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Brailsford: Cycling is close to a tipping point

Stephen Farrand
March 1, 2013, 18:40,
March 1, 2013, 18:37
Second Edition Cycling News, Friday, March 1, 2013
Dave Brailsford and Richie Porte

Dave Brailsford and Richie Porte

  • Dave Brailsford and Richie Porte
  • James Murdoch and Brailsford traveled as guests with Bernard Hinault
  • Team Sky protected Chris Froome's overall lead.

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Team Sky manager calls for a new long-term strategy for professional cycling

Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford has suggested that professional cycling is nearing a tipping point which could see the sport, and the business it supports, soon change radically, with a new structure, calendar and business model to replace the current WorldTour structure.

Speaking before a report by Bloomberg suggested that BSkyB - the owners of Team Sky - is in talks to become a partner in the so-called World Series Cycling project created by businessmen Jonathan Price, Brailsford said professional cycling has to change if it wants to survive.

"In most industries there becomes a tipping point where it changes its structure. When you look at all the elements in the sport of cycling at the moment, they're all there. It's getting very close and I can’t see how it can't happen if the sport wants to survive, so it will happen," Brailsford told Cyclingnews.

"I think what the sport needs is a genuine and proper long term strategy. What will the sport look like in ten years' time? What will it look like in five years' time? And how do we go from where we are now to get there?"

Brailsford and Team Sky have been hesitant about signing up to plans to any breakaway project, letting the likes of Garmin-Sharp, Saxo-Tinkoff and Zdenek Bakala's Omega Pharma-Quick Step team drive the project and take any heat from the UCI and the media.

That could change very soon, as plans for the new-look WorldTour or World Series of Cycling become clearer and with the UCI likely to be involved in any final project or management structure. If BSkyB invests in cycling and activates a strategy to drive its pay for view subscriptions thanks to professional cycling, then Team Sky will surely be a part of the new-look structure.

Bloomberg claim that the number of teams that have agreed to be part of the new structure has risen from eight to 12 in recent months, with three other squads holding talks. The current UCI WorldTour is made up of 18 teams, with other teams obtaining wild card invitations to major races.

Brailsford pointed out that it is not necessary to get all the major teams and sponsors on board.

"I don't think it's about having a majority of teams to make it happen. If it’s the right plan, it’s the right plan for everybody. There won't be any resistance because everyone will benefit. You can't have a win-lose scenario, it's got to improve things for everybody. And that's what we need," he said.

"We're heading in the right direction. There's certainly opportunities and if the right people, the right minds and the right stakeholders get together, I think it'll be pretty simple to resolve the problems."

A different business model for cycling

Brailsford reiterated that the key concept for any new structure for professional cycling is to create more stability for the teams and riders thanks to a different business model.

Professional cycling at the highest level is likely to become more like a closed, commercially driven league, much like the football Premier League in Britain or the NBA or the NFL in the USA, with the UCI have far less say in the running of the sport.

Any new business model would include the sharing of TV rights income but include other key aspects.

"There's a whole host of different factors. But as with any strategic plan, you've got marry up the key factors into a single plan," Brailsford said.

"TV rights and revenue to teams is only one small part. At the moment sponsors come and go so quickly, that it's an unreliable financial model: that's the problem. Whether it's TV rights or greater commercialization of the sport, it's about giving the teams and sport more stability. That's the question we have to answer."

