The Cyclists' Alliance (TCA) has launched a new initiative called the Approved Agent Quality Standard that acts as a stamp of approval to officially recognise agents and representatives who adhere to a set of minimum standards and ethics that are outlined in its own charter. Emma Wade of Bespoke-M, Gijs van 't Westeinde of Zeloo, and Steve Fry of M2 Sports are the first three rider agents to have earned the recognition.
"The Approved Agent Quality Standard is yet another practical step towards raising professional standards and setting benchmarks across the peloton," said TCA co-founder Iris Slappendel. "Riders will be able to easily connect with ‘Approved Agents’ and ultimately improve their opportunities and economic situations."
According to TCA, its Agent Charter requires the agent or representative to confirm that they are committed to the advancement of women’s professional cycling, the promotion of women’s participation in cycling, and to standing up to and speaking out against any inequality or the harassment and intimidation of women in sport.
A recent TCA annual survey revealed 77 per cent of riders sign their contracts without any legal advice or under agent review. The Approved Agent Quality Standard, which builds on the existing Contract Management Platform, aims to ensure riders have access to agent representation and an understanding of the role of an agent and their services.
The new initiative was launched with Wade, Van 't Westeinde and Fry because they are passionate about improving the economic and commercial interests of women in cycling, according to TCA.
“The work that The Cyclists’ Alliance do in supporting the women’s peloton is invaluable and this is just the latest innovation that I am delighted that they have introduced," Wade said.
"Having an approved standard for agents working in women’s cycling means that riders will know that we have been vetted and will be held to the highest standards. I hope it means that more riders will reach out for help if they need it and for support to increase their opportunities. Obviously, I’m honoured to be one of the first agents accepted to the approved list.”
Fry added, "I am delighted and honoured to be one of the first agents recognised by The Cyclists' Alliance for this Approved Agent Quality Standard. I have long been a passionate advocate of the opportunity that exists within women’s cycling. This is a great initiative by The Cyclists' Alliance and I hope it gives riders confidence that there are experts in women’s cycling out there to help them maximise their opportunities both on and off the bike."
Agents can either apply to TCA or they may be referred to the association by an existing rider. TCA then does its due diligence, research, and obtains at least two independent recommendations from current or recently former riders. Prospective agents also need to answer a questionnaire and sign a declaration, which sets certain minimum standards. TCA approval can be revoked at its discretion in the event it appears they haven’t reached these standards.
"Once they have been selected, they appear on the TCA members only platform with their details, their referrals and a statement from them as to why they support women’s cycling," said a representative of TCA told Cyclingnews.
Members of the association will now be able to access an ‘Approved Agent’ platform that provides details on TCA-approved agents, biographies, and rider recommendations. It will also provide resources aimed to educate riders as to when they may need an agent and the benefits they can bring.
Since the inception of the Women's WorldTour in 2016 followed by additional reforms this year, the professionalisation of women's cycling has improved. The eight top-tier teams adhere to standardised contract reforms and are required to provide a minimum salary and other health benefits. However, the second-tier teams are not required to provide a minimum salary to riders.
The majority of the women's peloton do not work with an agent, and likely could not afford agent services or legal representation. However, there have been more riders seeking legal advice before signing their employment contracts, which increased from 16 per cent in 2019 to 23 per cent in 2020, according to the survey.
Female athletes work with agents to help them negotiate contract clauses, salaries, endorsement deals, and brand and media opportunities, and to find a team that can provide the riders with what they need, and vice versa.
In an interview with Cyclingnews for Transfer mechanics: The inner workings of the women's market, Slappendel noted several essential reasons to work with an agent, such as negotiating on behalf of the rider, checking over contracts to make sure they are correct, and generally providing the rider with essential knowledge about what they are entitled to in their contracts.
"We work together with agents, and we know they have a good track record in women's cycling. Working with a good agent gives the rider a bit more knowledge and power when it comes to their contract rights," Slappendel said.
Rider-agents currently need to undergo accreditation at the UCI, however, Van 't Westeinde said the extra step of becoming approved by TCA is important because it focuses on the specific issues female athletes face when negotiating contracts and their representation needs in professional cycling.
“We think The Cyclists Alliance in general and especially this 'Approved Agent Quality Standard' is a very good initiative because it focuses in an independent way on a specific part within the sport and meets the demand of this group. Both the thought behind the initiative and the way of acting are very appealing to us and think that it is an example for several authorities within the world of cycling," Van 't Westeinde.
In February, TCA secured a grant from Rapha Foundation in the amount of $75,000 in funding. The association said that it will use the funds to help deliver a new seven-point plan over four years to revolutionise the compensation and culture of professional women's cycling.
The Cyclists' Alliance advocates for minimum standards:
- All riders to earn a minimum salary
- All riders to receive maternity leave (not just for WWT riders)
- All racing and training expenses covered
- Paid vacation days and a mandatory minimum vacation block
- All support team members to be qualified, checked and professional
- All riders to receive life insurance, permanent total disability insurance and repatriation insurance as standard
- A universal standardised approach to race safety
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