Perspectives and requests for world ranking system, Tour de France and major event selection

Proposals from Jonathan Vaughters

PERSPECTIVES AND REQUESTS OF PROFESSIONAL CYCLING TEAMS FOR WORLD RANKING SYSTEM, TOUR DE FRANCE & MAJOR EVENT SELECTION PREAMBLE

Dear Gentlemen of AIOCC and the UCI:

Let me begin by sincerely expressing my gratitude to each of you for your attendance at the meeting in Liege requested by the AIGCP. After the recent challenging years in cycling, your willingness to sit together and offer differing opinions, face to face, should not be taken for granted. All of the teams that I represent are greatly indebted to you for this effort. We believe that many entrenched problems in cycling can be solved through this landmark reunion, so we thank you for joining together today with open and objective minds, willing to see all points of view.

The following is a compilation of ideas, thoughts and requests which represent the interests of the membership of the AIGCP. In recent years, due to many circumstances, the professional cycling teams have not spoken with a unified voice and have been marginalized by
their inability to do so. Differences in teams varying in caliber, nationality, and culture lead to varying concerns and interests. The unified interests are presented here as well as interests that are specific to distinct groups.

It is my sincere hope that we can study, debate, and even argue over the following items during our time in Liege. Debate is productive and constructive, however, to let the debate spill over into the public and media is something we must all work to avoid.

Thank you, once again, for finding the time and energy to come together and begin the process of creating a professional cycling community we can all be proud of and prosper by.

Sincerely,
Jonathan Vaughters
President AIGCP

AIGCP, AIOCC, UCI DISCUSSION REGARDING THE FUTURE OF CYCLING, WORLD RANKINGS SYSTEM & MAJOR EVENT SELECTION

OVERVIEW OF MAJOR DISCUSSION POINTS: STABILITY AND CREDIBILITY


Through the discussion of current problems and potential solutions with AIGCP members over the past month, an overwhelming majority of teams express interest in improving the STABILITY AND CREDIBILITY of the sport. Within the sport of cycling, teams are the most instable organizations and have incurred major damage to their credibility. All teams agree that financial instability is the cesspool
that breeds problems, such as, but not limited to, doping. Financial problems, created by desperation, lead to ethical issues, which can end up eroding credibility of all parties at this table.

So, for us, the two issues of STABILITY AND CREDIBILITY must be addressed first and should be the focus of this meeting time. In the following pages, the teams’ interests are divided into 3 basic categories: The basic interests of all the teams, regarding ranking and selection Interests of established ProTour licensed teams, regarding ranking and selection Interests of up‐and‐coming Pro‐Continental teams, regarding ranking and selection.

In all cases, as many viewpoints as possible have been taken into consideration. A concentration has been placed on the ideas and concerns that were consistently brought to our attention. This is not a document set out to refine detail but rather a document meant to invite ideas and discussion about the basic tenants of world ranking and event selection. The foundation of all these ideas is to establish STABILITY AND CREDIBILITY for all teams, which will also enhance the image of your events and the sport of cycling as a whole.

THE BASIC INTERESTS OF ALL THE TEAMS WORLD RANKING SYSTEM, MAJOR EVENTS SELECTION & TOUR DE FRANCE SELECTION

All ProTour and Pro Continental teams unanimously agree that a set of standards to qualify for the Tour de France and major events should be in place. These should be:
 

  • Mutually agreed upon
  • Fair
  • Stable, and
  • Clearly understood

The importance of this agreement cannot be understated. A set of clear parameters outlining the path a team must follow to gain entry into major events is critical to relationships with potential and current sponsors.

Objective and fair selection should be based on the following factors:

  • Athletic performance
  • Financial stability of organization
  • Image and popularity of team
  • Ethics and commitment to Anti‐Doping
  • Longevity and history of organization

WITHOUT A CLEAR AND SET OUT PATH TO THE BIGGEST EVENTS, WE HAVE NOTHING TO SELL TO SPONSORS


SUGGESTIONS AND DISCUSSION POINTS

1. Although points won in competitions should be the primary factor in ranking teams, perhaps additional bonus points should also be awarded. Such as,
o Bonus points established by Ernst & Young for maintaining a clear and stable organization
o Zero missed tests and perfect whereabouts information in regards to Anti‐Doping

2. Conversely, perhaps penalization of points should occur with confirmed cases of:
o Non‐payment of riders or staff
o Confirmed positive anti‐doping controls
o Poor quality or missing whereabouts information

SHOULD THESE RANKINGS NOT BE PROTECTED AND STABILIZED?

