Ineos is expected to be confirmed as the new sponsor of Team Sky within the next 48 hours, according to a report in the Daily Mail on Monday. The petrochemical company is owned by Britain's richest man, Jim Ratcliffe.
Last week, Cyclingnews reported that the team's future had been assured for 2020 and that Ineos was manager Dave Brailsford's preferred option. The Briton had also held talks in Colombia recently regarding possible backing from state-controlled oil and gas company Ecopetrol.
According to the Guardian, the budget of Team Ineos will be close to £40 million and thus exceed that of Team Sky, meaning that the squad will likely be in a position to retain a roster that includes Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas, four-time Tour winner Chris Froome and the emerging Egan Bernal.
Sky announced its decision to end its backing of the team in December of last year, following Comcast's takeover of the company in September. The final years of Sky's relationship with the squad had been turbulent ones, marked by a damning parliament select committee report into Team Sky’s stance on doping, as well as the fall-out from Froome's adverse analytical finding for salbutamol at the 2017 Vuelta a España. Anti-doping proceedings against Froome were dropped on the eve of last year's Tour de France.
Ratcliffe is reportedly a keen cyclist, and his backing of Team Sky was welcomed by Bradley Wiggins, who opened the team's remarkable sequence of success on the Tour in 2012.
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- New Colombia-backed Team Sky very unlikely, says Dave Brailsford
"It's an ideal situation for Dave Brailsford because he can continue running out this team with all his plans and philosophies and he's answerable, you'd imagine, to one man who it's his money and it'll certainly help that team," Wiggins said on Eurosport on Sunday.
"Dave will want to retain control. It's Dave's way in terms of the way he manages the team, the way he's set the team up and I think he would have been reluctant to have another multi-national company that came in and wanted it for the advertisement, but would want the control."
The switch from Sky to the petrochemical company Ineos will not be without its contradictions, however. Team Sky wore a specially designed kit on the 2018 Tour to promote the company’s Ocean Rescue campaign, which called for an end to single use plastic. Ratcliffe and Ineos have lobbied to reduce restrictions on fracking and pushed for the chemicals sector to be exempted from paying green taxes.
The Guardian recently reported that Ratcliffe, a prominent backer of Brexit, has moved to Monaco in order to save up to £4 billion in tax.