The president of British Cycling has warned members that it could lose millions of pounds in funding if they do not vote at its extraordinary general meeting this weekend in favour of reforms that are needed to comply with UK Sport’s Code of Sports Governance, saying it could result in a “lost generation.”
Last week, Table Tennis England became the first sporting governing body to see its membership reject plans for reform, meaning it is likely to miss out on £9 million from Sport England for the Tokyo Olympic cycle, running from 2017-21.
The stakes are much higher for British Cycling, based at the National Cycling Centre in Manchester that has acquired the nickname of ‘The Medal Factory’ following Great Britain’s dominance of the sport at the past three Olympic and Paralympic games.
The code “sets out the levels of transparency, accountability and financial integrity that will be required from those who ask for Government and National Lottery funding from April 2017," and stipulates that publicly-funded governing bodies be "the ultimate decision-making body and exercise all of the powers of the organisation."
Planned reforms announced by British Cycling last month to enable it to comply with the code and thus ensure that funding continues include:
The board being established as the ultimate decision-making body for British Cycling
The appointment of an independent chair by an open recruitment process
National Council continuing to elect a president and a reduced number of Directors. It will preside over the Memorandum and Articles of Association and will act as a key consultative body for the board
A re-structure of the board with an additional independent-appointed director and also directors nominated by Scottish Cycling and Welsh Cycling
Board and national councillors being subject to limited terms.
Adopting a target of a minimum of 30 per cent of each gender on the board as well as achieving gender parity and greater diversity generally on the board.
British Cycling has been awarded £26 million for the Tokyo cycle as well as £17 million in grass roots funding, but as with national governing bodies across all funded sports, it needs to comply with the code.
At Saturday’s EGM, 113 national councillors representing the English regions, Scottish Cycling, Welsh Cycling and organisations including BUCS will vote whether to adopt the reforms that will enable it to do that.
With a threshold of 75 per cent needed for the reforms to be adopted, should fewer than 85 of those delegates vote in favour, they won’t be passed – and the £43 million in public funding will not be forthcoming, which would be disastrous for all levels of the sport.
Today, it emerged that backing of the reforms is less than universal, and may not achieve the quorum required to ensure that they are adopted.
In a statement, British Cycling president Bob Howden said: “I am concerned by the rejection of the proposals by three of the 10 English regional mandate meetings.
“British Cycling is going through a period of necessary change partly to ensure we are compliant with the Code of Sports Governance but, more importantly, to help us meet our ambition to be a world class governing body.
“It is therefore disappointing that a few people are seeking to slow, stop or even reverse that change.
“Ahead of the EGM, we presented to our regions about the importance of this vote and the need to modernise our structure,” he continued.
“British Cycling has grown significantly in recent years and it’s essential that we recognise that growth and ensure that we are in the best possible position to service all of our membership and sport as a whole.
“Our 136,000 membership should be in no doubt that what is at risk is not only the funding for the Great Britain Cycling Team but our ability to support the grassroots of every part of our sport in every part of the country.
“Without this funding the sport of cycling could be lost to an entire generation.
“This is no bluff,” Howden warned. “Table Tennis England chose to reject the reforms and had their Sport England funding suspended. We can’t allow this to happen.
“The changes proposed merit serious debate at Saturday’s Extraordinary General Meeting.
“However, that debate will lead to a serious decision for our National Councillors.
“On Saturday we need to decide how we want our sport to look in the future.
“We can choose to be a sport which has a leading role in the public life of this country, where our voice is heard at the highest level, where participation among women is surging and where our riders are the standard by which sporting success is judged.
“Or we can choose to turn the clock back 30 or more years to when we were on the margins, when our membership was much less diverse and when our best talent struggled to compete.
“As someone who cares passionately about the sport that has given me so much and to which I have been happy to give a great deal, it is clear to me that the correct way forward is to vote the proposals through.
“I am confident the right decision will be made in the best interests of those represented in the room and of the wider membership,” he concluded.
Earlier this week Peter King, who was chief executive of British Cycling between 1997 and 2008 and represents the south east of England on the national council, said he was “doubtful” the reforms would be voted through.
"People realise money will be stopped, but they're prepared to do that,” he explained. “There's a sense the changes are too severe, have been rushed through, and that members are losing control, with too much authority residing with the board, not the national council."
He added: "People have lost confidence in the board and its ability to put us back on the straight and narrow.
"I worry about the future whichever way the vote goes.”
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.