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UCI president Brian Cookson
Television rights a large part of discussion, says Cookson
The stakeholders of cycling's top division gathered in Chantilly, France today for the annual WorldTour seminar, and UCI president Brian Cookson opened the meetings emphasizing the importance of television coverage on the promotion of the sport.
In his opening remarks at the start of the two-day summit, Cookson said, "Over the next two days, we will discuss concrete issues which concern all of us: our different roles, new technology, television, and the culture of professional cycling. Indeed, television coverage plays an important and growing role in the success and the promotion of our sport and a good part of tomorrow's session will be devoted to television production."
Television rights have been a contentious issue, one which drove a sharp wedge between the UCI and Grand Tour organisers before they finally mended fences with the departure of Patrice Clerc as race director.
Teams and the UCI have tried to gain a piece of the television rights pie from the race organisers like Tour de France owners ASO for years, beginning with the advent of the ProTour and, more recently, with a right-sharing proposal between Giro d'Italia owners RCS Sport and the teams.
Former team co-owner Gerard Vroomen today cast doubt upon the importance of television rights in his new Cyclingnews blog entry.
Aside from income from television rights, the UCI has struggled to build its WorldTour brand in the shadow of the Grand Tour's own marketing machinery. The organisers refused to hold the ProTour leader's jersey ceremony at the end of their races, and the UCI subsequently scrapped the idea of the jersey when they re-branded it WorldTour.
Instead, the UCI has focused on branching out into new markets such as Australia and Asia, and Cookson seems determined to continue the push for greater stature in order to have better economic viability for the sport.
"We must improve the financial performance of professional cycling, and to do this we must increase its visibility, make it clearer and more attractive," Cookson said. "By doing so, we will have a more stable structure that will support all those who wish to contribute to the development of our sport in both historic and new territories."