Belgian sports economist Wim Lagae has warned that rider salaries could fall by between 30-35 per cent in 2021 due to the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus on sports sponsorship, while rider agent Yannick Prevost has advised riders to accept contract early offers rather than hold out for the hope for a better deal.
A number of men's and women's teams have cut costs and especially rider salaries as sponsors have struggled to respect their contracts for the 2020 season due to the financial impact of COVID-19. With almost 1,000 WorldTour and ProTeam riders out of contract at the end of the season, that has left a number of riders on reduced income and huge uncertainty about the future.
Chris Froome is arguably the biggest name on the transfer market for 2021, with Cyclingnews revealing he is even considering a mid-season move from Team Ineos and has several teams interested in signing him for 2021. Also on the market are Adam and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) and Maximilian Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe).
Even riders with contracts for 2021 could face possible salary cuts, as teams try to adapt and survive on lower sponsorship income in the years ahead. Some riders and their agents may be able to secure extended deals for lower annual salaries but with a number of teams facing closure, the market is expected to be awash with riders of all kinds, forcing down salaries.
"The latest figures that we have available show that sports marketing budgets worldwide will decrease by 30 to 35 percent," Lagae, who is an expert on cycling economics and works for the KU Leuven University, told Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad.
"It'd be strange if this were different for the sponsors of cycling teams. Football still earns a lot through media rights and income from ticketing but that's not the case in cycling with the current weak business model."
"After thirty years of constant growth, wages are set to fall back to the level of ten, fifteen years ago. Even existing contracts will be renegotiated with some teams and we should expect an average reduction of thirty per cent. The bargaining power no longer rests with the riders."
Belgian Classics rider Oliver Naesen is one of only a few riders to have announced a contract extension in recent weeks, as the sport emerges from the COVID-19 lockdown and team manager and agents begin to negotiate new deals.
However, some teams are still awaiting confirmation of their 2021 funding from their sponsors and this is slowing the rider transfer market.
Naesen works with the ISEA Sports Management company, who represent a number of Belgian riders, including Wout van Aert and Victor Campenaerts. Yannick Prevost, who helped broker Naesen's new deal that runs until the end of 2023, advised riders to move quickly to secure a contract for 2021.
"I'm already anticipating a recession," Prevost predicted.
"We have already advised our riders not to wait if they have a good offer. Nearly eighty per cent of a team's budget goes on wages. So if those budgets fall, wages will drop too."
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