World cycling’s governing body, the UCI, has taken the highly unusual step of issuing a detailed explanation of some of the reasons behind its refusal to grant a Professional Continental license for 2011 to the Australian Pegasus Sports team and accuses its management of being “unprofessional” throughout the licencing process.
Pegasus Sports, which is based on the Fly-V team that raced at third-tier level mainly in Australia and the United States during 2010, had hoped to break into the top level of cycling after recruiting riders such as Robbie McEwen, Robbie Hunter, Svein Tuft and Dominique Cornu, but its application for a ProTeam license for 2011 was turned down by the UCI last month.
It had been expected that Pegasus would secure Professional Continental – or second division – statis instead, but the team was unable to secure sufficient sponsorship in time to meet an extended deadline granted by the UCI. That followed reports that rumoired original backer, the former Liverpool FC co-owner George Gillett Jr, had withdrawn his promised funding earlier this month.
As reported on road.cc earlier this week, failure to prove that sufficient financial backing was in place had been thought to be the main stumbling block to Pegasus obtaining Professional Continental status, but today’s statement from the UCI outlines that the way in which the team conducted itself throughout the process was also likely to have been a factor behind the licence committee’s decision, which received widespread condemnation including from the team’s management and some of its riders.
In the wake of Monday’s announcement, team chief executive Chris White said: “We are shocked that the license was denied. The team was already prepared for the 2011 season and we worked really hard after the news from last week.
“Significant cost reductions were made and additional sponsorship both from within our existing sponsor base and an external group was gathered, in order to stabilise the team financially in the short term.
“The people within the organisation were at the centre of this action and commitment, which is a real testament to the mateship within the team. We do not want to give up. The team is exploring whether there are other options for next year.”
McEwen, meanwhile, used his Twitter stream to attack the decision to refuse the team a Professional Continental licence, saying, “well done uci…thanks a lot,” adding “so much work, effort, commitment, passion, sacrifice. been for nothing. Devastating,” and concluding, “for those not in the loop. our team has been refused a licence for 2011. 50 people out of work. 25 great riders w/out a team.”
Those and other comments appear to lie behind the UCI’s decision to clarify the reasons why Pegasus did not obtain a Professional Continental licence, including a scathing assessment of the team’s management, with the governing body saying: “To reply to certain declarations that have appeared in the press, the UCI feels obliged to explain that despite the public announcements, the management of the Pegasus Sports project proved to be rather unprofessional from the start.”
The UCI adds that the 25 cyclists contracted to ride for Pegasus in 2011 now have the right to free themselves from those agreements, and with little more than a week before the new contracts were due to come into force, the exodus from the team has already begun, with Tuft joining SpiderTech and Cornu moving to Topsport Vlaanderen.
The full text of the UCI’s statement, released this afternoon, is as follows:
“Following the reactions which followed the decision by the UCI Licence Commission to refuse the registration of the Australian team Pegasus Sports as a Professional Continental Team, the UCI would like to explain some points in order to ease the discussions and allow for a better understanding of the context in which this decision was taken. The full reasons will be communicated to the team’s management in the next few days.
“First of all, the UCI would like to express its deep disappointment faced with the situation that has arisen: the project of a professional Australian team was a new and very important step in the process of the globalisation of cycling which is a strategic priority of our Federation. A successful outcome of this initiative would have stimulated the pleasing growth phase that our sport is experiencing, notably with the creation and development of high-level races on different continents.
“For the UCI, the failure of Pegasus Sports is very bad news, but that cannot however affect the rigorous work our Federation carries out for cycling, or the respect that is due to all those who have fulfilled their obligations according to the regulation.
“While waiting to learn of the reasons for the decision announced by the Licence Commission on 20th December, the UCI can however presume that the refusal to register Pegasus Sports is based on a financial aspect, given the serious shortcomings the formation had presented.
“Despite the extended deadline of 15th December that was exceptionally granted by the Licence Commission, Pegasus Sports did not provide either a bank guarantee or sufficient financial guarantees for 2011.
“To reply to certain declarations that have appeared in the press, the UCI feels obliged to explain that despite the public announcements, the management of the Pegasus Sports project proved to be rather unprofessional from the start.
“Informed of the registration procedures on 23rd June 2010 in the same manner as all the other teams, Pegasus Sports didn’t respect the deadline of 1st October fixed for the initial registration requests.
“Following this first and significant non-conformity of the regulation, all the riders under contract with the Australian team obtained the right to free themselves from their commitment to the team.
“Pegasus Sports’ request to obtain a UCI ProTeam licence had moreover not been able to be taken into account following the result of the sporting evaluation established by the UCI on October 20th, which ranked the team 23rd. As a result, the Pegasus Sports file was evaluated for a possible registration as a Professional Continental Team. However, given the shortcomings on the financial side, which could not guarantee that the team would survive the whole 2011 season, this option also had to be rejected.
“Following this decision and in line with the regulation, Pegasus Sports appealed to the Licence Commission, which took charge of the file.
“However, the team still did not change its attitude: it did not undertake the necessary steps to rectify the shortcomings regarding the UCI regulation, that were however indicated several times in the different reports established by the UCI’s auditors.
“Even so, the Licence Commission granted an extended deadline (10th December) to Pegasus Sports so it could sort out its problems. Exceptionally, this deadline was even extended a further five days (15th December).
“Yet, at the end of this ultimate chance, fundamental documents such as the bank guarantee and sufficient financial guarantees for 2011 are still missing from the Pegasus Sports file.
“The UCI can now only sincerely regret this conduct from the leaders of Pegasus Sports and express its sympathy to all the riders and others involved with the Australian team who unfortunately bear the consequences.”
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.