Pro Cycling

InSight | Bloomberg interview with UCI’s Pat McQuaid

Unfortunately for the UCI, its President Pat McQuaid’s personality and strong opinions have previously resulted in soundbites that may not best represent the global view within the UCI. One has to wonder what McQuaid’s colleagues will think of his latest interview with Bloomberg, which runs the gamut from breakaway leagues to conflicts of interest.

Click on image to jump to Bloomberg interview

The audio interview¬†with Bloombergs’ Alex Duff (AD) makes for compelling listening. Here’s the transcribed interview, beginning with McQuaid’s (PM) take on the World Series Cycling. [NOTE: as stated on Bloomberg's audio caption, this interview is part of a feature article in July's issue of Bloomberg Markets magazine. I personally cannot wait to see where it heads to next.]

PM – They say anything they want to do is inclusive of the UCI…but from our point of view we can see, number one, the finances don’t work, they don’t stand up. And number two, to run with it, would mean you would be putting up a new WorldTour calendar with some existing races, the big races, and then these new races that they’re proposing. One then has to ask the question, what would happen then to the Tour of Switzerland, Tour of Romandie, Tour of San Sebastian Race, the major races on the calendar at the moment; what would happen with them?

So if they (World Series Cycling) say it would be within the current system in the UCI, but the team’s are the major shareholders in their structure, it doesn’t work because, number one, it replaces the current World Tour, and then what happens to races in that? And number two, the finances don’t work out. They have in their finances large sums of money from TV revenues and outside the Tour de France we know there are no large sums of money for cycling from TV revenues; so it doesn’t work out from that point of view. Plus, you would also have a conflict of interest in teams organizing races that they take part in themselves, so there’s a conflict there.

They haven’t been to see us so all we can do from that point of view, since they haven’t been to see us, since we’ve seen the documentation, is to consider it is a threat of a future breakaway league. You know, we would be foolish to think otherwise, to think that it’s a friendly, you know, new series of events to come on the UCI calendar or something like that, because it’s not that. We were, at the time, prepared to do that, we’re still prepared to do that; as a matter of fact we’re including that in our future plans for GCP (Global Cycling Promotion) that the teams would get some revenue out of it.

But the thing about the teams is that they seem to think, and I mean Jonathan Vaughters talks a lot about the American system and the closed leagues and all that – and that doesn’t work in cycling and won’t work in cycling – he talks about franchises and that they should be franchisees and this, that, and the other. What he wants is 10 or 12 franchisees. What they’re trying to create is a system where you have 10 or 12 owners who have this product or franchise, that they sell and sell and sell and make money on it or something like the American system.

Well, cycling doesn’t work like that and cycling can’t work like that because it’s too diverse; you have sponsors and our revenues are completely different than revenues at a NFL game where you’ve got 90,000 people paying to watch the game and so forth. Our revenue structure is completely different. They say they need stability and that they want to be in the position where, if a team sponsor pulls out, they have enough money to continue for a year or two. Okay, we could agree with that but they’re never going to get that sort of money out of it. It’ll always be relatively small sums of money they’re going to get. No matter, even in their own situation…what they’re proposing isn’t going to provide them with the millions they’re talking about to get that sustainability.

In a sense, what this is, I would see it as there are some team managers there who are already earning very large sums of money from the sport and they want more. Because they don’t see the money that we’re talking about coming out going down into the riders. I see it going into manager’s pockets. Or, as they say, franchisee holders pockets or whatever.

AD – I suppose the golden goose is the Tour de France TV money. That’s what they ultimately want isn’t it?
That’s what they ultimately want, yeah.

How much do you think that might be worth?
I’ve seen figures from EUR25-30m quoted for the revenues for the Tour.

So if they were to get, say, half of that, that would make them…
Well, it would be less than a million (EUR) each. You know, for the 18 teams.

It would allow them to not rely so much on sponsorship.
Yeah, well, I mean why should ASO necessarily…I can understand ASO’s position as a business; they’ve you know, this event has been running for 100 years and it’s been built up into what it is, and they’ve worked to build it up, why should they just give up money to them?

Our sport – whether they like it or not – our sport has developed in that way. I think, you know, everybody can come along and say ‘maybe the teams should get more, maybe the riders should get more,’ and ‘the riders are the main actors’ and I would agree they should be better paid, but the sport has been structured like that way for 100 years and you can’t change that over night; you can’t change that in time.¬†

The teams, to my mind, need to concentrate more on improving the credibility and image of the sport. And if you get 4 or 5 years of increased improved credibility, which we’re on the way to getting – like last year was one year, and this year, now with the Olympic Games are going to be wonderful to sport and our promotion – you have 4 or 5 years like that and then you get more money from more sponsors who are prepared to pay more money for the product that we have. That’s what they should be concentrating on, but they’re not doing that. That’s where they’re making a mistake. They’re just going after the money that’s there.

But you should understand also how vulnerable they feel to sponsors just leaving at the drop of a hat…
I know, but also they need to understand that every time there’s a major doping scandal, there are many sponsors who say no to the sport. I’ve heard the experience from managers or owners of teams who’ve been, you know…. there were sponsors that pulled out of cycling in September 2005 when it was announced that Alberto Contador was positive. Sponsors who were about to come in and pulled out. Big ones.

END

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