WorldTour reform hits stalemate

Teams and organisers unable to agree on structural changes to sport

Cyclingnews understands that the major reforms to the structure of professional cycling have reached a virtual stalemate but the discussions have not been shelved as suggested by reports in the Dutch and Belgian media.

According to several sources that Cyclingnews spoke to but who do not want to be identified, the teams are demanding a new business model for the sport and want a share of any future or ‘upstream’ incomes generated by new technology, marketing and innovation, so they become less dependent on direct sponsorship. Tinkoff-Saxo owner Oleg Tinkov laid out his opinion on the matter today on his Facebook page.

However it seems that race organisers and especially Tour de France organiser Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), are apparently against giving up their dominant position in the sport. Most race organisers have historically refused to share their revenue with the teams.

The teams are against the idea of introducing a relegation and promotion system for the WorldTour, while race organisers are struggling to accept major changes to the calendar that could result in races losing WorldTour status to make space for new, innovative race formats that generate better income or wealthy new races such as the Dubai Tour and the new end of season Abu Dhabi Tour.

All the stakeholders acknowledge that major changes are needed to the structure of professional cycling to make it more attractive and financially stable. But for now at least, nobody is willing to give up what they have and the UCI has been unable to broker an agreement, creating the current stalemate.

Cyclingnews has seen a letter sent by UCI president Brian Cookson and David Lappartient, of the Professional Cycling Council, that calls on the Stakeholders Working Group to finalising the reform project by the time of the Professional Cycling Council meeting in June 2015. This objective was set at the UCI Management committee meeting at the Tabor cyclo-cross world championships on January 30.

Stakeholders invited to the Geneva meeting included Yann Le Moenner and Alain Krzentowski (the CEO and former number two of ASO, respectively), RCS Sport Director General Paolo Bellino and Cycling Director Mauro Vegni, Luuc Eisenga and Alfonso Galilea of the AIGCP teams association, Graham Bartlett of the Velon teams association, Giant-Alpecin manager Iwan Spekenbrink, Vincent Lavenu, the manager of the AG2R La Mondiale team, Charly Mottet and Jean-François Pescheux - formerly of ASO, representing the race organisers association AIOCC. Gilbert Van Fraeyenhoven of Flanders Classics, GP Quebéc and Montréal organiser Serge Arsenault and Oliver Senn of the Tour de Suisse are also listed as stakeholders. Lavenu and Senn are new members of the Working Group.

The Stakeholders Working Group reportedly held a six-hour meeting last Tuesday in Geneva, another is planned for May and other informal talks are ongoing. However, there is no sign that the stalemate will be resolved.

The UCI confirmed to Cyclingnews that the meeting had taken place but refused to reveal any further details. Other stakeholders refused to comment on the meeting or on any possible outcome of the stalemate. However everyone is aware that time running out for the reforms to be in place for the 2017 season. This leaves race organisers and the teams uncertain of their futures. No race or team has a WorldTour licence beyond 2016, making it difficult for anyone in the sport to secure long-term sponsorship.

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