Details of Rothschild's cycling 'breakaway league' revealed

The television helicopter gets up close to the peloton

The television helicopter gets up close to the peloton (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Cyclingnews has obtained information from documents relating to the formation of Rothschild's and the Gifted Group's potential cycling 'breakaway league'.

Earlier this month this site reported that the financial group Rothschild put together a proposal for a cycling breakaway league in the early stages of 2011. New information backs this up but also sheds light on the financial figures involved, the number of teams needed to trigger investment, a new race calendar, and the clear outmanoeuvring of the UCI.

The league, which has been branded as World Series Cycling (WSC), sets out a "formation of a new, truly global racing competition, WSC, bringing together 14 cycling teams, or franchises, in ten newly created racing events".

WSC is a Luxembourg-registered company, and a joint venture between teams, the Gifted Group LTD and an investor, in this case Rothschild.

The proposed league claims to "put teams at the heart of the event". Also included in the 12 page proposal is an outlined "partnership between the 14 teams, a new investor and the Gifted Group".

Importantly, and key to any chances of a breakaway league getting off the ground is the role of ASO, owners of the Tour de France. The Rothschild documents fail to mention the sport's biggest organiser but instead lays out a new formation of races, as well as a new championships structure for riders and teams.

Race structure

The exact structure of the WSC racing calendar revolves around 40 days of racing in ten newly created four-day events, with six of them based outside of Europe. There would be 16 races in Europe in total.

There is room for the existing three Grand Tours, all of which remain three weeks in length, while there are six Classics.

However the four-day events appear to be key. Each would be structured around a time trial, sprint stage, rolling stage and mountain stage and would lead to a final classification to determine the best rider and team in the world at the end of the season.


One of the biggest reasons why there has been a call for a new cycling league revolves around the finances within the sport, with teams unhappy with the lack of television revenue coming their way, as well as the uncertainty attached to the current sponsorship model.

The Rothschild model argues that its league would generate close to 39 million Euro by 2017, from an initial 17 million in 2013. The cash flow is centred around television and media contracts and incomes generated from centralising media and sponsorship deals.

Under the proposal there would be a 64 per cent share hold or stake held by the 14 teams, giving each team, or franchise, 4.6 per cent. The franchises would invest 3.5 million Euro, or 250,000 Euro each, with 550,000 coming from Gifted and a major stake of 20 million Euro from Rothschild.

Each year participating teams would receive a guaranteed 1.5 million Euro as well as a dividend of the annual stream of revenue from media and television rights.

Finally, the proposal theoretically envisages profits amassing 85 Euro million within five years, with the total project worth 330 million by that point.

UCI president Pat McQuaid called the proposal "unworkable" last week. "The whole project was unrealistic," he said.

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Daniel Benson

Daniel Benson was the Editor in Chief at between 2008 and 2022. Based in the UK, he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he ran the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.