High points earning individuals should have ranking or points protected in case of severe injury or illness. For example:

  • Rider A is ranked 9th in the World. Because he is the team leader for Grand Tours, he carries 40% of his team’s total points. He crashes and breaks his femur. Doctors confirm he cannot compete for 6 months. The team loses 40% of its points, dropping from 9th to 21st in the World, losing its place in the Tour de France, which automatically cancels the contract with the title sponsor.

$15MM AND 60 JOBS HAVE BEEN ELIMINATED DUE TO A BROKEN FEMUR

Finally, and most importantly, we must work to avoid, at all costs, a system which promotes unethical behavior to win a slot in the most important events.

For example,

Team B is ranked 22nd in the World, despite a large budget. This team encountered a lot of bad luck with crashes, mechanicals, and illnesses throughout the season. The only races that remain for the team to win back a place in the top17 are the Vuelta, World Championships and Lombardia. Therefore, despite a normally strong anti‐doping ethos, the team decides to blood
dope its top riders (a still undetectable process) and pay other teams for help in these events. If they don’t get back into the top 17 and garner a Tour de France slot, they will lose their sponsors.

AGAIN, $15MM AND 70 JOBS ARE AT STAKE…
ANY SYSTEM CREATED SHOULD AVOID THIS SCENARIO AT ALL COSTS. THE STABILITY AND CREDIBILITY OF CYCLING SHOULD NOT BE COMPROMISED BY CREATING SUCH A SITUATION

ADDRESSING CREDIBILITY AND TRANSPARENCY ISSUES

The teams would like a greater degree of information and transparency with regards to the biological passport program.
However, we do realize that privacy laws may not be broken and that these laws vary greatly from country to country.

SUGGESTIONS AND DISCUSSIONS POINTS

1. Possibility of quarterly report to all teams showing mean hematological results by nation
2. Possibility of quarterly report to all teams showing number of tests per team, but names of teams’ withheld
3. Possibility of quarterly overview updates of passport expenditures, financial statements and P/L statement.
4. Transparency into payments made or not made by organizers
5. Mandatory educational seminar for all teams and events organizers on anti‐doping hematology, vocabulary, and other testing methods
6. 2010 payment methods and plans discussed and agreed upon by September 31st, 2009

INTERESTS OF ESTABLISHED PROTOUR LICENSED TEAMS
These are the interests expressed to us by the teams that:

  • Purchased ProTour licenses starting in 2004, and
  • Signed the agreement of 17 teams with ASO/RCS in 2008.


Typically, these are teams with a long history in cycling. They would like to see:

  • A stable sponsorship sales environment
  • Lower overhead costs, and
  • Re‐established credibility after many hard years


CREATE LONG TERM EQUITY IN MANAGEMENT GROUPS

Management groups cannot create value and equity in their organizations without long term guarantees from major race organizers. Quite simply put: why would a sponsor choose any particular organization in cycling when none are guaranteed participation in key events? This not only affects sponsorship sales for existing organizations, but also hurts sponsorship sales and loses fan base for the sport in general, as it makes our sport appear disorganized and disjointed.

WITHOUT LONG TERM GUARANTEES, HOW DO TEAMS CREATE FAN BASES, ESTABLISH REVENUE STREAMS AND ATTRACT EQUITY STAKE INVESTORS?
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HOW DO FANS DEVELOP LOYALTY IF TEAM ORGANIZATIONS ALWAYS CHANGE?
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HOW DO TEAMS HAVE ANY EQUITY VALUE AT ALL WITHOUT THESE GUARANTEES?
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“OWNERSHIP” OF A CYCLING TEAM MUST PRESENT THE POSSIBILITY, HOWEVER REMOTE,
OF PROFITABILITY.
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WITHOUT A HOPE OF PROFITABLITY, CYCLING NEVER ATTRACTS PRIVATE EQUITY GROUPS, VENTURE CAPITAL GROUPS AND HOSTS OF OTHER RESPONSIBLE INVESTORS.

