What's the real cost of running a women's pro cycling team?

Matrix Fitness Racing Academy seek to dispel myths around pro sponsorship

by Sarah Barth   August 18, 2013  

hannah walker matrix vulpine

As Matrix Fitness Racing Academy begin their annual sponsorship round, they and one longstanding sponsor are taking the unprecedented step of opening up to the public the real cost of running a successful women's racing team.

Stef Wyman, team manager of Matrix Fitness Racing Academy, also known as On The Drops, says that women's racing is taking off faster than expected, but says that more transparency about what sponsors can expect to get for their money - often surprisingly modest sums - will help the process immensely.

On The Drops are sponsored by Vulpine, whose founder Nick Hussey says that he's attracted to the sport by a number of factors, including a love of racing, the glamour and the possibility of effecting change.

He told road.cc: "It is exceptional, almost embarrassingly good value."

He added: “Cycling as a whole is booming. Everyone wants to be involved. Women’s racing offers immense value on many levels for a potential sponsor.

"That coupled with a love of all bike racing, plus Stef’s drive and track record meant I jumped into being a minor sponsor before we were even a year old. Now I want to extend and increase our involvement.”

He added that there was an altruistic motivation too. "I want to be helping drive change. I'm very ambitious in this respect. I'm all about positivity.

"I believe we should present women's racing as cool, dynamic, exciting and even an alternative to the drugs and corruption of men's cycling. I think that will attract sponsors, rather than I think sometimes trhe media painting it as charity to sponsor."

So what does it cost to run a women's team? Here's Wyman and Hussey's breakdown; it may surprise you.

£250,000

This is the total budget to establish a high-level professional team.

You can take on up to 2 named partners, who’s companies actually become the name of the team.

This amount creates a 12 rider team that can field its best teams for specific events, whether it’s the London Nocturne, or the Tour of Britain.

The sponsors can expect signed jerseys, team cars splashed with their logo, kit in their colours, VIP packages, riding in the team car, photo shoot at your office with the team. 

Professional teams also have access to the worlds highest level races including the Giro Italia, Tour of Flanders and Fleche Wallonne.
It doesn’t quite get a huge Death Star style team bus though.

£100,000

On it’s own this is enough to create a world leading non-professional team.

This could provide a minimum salary to riders meaning they can concentrate on racing.

This creates an 8 rider team, not dissimilar to the current Matrix Fitness Racing Academy, but improved in terms of race preparation, media communication and corporate opportunities.

Races would include mid-level professional races at home and abroad including the Tour of Britain in 2014.

Lashings of value for sponsors, but not quite the all bells and whistles big time super-team of the £250,000 package.

£50,000

Co-title Sponsorship of non-professional team that’ll be part of the huge televised Tour of Britain and the consequent benefits.

VIP opportunities and all the trimmings of the £100,000, just with shared title with another partner.

£25,000

Non-professional registrations allow the team to split naming rights more than 2 ways. The team could gain an exclusive partnership of the team at the televised Johnson Health Tech GP series, including the production of exclusive videos with the team, specific casual wear, and VIP events on race days.

Corporate days with the team including rides with the team from your company HQ.

Full access to the team launch and use of the team at your trade shows or events.

£10,000

Provision of a rider Ambassador.

Corporate days with the team at leading events. Corporate logo on the team jersey and vehicles.

£5,000

Full Rider Ambassador package.

Logo placements and targeted team and rider return.

 

Hussey and Wyman have set their annual budget at £250,000; other figures have calculated that a top-flight team's annual spend would be around 450,000 Euros; a fraction of the annual salary of just one leading professional male cyclist.

In March this year, Rochelle Gilmore, owner and manager of Wiggle Honda, backed by the Bradlety Wiggins Foundation, told the Guardian she believed Sky may be planning to launch a women's team, something that British pros such as Lizzie Armitstead have called for.

15 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

I like this, this is good info. if i were in a position to sponsor anytrhing it would be a womens cycling team.

actually can be a more interesting racing than mens.

just needs more support

posted by russyparkin [579 posts]
18th August 2013 - 10:54

7 Likes

£250,00 hardly seems to cover the salaries of the riders. 250,000/12 is just about £20,000. That's not even looking at the costs of NI payments.

So maybe the riders receive less, but you're still dealing with transport costs. Who is buying the bikes? Or are these given to you free?

