Eight teams reportedly agree to proposed ‘breakaway league’
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Friday, March 9, 2012

Eight teams reportedly agree to proposed ‘breakaway league’

by VeloNation Press at 6:16 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
RadioShack Nissan said to be involved, other names yet to emerge

Fabian CancellaraCycling’s traditional structure could be set for a major change with suggestions that a so-called breakaway league proposed by several teams could be moving closer to realization.

According to Bloomberg, eight top level squads have agreed to compete in a new series, including the RadioShack Nissan team run by Johan Bruyneel and featuring riders such as Fabian Cancellara (pictured). The Garmin Barracuda squad of Jonathan Vaughters is presumably also involved, although this is yet to be confirmed.

The FDJ BigMat team is one of those named as opting out of the plan.

Both Vaughters and Bruyneel are known to have been involved in the proposal for quite some time, with one aim being to increase income from teams and thus make them less reliant on the traditional sponsor model.

Bloomberg refers to two sources ‘with direct knowledge of the situation’ as providing information about the new setup. According to them, the sports marketing company Gifted Group Ltd. is currently seeking approval from the UCI to start a World Series Cycling programme in 2014.

It would comprise ten races and would co-exist with the Tour de France and eight other high-profile races, the people said.

The races wouldn’t clash with any of the GrandTours nor six unnamed one-day Classics, thus avoiding conflict with cycling’s most powerful organisers. Details of the races concerned are scarce, but there are suggestions that they would be four-day events in the US, Europe and Asia, with South America and Australia also possible.

Previously seen as a rival to the UCI, and as being a movement that would take those teams out of the governing body’s control, there are now suggestions that those concerned are trying to work alongside the governing body. Bloomberg states that approaches were made last month to former UCI president Hein Verbruggen, who it wants to help negotiate a reconciliation with the governing body.

The UCI has confirmed that contact has been made, but has declined further comment.

It remains to be seen how the proposed series would sync with the UCI’s own WorldTour, however. Holding ten races in an already crowded calendar would likely put pressure on other races, both in terms of rider lineups and also lost publicity. This could in turn have knock on effects for TV coverage and sponsor interest.

The business model is said to be based on the team franchise plan used in the National Basketball Association, National Football League and other U.S. sports, according to Simon Chadwick, a professor of sports business strategy at the U.K.’s Coventry University.

He referred to it as something which could be a ‘real change in the balance of power in cycling.’

According to Bloomberg, the series would be managed by Gifted Group chairman Jonathan Price and Thomas Kurth, who is a former executive of European soccer’s ruling body, UEFA, They have apparently succeeded in raising 20 million euros ($27 million) from investors, who would own 26 percent of the equity. Gifted Group would hold ten percent.

According to a 12-page pitch to potential investors by the U.K. unit of Rothschild bank last year, teams would get the remaining 64 percent.

One benefit to the latter would mean they would no longer be so reliant on the traditional sponsor model, where outside companies are needed to finance teams in return for branding and association.

The demise of the HTC Highroad and Geox TMC squads are cited as examples of how the traditional model creates fragilities for teams, and means that there is little long-term security.

The Rothschild pitch stated that before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, 39 million euros was projected on sales of 140 million euros in 2017.

Further details and clarification is needed of the proposed series, but it appears that the push to change cycling’s structure continues.


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