The CEO of the Chinese Global Cycling Project, Tim Kay, has said that he would be open to taking over the Team Sky set up when the broadcaster pulls out at the end of 2019. Kay is currently in the process of setting up what would be the first Chinese WorldTour team for the 2020 season.
Kay hopes to create a self-funding team by developing a number of businesses, in which the riders and investors could also be shareholders. It would require a collaboration with the Chinese Federation, but Kay believes the project could work with the current Team Sky structure.
"Nothing has been spoken about, but I would look at the opportunity with some seriousness," Kay told Cyclingnews. "[The project] could be done with the current Sky setup."
Team Sky announced on Wednesday morning that it is looking for a new sponsor after Sky decided it would pull its sponsorship at the end of the 2019 season. Kay, a businessman, called Brailsford an 'idol' and said that he felt sorry for him following the news.
"I feel sorry for Dave Brailsford with everything that he's done for cycling. I've never met him but I've got a lot of respect for him. He's a bit of an idol, he looks like a decent guy," Kay said. "I'm good friends with Shane Sutton, and I know what they've done and how they've done things. For me, I feel for him, he's done everything right, he set everything up right."
Team Sky currently operates by far the biggest budget in cycling, with as many as 10 riders believed to be on salaries of over €1 million a year. With several other teams struggling to find backers, it could prove a tough time as they look to secure their finances for the 2020 season ahead of next year's Tour de France.
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- Team Sky set 2019 Tour de France as deadline to find new sponsors
- Team Sky created 'brilliant sponsor template' but may struggle to find replacement
- Chris Froome: We are not finished by any means
- Acquadro confident Brailsford can save Team Sky
- Geraint Thomas: Sky pulling out is amazing opportunity for other sponsors
Kay has had plenty of experience in the field over the last year as he works to provide the financial basis of his own team, though he believes that James Murdoch, who played a major role in Team Sky's funding, will help the team secure their future.
"These deals don't get written overnight. I'm 14/15 months into mine, it takes ages. That kind of money doesn't get signed off and people don't just sign these checks off," Kay told Cyclingnews.
"Sky is a 12.5 billion turnover company, so 30 million a year is pocket change. So, to find another 30 million you would need to go big again and find something like Amazon. Why would Amazon advertise into a market that they already control? They don't need cycling to promote them, that's the problem. That's why China is a great opportunity, because these guys want to break into these markets. Amazon has never broken into the Chinese market, and my platform gives them this opportunity to break those barriers down.
"They have a lot of doors, James Murdoch loves the team. There were rumours of him going to Tesla. Would Tesla support them, possibly? To a billionaire, 30 million is nothing, but would they sell more cars?"
While Kay hopes that his team will eventually fund itself, Kay needs to look for the initial investment to get things off the ground. He hopes to operate on a similar level to Team Sky, but it is hard work to part investors with their money.
"I want to be a self-funding team by 2029, and my figures allow me to do it with a budget of 40 million," he said. "I'm looking for close to the Sky funding, 320 to 400 million over 10 years, but the only way that I've been able to speak about this kind of money is on the fact that I can limit their risk by giving their money back. It will be a return on investment that I've produced, so if cycling did go wrong then I could still give them their money back."
On what it would mean if Team Sky were to leave the sport, Kay says: "It would be the biggest thing ever."
Born in Ireland to a cycling family and later moved to the Isle of Man, so there was no surprise when I got into the sport. Studied sports journalism at university before going on to do a Masters in sports broadcast. After university I spent three months interning at Eurosport, where I covered the Tour de France. In 2012 I started at Procycling Magazine, before becoming the deputy editor of Procycling Week. I then joined Cyclingnews, in December 2013.
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