British Cycling has confirmed that HSBC UK is terminating its sponsorship of the governing body, spanning the national team and grassroots activities, four years early.
The announcement was made in response to a report by BBC Sport editor Dan Roan this morning, with the organisation confirming that the bank has invoked a break clause to give notice of its early termination of the contract, which had been due to run for eight years.
According to British Cycling, the decision was taken “due to a shift in UK marketing and partnership priorities” at the bank, whose parent group announced earlier this month that it is cutting 35,000 jobs worldwide following a slide in profits.
HSBC UK officially replaced Sky as British Cycling’s sponsor with effect from 1 January 2017, although news of the deal had emerged the previous September, shortly after the Rio Olympic Games.
The sponsorship deal kicked in during a period of turmoil at the governing body, with a UK Sport investigation under way into allegations of bullying and poor governance, and UK Anti-doping conducting a probe into possible wrongdoing.
There was also a shake-up in the governing body’s senior management, with former CEO Ian Drake already confirmed as leaving by the time HSBC UK’s sponsorship went live, with Julie Harrington replacing him in March 2017.
Since then, the organisation has featured more in the sports pages for ongoing tribunal cases than for the exploits of the Great Britain Cycling Team.
Last December, former track cyclist Jess Varnish was given the go-ahead to appeal against the decision of an employment tribunal in January last year that she was not an employee of British Cycling or UK Sport at the time she alleges she was discriminated against and unfairly dismissed from the Olympic programme.
Meanwhile the medical tribunal into former British Cycling doctor Richard Freeman was adjourned before Christmas due to his health and is unlikely to resume before May.
Commenting on the end of the sponsorship, Harrington said: “On course to get over 2 million people cycling regularly, British Cycling’s partnership with HSBC UK has delivered lasting benefits for our sport and for communities up and down the country.
“We will part with HSBC UK as firm friends and, in the meantime, look forward to working with them to support our riders to achieve their best in Tokyo.
“Over the last 20 years, British Cycling has enjoyed extraordinary success - both in terms of winning on the global stage and in using that inspiration to encourage more people to cycle more often.
“We are an ambitious organisation with a proud tradition of setting and hitting big targets and we know that more people on bikes is the solution to many of society’s biggest challenges,” she added.
“As we look to 2021, we will be actively engaging the market to find a new partner to be part of the next stage of our exciting journey.”
News of the early termination of the sponsorship comes in the same week as the UCI Track Cycling World Championships, the final competition for Great Britain’s cyclists before the Tokyo Olympics.
The country has topped the medal table in cycling at the past three Olympic Games and in the current four-year cycle receives £29.6 million in funding from UK Sport, second only to rowing.
Funding for the next four years will be dependent on performance in Tokyo, meaning that together with the loss of a major sponsor British Cycling could face an income crisis on two fronts should the medals not come in Japan.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.