The UCI has announced that its Management Committee finally approved the key principles for the reform of men’s professional road cycling.
A major shake-up to the WorldTour and other aspects of men’s professional cycling has been under discussion for several years, with various proposals created and dismissed as the UCI, teams and race organisers tried to thrash out an agreement.
Cyclingnews revealed in June how the planned reforms had left the key power brokers or stakeholders of the sport divided, with most of the UCI, the Velon teams and some race organisers such as RCS Sport broadly in favour of the changes. Tour de France organiser ASO was firmly against any major reform that strengthened the position of the teams and other races, with several influential members of the Management Committee, including French UCI Vice President David Lappartient, pushing back against approval in June and calling for more consultation and further details of the impact of the reforms.
ASO turned belligerent as the vote approached in June, going as far as threatening to remove their races from the 2016 WorldTour calendar if the reforms were approved. ASO has always tried hard to oppose any changes that could weaken its dominance of the sport and its business interests. It is not clear if ASO has now accepted the reforms or if it intends to continue to fight the UCI’s plans.
The full details and workings of the reform are not yet clear. However, the UCI confirmed that a maximum of 18 WorldTour teams will be granted for the 2017-2019 period, creating the closed system that was so strongly apposed by ASO. The UCI hopes the three-year licences will help “encourage investment leading to increased stability in team structures”. Licences will be granted based on ethical, financial, sporting, administrative and organisational criteria.
The UCI confirmed that teams will also have to adhere to strict Cahier des Charges rules on how they run and manage their riders and staff. Similar rules have been trialed with several teams this year and imposed on the troubled Astana team after its series of doping cases. Similar rules will be introduced for lower-level teams in 2018.
The UCI said that a limited number of new races will be added to the WorldTour from 2017, with an application process opening later in 2015. The UCI said in its statement that it hopes “the addition of new high quality events will help the UCI WorldTour reinforce its global profile as the elite series of the sport”. Race organisers will also have to respect strengthened Cahier des Charges.
New ranking systems for men’s professional cycling will also be introduced, with the ranking becoming universal across all three levels of the sport (WorldTour, Professional Continental and Continental). Individual specialist rankings would also be considered to reward the top climber, top sprinter, top one-day rider and top stage racer.
UCI President Brian Cookson has worked hard to push through the reform, convincing several federation presidents and Management Committee members of the need for change.
“These are important changes that will help to further enhance men’s professional road cycling and aide its global growth and development,” Cookson claimed in a long statement issued by the UCI announcing the changes.
“I would like to thank all stakeholders for their positive and constructive approach to this reform process. I believe that the measures announced today will help to bring greater stability and growth to men’s professional road cycling, while also opening the door to greater technological innovation and fan engagement.
“By implementing these key reforms, the UCI is sending a strong signal to cycling fans, broadcasters and commercial partners about the continued improvements in the governance and organisational structures of our sport. This is an important moment for professional cycling and another major step forward as we continue to restore trust and credibility.”
There was no initial reaction from ASO or other against the reforms process.
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