Pat McQuaid Interview Part II: Race radios, rider protests, AIGCP tension and television concerns
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pat McQuaid Interview Part II: Race radios, rider protests, AIGCP tension and television concerns

by Shane Stokes at 10:26 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews
UCI President on radio debate, voting rights, sporting structure

Pat McQuaid Part I of this interview dealt with a rival league that threatens to split the sport and, potentially, cause a civil war in cycling. Pat McQuaid gave the UCI’s perspective on the situation, speaking of teams working behind the scenes to set up an alternative structure to the governing body.

This second part of the interview deals with other possible motives for the split, how this could affect the structure of the sport, France Television’s concerns about race radio, tensions with the AIGCP and why McQuaid says that the teams’ association will never have voting rights on the UCI’s management committee.

VeloNation: In considering a potential split in the sport, one effect is that it could remove the most visible part of cycling from the UCI, the professional peloton. This is one which has a lot of revenue involved. Currently, some of the money generated from the professional rank helps the levels lower down in the sport…

Pat McQuaid: Yes, and all European sport and indeed world sport is designed to be like that. It is only in the American-style sports where you have professional leagues and Formula 1 which has been mentioned a lot here now where the money just revolves around the group of people who are involved in it.

For example, if you take a simple thing that we did recently, there was a solidarity gesture between the ProTeams and the development of the sport. Each [ProTeam] team at the end of last season was involved…those eighteen groups of six bikes were sent to eighteen developing countries around the world.

The teams donated the bikes and the UCI arranged for them to be collected and delivered to developing nations. We will be hoping to do the same this year and in the following years. There you have a solidarity thing where the top of the pyramid is helping the base of the pyramid.

Looking back a few years, when the UCI was having discussions in Brussels with the European Union about the setting up of the ProTour, one thing which the European Union insisted on was also that the top of the pyramid is seen to assist the base of the pyramid. In other words, the top teams should be seen to assist in the development of the sport.

[With this planned split], you are looking at a certain amount of greed here within individuals. You have to bear in mind that six or seven years ago, the budgets of the top teams, the division one teams at the time were in the region of four, five or six million euro. Now they are in the region of ten to fifteen million euro. There are managers there who are making serious salaries out of that situation and they have got greedy and they want more…

VN: So what does the UCI do next?

PMQ: Well, for the moment, it is only rumours. It is only what I read in the media and this, that and the other. I will wait until I hear something more concrete on it.

That is not to say we are just sitting back and doing nothing. We are having various meetings in relation to it, but I don’t necessarily want to go into details.

VN: But when it becomes apparent which teams are involved, does that then leave them open to suspension?

PMQ: Not until they take some action, no… Then we would look at it.

Radios and voting rights:

VN: Some people are saying that the race radios are not the big issue, even though that is what has been in the headlines. The suggestion is that there is a wider issue at stake, that that it is more about input from teams and various different elements into the decision-making process.

They essentially want a bigger say within the UCI. Is that something that would be looked at in the future?

Pat McQuaidPMQ: It always has been looked at. This is an excuse which is used by Jonathan Vaughters and the AIGCP which is incorrect. They are using this to give them legitimacy.

It is incorrect – the teams and the riders and the organisers and the media and federations have had an input into this discussion, going back to when it started in 2008. But the fact is at that time the ProTeams were outside the AIGCP then, they were out and they were isolated.

Having said that, there were representatives of teams on the working groups that did this, that made this decision.

That is the way it has always been in the UCI, and the way it always will be. The teams will never be on the ultimate decision-making body of cycling, which is the management committee of the UCI, no more than teams are not on the FIFA executive board, nor are they on the FINA executive board, nor on those of other sports.

They want to be on that board. Jonathan Vaughters has said that he wants to be on the board that makes the decision about the rules.

But he will never be there, and he needs to understand that. The reason is because they have a vested interest. In actual fact, what has happened here has actually shown why they should not be on those decision-making boards because they only look at their interests, they don’t see the big pictures.

Jonathan Vaughters talks in his ten point plan about the development of cycling. What have they done in terms of point number one [a larger number of top-level races outside Europe]? They have attacked the Tour of Beijing, probably the most important event in the globalisation of cycling. The first thing that he lists is about the need for more races worldwide, yet they have threatened to boycott it.

At the end of the day, they are only interested in their own needs. Those needs are valid needs, all right, but they can’t ultimately overrule or override the overall needs of the sport.

VN: You said in your open letter that senior executives with France Television said that they could reduce their coverage of cycling if race radios were not dropped. You stated that in those talks, you were given specific examples of incidences when radios affected the outcome of a race. What did they say to you?

PMQ: We discussed different scenarios from races where the break was caught early on, where you look at the last three or four kilometres of a stage. They showed me examples where all you could see were guys up with their hands at a microphone.

They were able to give me lots of examples of situations that they felt races were altered by instructions on radios.

Were they serious in their threat?

Pat McQuaidPMQ:
Very serious. Mr Bilalian [Daniel Bilalian], who is the head of France television, apparently recently spoke at a press conference where France television had a press conference announcing all the cycling events they are covering this year. He stated at that press conference that the two biggest threats to cycling on television are doping and radios. And he put the two of them at the same level.

When I met him it was in 2008, and here he is saying that three years later, in 2011.

Through the AIGCP, teams are insistent that they should be able to use radios if they wish. There is talk that radios will be worn at several races this week, in defiance of the UCI. They’d be used at the GP E3 Harelbeke, the Coppi-Bartali international cycling week and the Criterium International next weekend.

Yes…I think it was [Gianni] Bugno who made an announcement about a week ago that if the radio ban wasn’t lifted, that the riders had decided to protest at those races.

Bugno has been trying to arrange a meeting with me for three or four weeks. A meeting was arranged, we finalised the date recently for the 22nd of March. However about four or five days after he arranged the meeting, he made the announcement that the riders are going to protest at these races.

So what he has done is he made an arrangement to meet with me to talk about radios and other issues, all to do with riders – that is standard practices, it happens regularly with different stakeholders – but then he goes and arranges a protests, yet thinks he can come to the meeting with me with the protest in his pocket, saying to me that ‘unless you rescind this rule, this protest is going to go ahead next Saturday.’

That is like holding a gun to your head. I informed him quite clearly that he can call off the protest and then I will meet him no problem. I am not going to meet people with a gun to my head…that is not the way to do business. Let them call off the protest, and then I am prepared to sit and talk to anybody.

VN: Is that why they were not invited to the UCI’s meeting last week?

Well, I said to them as the president of the UCI, I really can’t sit down at a table discussing the future of professional cycling with a stakeholder who is threatening that future and holding a gun to my head.

They do have a right to come to the meeting, they have a right to have a seat there, but I said they have a choice. They should either rescind the decision of theirs to protest and come to the meeting, or else un-invite themselves. And they uninvited themselves.

VN: You told us recently that there might be scope for some movement by the UCI, in the sense that there is a discussion going on with companies about the communication issue. The suggestion was that the UCI might possibly allow some limited information to be given to the riders, to deal with concerns of safety. Is there any news on that?

PMQ: It will take a bit of time. We have had a couple of companies in here discussing what can be done, and they are coming back to us soon. When they heard our situation, when they heard what we are looking for, they told us what was possible. They are now coming back to us with the propositions as to what we can do. We will look at all of those and we will see where we can go from there.

But it is going to take some time. It is not something that will be done in a week or two.




- Click here for part one of this interview -



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