 

SALARY AND/OR OVERALL BUDGETARY CAPS

Another idea presented by the established ProTour teams is the idea of limiting the total expenditure of any given team. This:

  • Limits the ability to “buy” victories and promotes fair competition amongst teams
  • Protects the interest of commercial sponsors that must be efficient with their marketing dollars, and,
  • Attracts sponsors looking for value in a tough economy, as they know that they can win, even with limited dollars


WE ARE FOCUSED ON FAIRNESS IN CYCLING IN MANY OTHER ARENAS, WHY NOT IN THE FINANCIAL ARENA AS WELL?


MUTUAL RIGHT OF REFUSAL FOR OFF‐CONTINENT PROTOUR EVENTS

As the ProTour expands into geographic areas that may or may not hold interest to sponsors of ProTour teams, we must consider the rights of teams to determine that some of these events are not financially viable for them to participate in.

However, we must also respect the rights of race organizers to demand the attendance of certain teams, as organizers have sponsorship obligations as well.

We propose the following:

  • If both organizer and team agree there is no interest in the team participating, the team is granted an exemption from participation
  • If either the team or the organizer demands participation, it overrules the desire of the other
  • In short, the team must participate if either party so desires


BOTH ORGANIZER AND TEAM MUST AGREE FOR A NON‐PARTICIPATION TO OCCUR. IF EITHER PARTY DESIRES THE TEAM TO RACE, THE TEAM MUST RACE.

INTERESTS OF UPANDCOMING PROCONTINENTAL TEAMS

These are interests expressed to us, specific to:

  • Newly formed teams that wish to gain entry into major races based on recent and current performance & recent and current organization, and
  • Seek objective guidelines as to how this may be achieved

ESTABLISHED PROTOUR AND PRO‐CONTINENTAL TEAMS SHOULD BE GRADED USING THE SAME STANDARDS IN MATTERS OF FINANCIAL AND ORGANIZATIONAL CAPACITY

  • When potential “bonus points” are considered for having a top notch organization behind the athletic side of a team, all teams must be looked at equally, regardless of whether or not they hold a ProTour license
  • New teams must be graded objectively, despite lack of history
  • Perhaps E&Y will need more information and greater transparency from younger teams, but if this is provided, they should be granted equal footing


GREATER SYNCHRONICITY BETWEEN UCI AND RACE ORGANIZERS REGARDING WILD CARD LABEL AND INVITATIONS GIVEN BASED ON THIS LABEL

Pro Continental teams seek objective selection procedures for Wild Cards outlined well in advance of major events. These selection procedures should be clearly defined and publicized, so that fans may follow the progress of their favorite new/small team.

  • Objective and transparent grading of Wild Card based on:

1. Organizational infrastructure,
2. Ethical approach, and
3. Performance capabilities when compared head to head with ProTour teams Passport status and Wild Card label should be clearly defined Teams’ informed (and confirmed receipt of information) well in advance of deadlines

NEW AND SMALLER TEAMS WANT TO KNOW PRECISELY WHAT STANDARD THEY MUST MEET IN ORDER TO COMPETE IN THE LARGEST EVENTS


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HOW DO SMALLER TEAMS GARNER TOP RANKINGS TO PROGRESS IN THE SPORT IF THEY ARE NOT INITIALLY GRANTED INVITATIONS TO CERTAIN EVENTS?

CONCLUSION

As stated in our introduction, the overriding theme throughout this document is STABILITY AND CREDIBILITY. We must create stability for teams that have worked hard to gain their slot at the top of cycling. To reinforce the credibility of our ranking and selection procedures, we must also work on clarifying why top teams are there and how new or smaller teams can get to the pinnacle of the
sport.

We must create financial stability for the teams by clarifying what we are selling to sponsors and what owners are investing in. By creating stability, we lower the risk of damage to the credibility of our sport and reduce the motivation for fraudulent activities.

BY FINDING SOLUTIONS FOR GREATER STABILITY, THE ORGANIZERS LOWER THEIR RISK OF EXPOSURE TO MASSIVE SCANDALS CAUSED BY FRAUDULENT ACTIVITIES AND WE ALL RESTORE CREDIBILITY TO OUR SPORT, TOGETHER.

Thank you for your time, effort and participation. This can work but we must all compromise a little and dream a lot.

Jonathan Vaughters

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