Velon Chief Executive Graham Bartlett has described the idea of riders being forced to sign their rights away under a contract addendum as "nonsense".
Cyclingnews has received a leaked document, set out below, that was sent from Velon to its 11 member teams, clearly entitled 'addendum to the contract between team and rider'. It sets out requirements relating to image rights and the processing of personal data and requests that the rider signs and returns it.
While Bartlett doesn’t deny the existence of the document, he says that its purpose is not to force the riders into signing over their image rights. “What it has been positioned as is that Velon has created the document and told the teams to do it and told the riders they must sign it and it’s just not true. It’s a nice story, but, unfortunately, it is complete nonsense,” Bartlett told Cyclingnews. “Every rider contract has to agree with the UCI provisions and the national law of the country and is in line with the model contract.
“The important thing about that is that Velon is not involved in all of this, we don’t sign any contracts. We certainly don’t tell the teams of the riders, 'this is what your contract looks like'. This is a fundamental misunderstanding about what Velon is. Velon is an organisation that is wholly owned and controlled by its 11 shareholders. We do what they tell us to do. It’s not the other way around.”
However, Bartlett told Cyclingnews that the document in question was produced as a piece of advice for the 11 teams, or stakeholders, at their request. He says that as part of a project that the teams have developed to ‘bring the sport up to the level of other sports’ they wanted to look into their legal standing when it came to data rights and how they could apply it in races. As a result, Velon sought advice that it then returned to the teams. A second document was also produced to help the teams make an informed decision on whether or not to implement the changes.
“There was a central piece of knowledge that was made available to the teams for them to decide what they would like to do and how they would like to move forward in their discussions with their riders,” explained Bartlett. “That central piece of advice is a source that is available to the teams to, one, decide if they want to do that, two, look at their existing agreements and decide that they’ve already covered it or, three, change something and discuss it with the riders.
“Between each of the 11 teams I have no idea who has done what because that is between themselves and their riders.”
Cyclingnews requested the secondary document but Bartlett declined, stating that is was a private document between themselves and the teams.
A WorldTour team manager, who wishes to remain unnamed, told Cyclingnews: "It has all been blown out of proportion, Velon never ever said to any team to do what they suggest, the addendum was simply a discussion of how a team could go about including it in their contracts if they ever wanted to. From our side the document was never read in a way to apply to the riders, it was a simple suggestion in discussion."
That said, riders have recently been advised not to sign any addendum from Velon. The Cyclistes Professionels Associés (CPA), the association that protects the interests of riders, confirmed to Cyclingnews that they have encouraged riders to refrain from signing the document for the time being, and that they are now trying to establish discussions with Velon to go through the implications of the addendum in finer detail.
Velon’s main area of development this season has been on-board footage during races. It was suggested that the production of this document was a snap decision as a result of a disagreement with Tour de France organisers ASO over image rights, and an attempt to gain control over them. Bartlett denies that this is the case.
“We have an agreement with ASO for this year’s Tour de France and this year’s Vuelta a Espana. Go Pro had a sponsorship deal with ASO and Go Pro had a sponsorship deal with Velon,” he explained. “There was an agreement between ASO and Velon, which is why you saw it on Velon’s website and the team’s website and on Go Pro. We delivered with ASO and the Velon teams and riders some of the best footage of the year from that.”
Cyclingnews has contacted ASO and is awaiting a response.
When asked if riders, specifically those with higher earning potential, would be worried that signing over their image rights could be detrimental to them, Bartlett said: “The whole point of Velon is to put the teams and the riders at the centre of the economics of the sport. What we are trying to do is make the teams much more financially stable, and that can only benefit the riders.”