As team managers gather in Paris for a key AIGCP meeting, it has emerged that British-based television company BSkyB - the owners of Team Sky - could become a key player in plans to revolutionise professional cycling.
According to the Bloomberg news agency, BSkyB is in talks to becoming a partner in the so-called World Series Cycling project created by businessmen Jonathan Price and Thomas Kurth, with backing and support from Omega Pharma-Quick Step team owner Zdenek Bakala.
The World Series Cycling threatened to create a breakaway structure that would not have been under the control of the UCI. However UCI President Pat McQuaid recently told Velonews that those plans have been shelved. It now seems any changes will include most of the sport's important races, with several brand new races added to a new calendar and WorldTour structure.
The new structure will probably see major changes in the balance of power in professional cycling, with teams obtaining a share of TV rights and developing other commercial opportunities.The UCI would have less direct control of the sport.
Bloomberg suggested that BSkyB wants to increase its direct involvement in the sport and is interested in broadcasting cycling globally in the future. A BSkyB executive and attorney reportedly met with a dozen teams on February 13 in Geneva and another meeting about the project is scheduled for today in Paris.
Bloomberg claim that the number of teams that have agreed to race in the series has risen from eight to 12 in recent months, with three other squads holding talks with Price’s Gifted Group Ltd. 15 has been touted a key number in the success of the project.
Team Sky has so far opted to sit on the fence and let other teams push the project forward, but the possible involvement of BSkyB would surely see the British team sign up and perhaps mark the tipping point in the success of the project.
BSkyB, the UCI and Jonathan Price all refused to comment. However UCI management board member Brian Cookson, who is also the President of British Cycling and a member of the Operating Board of Team Sky, confirmed to Bloomberg that McQuaid is locked in talks with the Price and Kurth about the long-term future of the sport.
“They’re talking,” Cookson said. “The answer is not to have a breakaway league but to do something that improves the existing system and takes the sport in a new direction.”