Environmentalists call for ban on fossil fuels sponsorship - but pledge not to disrupt race

Environmental campaigners have outlined their plans for protests at the Tour de Yorkshire, which starts tomorrow, against the participation of Team Ineos – but insist they do not plan to disrupt the race itself.

Friends of the Earth and local protesters co-ordinated by the group Frack Free United are calling for firms involved with fossil fuels to be banned from sports sponsorship.

Petrochemicals giant Ineos, which officially took over Team Sky’s management company and sponsorship with effect from today is an obvious target.

However, there is an added angle to the planned protests at the Tour de Yorkshire given the route of this year’s fifth edition of the race.

Tomorrow’s opening stage from Doncaster to Selby includes a 3 kilometre stretch through land where Ineos holds a licence for drilling, as it does on a 5 kilometre section of the route of Saturday’s Stage 3 from Bridlington to Scarborough.

Simon Bowens, a campaigner with Friends of the Earth, said: “Cycling is a human-powered sport with fans who care passionately about the environment. Ineos does not fit into that agenda.

“Ineos is shameless in its hijacking of cycling to greenwash the terrible impact it has on our planet. The company speaks of the virtues of pedal power while at the same time producing millions of tonnes of plastic each year and trying to drill and frack large swathes of the British countryside including right here in Yorkshire.

“Ineos' plans for fracking are completely incompatible with fighting climate change,” he continued. “If we want to prevent further climate chaos they must not be allowed to dig up more fossil fuels.”

Besides Team Ineos, the petrochemicals group Total last month became lead sponsor of UCI Professional Continental outfit Direct Energie after acquiring the latter business in 2018. 

“Fossil fuels have no place in sports sponsorship," Bowens said. "Oil and gas companies are using advertising and sponsorship to distract from the awful damage their products cause in the exact same way that tobacco companies used to.

“Tobacco was banned from sports sponsorship due to the damaging health effects – this should also apply to fossil fuels which wreak havoc on the health of the planet,” he added.

We have approached Welcome To Yorkshire, who co-organise the race with ASO and in partnership with British Cycling, for a comment.

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.