posts]
1st March 2013 - 13:41

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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.

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

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posted by stumps [2642 posts]
1st March 2013 - 13:52

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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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posted by Simon E [1884 posts]
1st March 2013 - 14:36

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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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posted by colinth [183 posts]
1st March 2013 - 15:12

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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. Thinking

posted by Sam1 [212 posts]
1st March 2013 - 15:40

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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. Thinking

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.

posted by farrell [1247 posts]
1st March 2013 - 16:48

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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.

If I could have, say, 6 bikes, would it stop me drooling over others that I don't have?

posted by notfastenough [2881 posts]
1st March 2013 - 17:02

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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.

posted by farrell [1247 posts]
1st March 2013 - 17:12

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farrell wrote:
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.

So who would you like to see sponsoring the sport ? Mother Theresa with money she found at the end of a rainbow ? I'm yet to hear any explanation of how their sponsorship of top level sport has been to the detriment of grassroots in either football, rugby or cycling

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posted by colinth [183 posts]
1st March 2013 - 17:16

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Dog72 wrote:
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.

very funny!

people need to lighten up a bit - if it weren't for the commercial (sponsor) aspect, there would be no professional cycling, on the road or on your TV.

I only watch Eurosport because they show most of the cycling, even though it's poorly and unimaginatively covered. Any broadcaster who can do better, feel free to move in. BBC seems to be the main broadcaster with the least coverage if you remove track cycling from the equation.

posted by Metjas [268 posts]
1st March 2013 - 17:26

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farrell wrote:
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.

You have quite a flea in your tail about Sky, dont you. Thats your right and no one would want to change that but Sky is a business and like every other business, run for shareholders / owners to make money. To make money you have to invest heavily in the first place and Sky have done this making millions as they go but also making the sports very high profile which will ultimately give success to the lower levels provided that the people who run the lower levels use this wisely.

In my personal opinion i dont have one jot of complaint against Sky in their pursuit of sports.

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

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posted by stumps [2642 posts]
1st March 2013 - 17:38

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Yes, yes! its all part of a grand masterplan by Sky to take over the sport. I believe HRH might have been slipped some used notes in a plain brown jiffy bag to knight Brailsford yday and Wiggo when he gets the call to Buck Pal

posted by Sam1 [212 posts]
1st March 2013 - 17:39

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Let me run this one by you:

I dont care who sponsors the sport. Sponsors are a necessary evil.

Sponsors though, don't have the power to change when events happen, Sponsors don't create their own breakaway leagues so they can get a stranglehold on any money coming in to the sport.

As for how have been Sky creating the Premier League and Super League has been detrimental to teams outside of the elite, you just need to look at the number of teams that are struggling financially in both sports. With rugby they decided to change the season it was played, it's always been a winter sport but they couldn't market that and they wanted to attract football fans in the summer. What are grass roots teams supposed to do then? Change their season to summer and risk injuries on hard pitches? Because teams outside of the Super League cant afford to hose down their pitches for games can they? Or do they stay as a downtrodden, poor cousin of the elite and play in the winter? Surely to goodness you can see that distinction?

Even cricket for christ sakes, all they want to serve up now is the bastardised 20/20 version, with disco lights and sound systems whilst they portray the full game as something purely for bearded old members.

I feel I'm pissing in the wind with this one, as it appears that people are more than happy to relinquish their sports to Sky in order to have them repackaged and sold back to them in the way Sky wants them to enjoy it.

posted by farrell [1247 posts]
1st March 2013 - 17:44

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Teams are struggling now due to the greed of players and agents in wage demands. To cover this the owner yarks up the ticket prices but due to the shite state of the economy people cant afford to go to watch matches whether its football, cricket or rugby.

The money that goes into football for instance is shared between the divisions - this is not Sky its the FA who redistribute the wealth and make the decisions and Sky pay for the tv package.

As for cricket its the Indian premier league with their money. Everyone knows that the big hitters in relation to money in the sport is the Indian cricket board.

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

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posted by stumps [2642 posts]
1st March 2013 - 17:58

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Farrell, you have a problem with the idea of a breakaway league - its Bakala you should be shouting about. He's your starting point. Then go and shout at the 12 teams apparently signed up, and the additional 3 currently in discussion.

And whilst you're at it, have a look at the number of European races that have shrunk - at best - or disappeared altogether at worst - from the calendar. Some are just clinging on by the skin of their teeth, in Spain, Italy, Portugal and France. I have no love for the way that idiot Price from the Gifted Group described the original thinking re the 10-stage race series, but it seems that the movers have realised that the approach needs to include all the races with heritage and a place of context as well as new ones.

Then think about the teams that have gone by the wayside - HTC Highroad, Geox, Cevelo etc - and the ones looking for new sponsors for next year - Blanco, OGE, possibly Vacansoleil.

The sport needs money coming into it, it needs to be better self-funded. Otherwise it will continue to lose teams, and it will continue to lose races.

posted by Sam1 [212 posts]
1st March 2013 - 18:08

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farrell wrote:
Let me run this one by you:

As for how have been Sky creating the Premier League and Super League has been detrimental to teams outside of the elite, you just need to look at the number of teams that are struggling financially in both sports. With rugby they decided to change the season it was played, it's always been a winter sport but they couldn't market that and they wanted to attract football fans in the summer. What are grass roots teams supposed to do then? Change their season to summer and risk injuries on hard pitches? Because teams outside of the Super League cant afford to hose down their pitches for games can they? Or do they stay as a downtrodden, poor cousin of the elite and play in the winter? Surely to goodness you can see that distinction?