The numbers really don't stack up unless having a team guarantees you a lot of stuff for free and riders who are willing to ride on the cheap. I would think that any team needs a star rider otherwise you'll not be successful either.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1186 posts]
18th August 2013 - 11:21

6 Likes

Wow 250k seems such a small amount of money for a 12 rider team, what about all the support staff etc., are you missing a 1 from the front of it !

posted by mikeprytherch [219 posts]
18th August 2013 - 12:49

4 Likes

If you follow @ds_stef, http://prowomenscycling.com/ or read the Matrix-Prendas website http://www.onthedrops.cc/ and the increasing number of interviews by Stef Wyman and others about women's racing you will already know:

1. Women's racing is done on the cheap - I mean really cheap.

2. It's the fastest growing area in cycling right now. Everyone's talking about it and there is a real groundswell of interest, both in terms of participation and spectating/following by fans. Both these things should be very encouraging signs for potential sponsors to dip the corporate toe.

Interesting comments by Richard Moore and Lionel Birnie in the latest Humans Invent podcast, including that we shouldn't look to ASO to grow the sport and they shouldn't try to run a women's TdF but develop (regrow) its own calendar.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2029 posts]
18th August 2013 - 13:25

5 Likes

I'm led to believe that the higher up the "food-chain" you get, the more stuff you get for free from equipment/kit/car/nutrition suppliers. The money for the riders isn't great for the female riders, even at the top level, but it's got to start somewhere.

Having met and chatted to Stef a number of times this year, the guy really knows his stuff and is really passionate about moving women's cycling forward.

Would love to see them get hold of some decent sponsorship to let MFRA step up a level.

posted by VeloPeo [221 posts]
18th August 2013 - 13:36

6 Likes

Colin Peyresourde wrote:
£250,00 hardly seems to cover the salaries of the riders. 250,000/12 is just about £20,000. That's not even looking at the costs of NI payments.

I would imagine the riders are all technically self-employed (i.e ltd companies or such) so no NI payments by the team itself and this side of it all sorted by riders themselves so any expenses incurred during the season would be written off against tax.

Racer 074 for the 2014 Transcontinental Race; 2,000 miles from London to Istanbul.

http://themartincox.co.uk/2014/03/racer-074-transcontinental-race-2014/

posted by themartincox [375 posts]
18th August 2013 - 15:05

6 Likes

themartincox wrote:
Colin Peyresourde wrote:
£250,00 hardly seems to cover the salaries of the riders. 250,000/12 is just about £20,000. That's not even looking at the costs of NI payments.

I would imagine the riders are all technically self-employed (i.e ltd companies or such) so no NI payments by the team itself and this side of it all sorted by riders themselves so any expenses incurred during the season would be written off against tax.

This is exactly how pro teams work - inrng.com ran article on this a while back. Sky for example only have 3 employees- non of whom are riders.

posted by giobox [337 posts]
18th August 2013 - 18:44

4 Likes

If any of you want REAL, REAL value, start up a Junior team.

I'm pretty sure that Vo2 (Development Team) cost a lot less than any of the quoted values, and still manages to look pretty proffessional, team car and bikes and stuff.

Sir Velo

Raleigh's picture

posted by Raleigh [1733 posts]
18th August 2013 - 19:16

4 Likes

but Junior racing has little exposure- whilst women's racing is increasingly televised. Yes, generally as an adjunct to men's racing and on the relative backwaters that are ITV4 or Eurosport, but it is still covered.

posted by Al__S [620 posts]
18th August 2013 - 19:44

5 Likes

Think I've mentioned this before but had a conversation with the MD of a sponsor of a women's team earlier this year. The company also have several other sport sponsorships but he reckoned that the women's cycling team provided the best "£££ vs media exposure" of all of them

posted by VeloPeo [221 posts]
18th August 2013 - 19:51

4 Likes

Prior to reading this article I could name one women's cycling team. Now I can name two. I can think of a lot of ways of getting better results from a £250k marketing budget. Seems it would have to be a sponsor's vanity project.

posted by rivitman [9 posts]
18th August 2013 - 19:56

3 Likes

wow, the costs are much lower than I imagined. The women cyclists put in a lot of time training, I wonder what this equates to per hour.

posted by TeamCC [146 posts]
19th August 2013 - 0:09

3 Likes

Surely the riders wages must be made up through individual sponsorship.

posted by kobacom [85 posts]
19th August 2013 - 8:31

3 Likes

giobox wrote:

I would imagine the riders are all technically self-employed (i.e ltd companies or such) so no NI payments by the team itself and this side of it all sorted by riders themselves so any expenses incurred during the season would be written off against tax.

This is exactly how pro teams work

How the hell do they get that around HMRC? Such an arrangement must almost certainly fall foul of IR35 for starters? Or is there really lots of other income to be made outside of racing for team X to make it just one income stream amongst many?

didds

posted by didds [42 posts]
20th August 2013 - 17:30

1 Like

There has to be enormous potential here. Really, half the population (i.e. men) gets 95% of the money on offer presently. Marketers should leap at the chance to support women's teams, even if you look at this just as a commercial issue. Long may they thrive.

Gerard the Kiwi

GerardR's picture

posted by GerardR [86 posts]
20th August 2013 - 19:20

5 Likes