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British Cycling president warns of "lost generation" if members don't vote reforms through on Saturday

Planned changes need 75 per cent support at Saturday's EGM or £43 million of public funding could be lost...

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.”

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Jimmy Ray Will | 6 years ago

This one will be pretty interesting to watch.

From my view from the fringes, I'd say there will be a huge amount of resistance to giving full control to the board. The board has been trying to pull more influence since I have been involved and has been blocked all the way.

Personally I sit bang in the middle. 

I have seen some, IMO, crazy shit passed by national council over the years, as those with loud voices and the network can push through stuff that makes no sense. 

From a pure racing perspective, examples include;

A couple of prominent individuals with a chip on their shoulder about pseudo Elites, managed to rejig the whole points structure. This restructure essentially poo poo'd weeknight circuit racing, and in only a few years has pretty much put a stop to riders striving to upgrade their licence, in turn ending many peoples reason to race. These individuals now feel good that Elites are really the  Elite (and skip over the fact that conti pro's are now riding around on 2nd cat licences and racing regional races), whilst overall racing flounders.

A single person, a commissaire, who had a bad experience marshalling a circuit race has managed to stop laps out in any circuit race. So now, if you crash, if you puncture, your race is done. 

Laps out in circuit races were included a long time ago for a very good reason... due to the intensity and duration of circuit races, any mechanical means the end of a race, which was deemed unfair. The knock on effect of this changes, is that people are less inclined to travel to a circuit race, and more worryingly, I know riders that have continued racing knowing they had a loose skewer, as to stop and tighten it meant the end of thei race. 

So in summary, if the board had overall control I am confident examples like the above would no longer happen. However, I am equally aware that with total control, issues like the above would never get any time at all, so nothing would change for the good or the bad. 

Whilst its easy to look at the money and the olympic dream, for the majority of volutneers delivering grass roots sport in this country, this means nothing to them. 

its going to be interesting to see which way it goes.  

Al__S | 6 years ago
1 like

I disagree with John. I'd go more centralised, a structure more like the RYA (sailing), where there is a single body covering leisure through elite sport. They're an effective campaigning organisation.

Merge BC, Ccycling UK, the time trials lot, LVRC and all the other minor governing bodies. But make governance desicions an issue for members. When I was an RYA member I got, annually, papers for the AGM. This included ballot papers (and candidate statements) for the board and for any resolutions that required a vote of the members. I don't think for these issues the clubs and regions actually got votes- they have steering groups that help shape policy, but the big things go to direct vote.


Oh, and HQ and the base for the elite sport squad are in two completely different places. That probably helps.

BarryBianchi replied to Al__S | 6 years ago
1 like
Al__S wrote:

I disagree with John. I'd go more centralised, a structure more like the RYA (sailing), where there is a single body covering leisure through elite sport. They're an effective campaigning organisation.

The RYA are an example, in my view, of exactly how it doesn't work.  One unbrealla trying to cover everything from canal barges to America's Cup and all points inbetween, training, coaching, racing, qualifications, leisure, safety, legal, legistation, accommodation, local, regional, national, international and on and on it goes.  So you have a ton of associated Classes and other organisations doing bits and peices, and the RYA has innumerate Officers and Committees and Sub Committees, Sub Sub committes, etc etc etc.  And at the end of the day people can choose to ignore it entirely.  When you stretch that thin to try to cover everthing, it doesn't really work, especially when funding is inadequate.

colin267 | 6 years ago

Have I missed something?  As a BC member I have received no communication whatsoever from BC about the EGM and/or the proposed changes.  Everything I know about the issues has come from the cycling press.  It appears that BC don't give a toss about ordinary members!  Perhaps it's time to move to Cycling UK.

a.jumper replied to colin267 | 6 years ago
1 like
colin267 wrote:

Have I missed something?  As a BC member I have received no communication whatsoever from BC about the EGM and/or the proposed changes.  Everything I know about the issues has come from the cycling press.  It appears that BC don't give a toss about ordinary members!  Perhaps it's time to move to Cycling UK.

You're a bit late. Cycling UK already reorganised into an all-powerful board that doesn't give a toss about ordinary members! Just look at how its annual meetings are now inconveniently-timed and everyone is encouraged to post in proxy forms rubber-stamping the board's view after hearing only one side of the argument, rendering the meeting impotent and irrelevant. You can't even stand for the board any more if the vetting committee doesn't like you and instead the leaders get their non-member friends elected.

UrkB replied to colin267 | 6 years ago
1 like
colin267 wrote:

Have I missed something?  As a BC member I have received no communication whatsoever from BC about the EGM and/or the proposed changes.  Everything I know about the issues has come from the cycling press.  It appears that BC don't give a toss about ordinary members!  Perhaps it's time to move to Cycling UK.

Same here. I get the news emails, I've logged in the the website just now to double check and my postal address is also correct - but I've not had not a shred of information about the EGM and how to vote.

davel | 6 years ago

Exactly what it needs, John: not just for funding and governance, but also for some proper focus on the two distinct missions.

Of course I'm skeptical that those on the board - including the newbies - possess such clarity of thought, understanding of 'cycling', and the desire to do what's right, and not just what's good for them, to see how much sense that move would make.

Meanwhile, my membership has lapsed and I've gone back to British Triathlon. Can't see me coming back under its current structure.

rct | 6 years ago
atlaz | 6 years ago

Honestly, bollocks. If you want money from the public purse, toe the line, otherwise go back to the days of British cycling being a backwater. Commercial sponsors will be far less understanding of scandals than the public, too.  I note with great interest that the naysayers are pretty vague about what they don't like, which speaks volumes. If the membership of BC want to consign themselves to the rubbish bin then off they trot. Other countries will applaud their independence as they pop the lid on and laugh all the way to the podium. 

Velovoyeur | 6 years ago

In a nutshell, UK Sport and Sport England are saying to sport governing bodies that if they wish to recieved tax-payers money they must abide by their rules, which is fair enough. However, for a membership lead organisation such as BC, these rules require that the membership give up their voting rights and that the board of directors has ultimate control which goes against one of the fundamental principles of the organisation. Therefore, the government paymaster is holding a gun to the membership's head and threatening them - give up your voting rights if you want to continue being funded or stay as you are and go without. Bearing in mind, under the current structure, BC has lots of staff in Manchester and does a wide range of pro-cycling activities which so far have worked well, the repercussions could be huge and far reaching. 

It is a game of brinkmanship with huge stakes and strings attached. BC membership want/need the money but don't want to change and see no reason why, UK Sport want/need medals from a currently successful governing body but insist on strict terms. 

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