Video: Brian Cookson says restoring credibility of cycling is most important priority
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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Video: Brian Cookson says restoring credibility of cycling is most important priority

by VeloNation Press at 11:15 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Video
UCI president outlines what he sees as the most crucial steps for the sport

Brian CooksonCommenting after three months in office as UCI president, Brian Cookson has said that the early feedback from many within the sport has been that change was needed in the governance of cycling, and that the initial progress made has been positive.

“I think already there is a sense of change and transformation building in the UCI and in people’s perception of the UCI,” he said in a video interview released by the governing body. “That has been really important to me.

“I wanted to travel around and meet a lot of people and make sure they understand where I am coming from and where the new administration of the UCI is coming from. I think we are getting a really good response. From all the meetings I have had there was a general feeling that cycling did need a change in leadership and a change in direction.”

Cookson became the new head of the sport after he defeated former UCI leader Pat McQuaid in a hard-fought presidential battle earlier this year. He ultimately won the vote 24-18 at the UCI Congress in Florence in September, and since than has been focussing on various different areas.

The change has been about more than just the president; in addition to ending the services of some of those who worked with McQuaid, there were also a lot of new faces brought in.

“It has been an incredibly busy three months. My feet have hardly touched the ground. I have been travelling to various parts of the world to see people, to meet with people, to reassure them about the future of the UCI and to tell them about exciting plans,” said Cookson.

“We have also appointed three new vice presidents. We have new presidents on all the commissions and new members of all of the commissions. We have a woman on each of those commissions for the first time, a woman vice president and a women’s commission. All of those things are really important and I am very happy with the progress we are making.”

Cookson is still in the so-called honeymoon period and knows that the real measure of his governance will come further down the line. However thus far he appears to have followed several of his election promises, including a commitment to allow a new independent commission to fully investigate the sport and the UCI’s past handling of doping matters plus its former relationship with riders such as Lance Armstrong.

No announcement has yet been made about the commission’s composition but Cookson has already said that news will come early in the New Year about that.

He states in the video interview that it is of crucial importance that things are done correctly in order to ensure the greatest possible confidence in the process and, ultimately, the outcome.

“We have made a lot of progress on this. As anyone might imagine, there is a lot of work to be done behind the scenes before something like this can be put on the road, as it were,” he said. “We are very close now to final agreement on the terms and conditions of that.

“We want to make sure that WADA, the World Anti Doping Agency, are really supportive of that and we want to make sure that the wider sporting world, the media and the cycling fans understand what we are doing.”

Cookson has previously made clear that building the economy of the sport plus its financial stability is if major importance. A number of teams collapsed at the end of this season, flooding the market with out of work riders and this has brought home the instability and uncertainty within a structure where sponsors can come and go in a relatively short space of time.

“I think it is vital for any professional sport to have a strong economic foundation,” said Cookson. “Cycling’s economic foundation has been quite weak, and it has been weaker still in recent years. We have lost a number of teams and we have lost a number of events.

“But we have also got some great potential around the world…places were cycling is stronger than it was in years gone by and places where I think events and teams can really start to have a good impact.”

He said that the goal is to develop that, but to also ensure that the big historic races are maintained and not lost amid the establishment of new events and the planned reform of the cycling calendar.

“Cycling will always have those heritage events, those monuments of our sport. I want to make sure that we develop our sport around those,” he said.

“But equally we have to make sure that we have a very strong financial situation for our teams, for our riders and for our events. We have got to look at new ways of doing that. I think we have fallen behind other sports in the way that we exploit new technology and television, the way we present our sport, and I think that is a way we can help strengthen the economy of our sport.”

Cookson is yet to elaborate on what new measures will be introduced, but it is understood that giving teams a share of TV rights is thought to be an important consideration. It is possible that on-bike cameras will be permitted in races, thus enabling more in-depth TV shots from events such as the Tour de France.

Another priority is to ensure better gender equality in what has traditionally been quite a male-focussed sport.

“I think we are in the middle of an interesting era for women’s sport, generally – I think the media and the public are taking women’s sport much more seriously,” said Cookson.

“That is something that should have happened years ago. I think that all of us men in the sport can take some of the responsibility for that and now we have to work much harder. There is amazing potential for women in our sport, in cycling. Not just at the elite level but in participation as well.

“So having established a women’s commission and having made sure that we have women’s voice on every one of our other commissions, I think we are going to be very well placed to make good benefit of that and to spread the benefits around our sport and throughout the world.”

Restoring credibility is part of the ability of the UCI and others to sell the sport. Unsurprisingly, this too is listed by him as one of the most important things in his list of immediate priorities.

“Making sure that we restore the credibility of our sport and repair the reputational damage is probably the biggest one,” he accepted. “That is something that we really need to work very hard on. I think we have made great progress and I am sure we can make more progress, because we have got a beautiful sport, the most beautiful sport in my opinion out of many others.

“As I have said before in all its diversity and in all its wonderfulness, it is a truly global sport and if we get things right, I think we can make cycling the most popular sport on the planet.”


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