Even cricket for christ sakes, all they want to serve up now is the bastardised 20/20 version, with disco lights and sound systems whilst they portray the full game as something purely for bearded old members.

I feel I'm pissing in the wind with this one, as it appears that people are more than happy to relinquish their sports to Sky in order to have them repackaged and sold back to them in the way Sky wants them to enjoy it.

Utter tosh. Cricket has introduced 20/20 etc because nobody was going to watch cricket, have you ever been to a County match ? One man and his dog is a good turn out. Cricket was crying out for something to get people through the door and the Sky money allowed them to do it.

As for Rugby League, is that it ? Is that all you have to offer ? That they play at a different time of the year ? If anything that'd help the sport allowing more people to watch top level and grassroots rugby as they're on at different times.

Teams are struggling financially at ALL levels for no other reason than they pay too much money in wages and agents fees. It's that simple, Sky have put a fortune into sport, if clubs pi$$ it up against the wall that's their problem.

You're grasping as straws because you dislike Sky

Argon18 E-112 - Scott Spark 910 - Boardman Team Carbon - Planet X XLS

posted by colinth [183 posts]
1st March 2013 - 18:24

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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 at least google it: "BSkyB Bigger Picture". Turns out then when you actually look at what Sky bring to cycling, their money seems to be helping fund Go Ride as well as Sky Ride Local and the big Sky Ride's not to mention the development pathway for the elite: http://corporate.sky.com/the_bigger_picture/inspiringaction/sport/cycling

That's Go Ride, one of the key components in British Cycling's efforts to get more people into the sport.

And they fund Coaches for Cricket, Living For Sport for young athletes (a few of them might even go on to be Olympians like Perri Shakes Drayton who Sky sponsored), Previously they've done projects to get around 450K young people access to golf and various other projects linked into events they have the rights for.

http://www.chasingwheels.com - Chasing Wheels, the journal of Britain's least competitive cyclist

posted by leguape [37 posts]
1st March 2013 - 18:45

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farrell wrote:

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.

What a load of bollocks. I have got/done either, but so what?

If I could have, say, 6 bikes, would it stop me drooling over others that I don't have?

posted by notfastenough [2881 posts]
1st March 2013 - 19:38

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Dog72 wrote:
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.

Thanks Dog72, that made me chuckle aloud. Sums up some folk perfectly Laughing

We've not actually heard any official proposal, and yet some have already condemned it. I could understand that if we all believed the current model worked perfectly, but it plainly does not. Teams relying exclusively upon sponsorship dollars means constant threat of extinction for all but the largest , at least this idea means that teams are sharing in the wealth they generate, which as a major stakeholder in the sport makes sense to me. Surely this is preferable to the current shambles that has members of the UCI setting up their own company to generate cash for themselves in the far east (so far making nothing but losses using UCI funds)?!

My concern would be that a series of soulless manufactured races will be a short lived flop. I would rather see some of the struggling older races around Europe revived with new formats, with a couple of new events around the globe. Still, I'll wait to see what is actually proposed before dismissing it.

posted by sorebones [103 posts]
2nd March 2013 - 0:33

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This is the future of cycling. Money, sponsors and viewers. It's everything the sport needs to hit the big time. Cycling will rival Formula 1 within 5 years - with the added bonus the we can all go out and ride the same bikes and roads as Wiggo - something we could never dream of doing with Hamilton et al.

posted by LeDomestique [34 posts]
2nd March 2013 - 1:23

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+1 everything that Stumps & Colinth said.

If Sky weren't around we'd have likely nothing to replace Sky Ride which gets thousands of people out on their bikes, and the chances of aspirational riders being properly funded would have been relying on money from somewhere else, but who?

Sky want to associate themselves with success, health & so on. By doing what they're doing, they are helping create a cycling culture where sky ride reaches every man & woman who can ride, and Wiggins et al have had the resources to become world beaters and in doing so enthuse all levels of cycling activity. Ever heard of the Wiggo-effect?

posted by bikerdavecycling [71 posts]
2nd March 2013 - 9:05

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+1 to Farrell

Sky have been awful for cricket, hiding it from most of the public most of the time. County festivals touring smaller grounds have been killed because they're not good for TV, which is set up at the main grounds.

Then there's the problems of having to buy a load of unrelated rubbish channels even if you only want one sport, their confusing pricing and the environmental disaster of having to have another sky-branded receiver instead of just put a module into a standard one like happens in other countries.

I won't wear sky kit, I don't go on sky rides and the day the phone hacking scum get a monopoly on coverage is the day I stop watching cycling on TV.

posted by a.jumper [679 posts]
2nd March 2013 - 12:44

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mrmo wrote:
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.

I think ultimately the move is being used to lessen the UCI's control, and maybe done without the UCI. The UCI and affiliates are going to do their best to prevent a breakaway so the last 2 paragraphs are just tough talk for now.

I think that this maybe a good thing for cycling if it improves fair competition, breaks the stranglehold of the doping past and enforces better anti-doping procedures. And I see that as part of the move of the breakaway. This may in turn force the UCI to try to adopt a better approach.

One should always be wary of the effects of commercialism on sport though. More money is not always the best thing. So often the failings of sports comes down to the interests of money, when really it should be about people.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1059 posts]
2nd March 2013 - 13:13

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