Paul Jennings More than 1 year ago
And about time..
cyclemike66 More than 1 year ago
More like the NBA and the NFL? Just what we need to have a nice drug free sport. I can't believe what I just read. So very sad...
Martin Higgins More than 1 year ago
team sky sound a lot like usps.....they seam to have a lot of power over cycling,weird
ricardoisbest More than 1 year ago
my post just got deleted by the site moderators for saying that Future PLC is connected with BSkyB who employs them to do advertisement on their behalf, and for saying that BSkyB spends millions of dollars on 'Team Sky' as advertising, both of which are facts. good job. COME AT ME BRO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
ricardoisbest More than 1 year ago
my point was this, cyclingnews is owned by Future PLC who is employed by Sky for advertising purposes. Check out Future PLC's Advertising solutions page if you don't believe me. The stories published about Team Sky on this website are completely laughable. COME AT ME BRO!!!!!!!!!!!!
rainwatrz More than 1 year ago
Big cycling = Big money = city of London banking cartel so what's the big mystery?
BobAli More than 1 year ago
I like Brailsford, but I do not see him as an independent voice here. BSkyB just gobbles up sport whenever they feel they can then squeeze the fans for more and more cash. If this happens, then everyone will have to pay per view to watch the classics and the tour, and then will also be treated to some strange races dreamed up to fill up the calendar and which will squeeze the smaller races out. As for doping, the sports model for football seems to be to ignore things like operation puerto in order to protect the sport. Will this be the same here? I cannot see a load of businessmen combining with the UCI in its present form to fight doping. There is the danger that UCI members will rubber stamp this new move, the join the new structure on lucrative contracts, becoming even less accountable as they are now. What cycling needs is a more transparent, reformed UCI which runs things better within the existing formula of races, and PUTS THE FANS FIRST!
rainwatrz More than 1 year ago
How about putting the riders first since. . . . Oh silly me
BaltoSteve More than 1 year ago
One tiny correction, this year there are 19 WorldTour teams.
DaveGahan More than 1 year ago
Very "great" news,,, What is he talking about? In general I like this guy but after reading this I think cycling's future could be darker than nowadays.,,, There are NO facts or real concrete statements in this article. The upcoming way seems to be like BobAli stated above. Sky will throw "tons" of moeny in the game, joyned by other rich team owners. They build up a closed COMMERCIAL system ..... and it all will be about money - in a way it never had been before! And we would have to pay for watching the events (the ones that will survive or could be received on TV). Everybody may have his own personal opinion. I think mine is well known here. There is doping in cycling for more than 100 years. All who are very interested in this sport know this and I'm confident that things will not change anyway. That's my opinion! For me there are tons of reasons for it,,,, BUT, it's for sure that things will dramaticaly change to the bad when they drive up commercialisation by following such a "concept"! The positive effect (for people like me who don't believe in a clean sport) would be that there will be much less positive doping tests. All the money behind the system will cover those things, like in soccer, footbal etc. After maybe 5 years the puplic will start to believe in a clean sport. They do it when it comes to soccer for example, even when it is far away from reality! It's absolutely clear that there will be doping on a much higher level in such a system. Athletes could do what they want... But as a positive side effect new races, sponsors would appear on the horizon. Even the fan crowd would grow. It's sad, but it's the only way to save this whole thing... For those of us fans who really want to see a clean sport and still believe in it that would be the end....
Homekat More than 1 year ago
What cycling needs for fans, sponsors, and riders alike is a more stable environment financially and contract-wise. So, this is at least a step in the right direction and I'm sure it's not clear what the final structure will look like. However, if it: means good-bye UCI and good-riddance to McQuaid and his cronies, a band of very wealthy thugs all at the expense of cyclings' reputation, then I'm all for it.
BobAli More than 1 year ago
I am not sure the UCI will go. I suspect that McQuaid et al may even end up working for for the new business...
Murali Parameswaran More than 1 year ago
this article seems to indicate that sky believes that they will get more money in WSC than in world tour. Brailsford seems to be representative of the current administration while admitting that he is interested in making money, and cycling is just a means to that end. Perhaps, its time that these administrators stop politicizing the current doping scandal, and focus on giving the fans a good competitive season. Industries have tipping points. Individual races have tipping points, from the perspective of race organizers. (remember tdf tried to mend things by bringing in an anti-doping agency to the fray to save their reputation, and their ad income) But, the sport cannot have a financially motivated bigotry as a tipping point. We fans watch road cycling because it is fun. teams get revenue because fans watch it. Teams should try to focus on giving fans what they want right now. if it is clean sports that we want, then teams should take care of that. if it is more tv coverage, then teams should ask for it. By changing name from world tour to world series, or by changing the names of teams, people are not going to watch more or watch less.
Pete Underdown More than 1 year ago
"In most industries there becomes a tipping point where it changes its structure." Dave Brailsford is a very pompous [Wiggo could say this word in print, I can't]. Oh great wise business guru, instruct me in the historical dynamics of industries! You who have studied and understood so many great industries as they tipped their structures. Pretentious speech makes me mistrust characters like this. It always feels like he's trying to put something over. I agree with BobAli and others above that nothing new is being proposed here. I've been suspicious of Sky since 2012 Tour, every time I read quotes from Brailsford I get more so.
RobbieCanuck More than 1 year ago
Where in his rhetoric did Brailsford address the concern of the fans that cycle racing is clean? Sure a fresh start with a new organization sounds great, but the culture of doping is a moving ecosytem that can just as quickly infest a new business model as an old one. Don't count on the UCI and McQuaid to show any leadership on this front, as their history is an abysmal absence of leadership. Brailsford narrow minded focus on the business model, overlooks the fan. And it is ultimately the fan that drives the sport through the purchase of bikes, gear etc. If you want a successful business model, guarantee to me I am not watching some phoney World Wrestlng Entertainment spectacle but rather a real sport based on athleticism and integrity. Don't try to snow the fan by changing the label.