The chances of Formula One driver Fernando Alonso creating a major professional team for 2015 are hanging by a thread, with time running out for registration with the UCI and no sign that Alonso's management company, Novo Group Holdings, has signed riders, created an infrastructure or struck a deal with an existing team.
Spanish newspaper AS has reported that the team will not happen for 2015 because the team did not requested a WorldTour or even Professional Continental licence before the October 1 deadline. However UCI President Brian Cookson has told Cyclingnews that a short window of time remains for Alonso to apply for a licence, register rider contracts and pay a bank guarantee. UCI rules allow teams to apply after the October 1 deadline by paying a daily fine. The UCI issues its assessment of licence applications on November 1, with teams able to appeal to the Licence Committee if they are refused.
“The deadline for final registration of Professional Continental teams is later this month. I think we can be a little bit more flexible if there's a serious Professional Continental proposal. Let's see what they come up with. It's in their hands now. We've done everything we can,” Cookson told Cyclingnews.
No concrete signs of sponsorship funding
Cookson, like everyone in professional cycling, was ready to welcome Alonso to the sport but the governing body, teams, riders and agents have been irritated by the way Alonso and his representatives have failed to follow and respect the rules that govern the sport.
In the last 12 months there have been several reports that Alonso had major sponsorship in place thanks to his huge public profile and links to major brands via Formula One. There were several reports that a Dubai-based sponsor had agreed to a five-year deal but no announcement was ever made, despite consultant team manager Paolo Bettini saying a sponsor would be named before the Spring Classics.
Cyclingnews understands that Alonso never offered any sponsorship funding during talks with existing teams in the summer. It seems Alonso only offered an eventual share of profits from merchandising and help to find a sponsor but in return wanted a significant equity stake from a team. The teams approached all refused to give up an equity stake and have now found sponsorship from other sources.
Since talking to riders at Tirreno-Adriatico and several agents during the spring, Bettini has kept a low profile. Several rider agents have told Cyclingnews that he contacted them as recently as last week insisting there was still a chance the team would go ahead. However most agents have secured contracts for their riders at other teams. No riders appear to have signed contracts with the Alonso team.
Cyclingnews understands that Bettini has recently ended his links with the Alonso project and is looking for a management role with another team. Bettini has refused to answer calls from Cyclingnews.
Nothing new from Novo Group Holdings
On September 30, one-day before the initial UCI deadline for team registration, Alonso announced he had created a sports management company called Novo Group Holdings with Nathan Pillai named as Managing Partner. His personal manager Lucia Garcia Abad was named as a director.
In a carefully worded press release, Alonso said: “I’m thrilled to be part of this new venture. I get to indulge my passion for cycling and obsession with technology and design with likeminded people. We see a window of opportunity and plan to kick it wide open!”
Since then Alonso has failed to act.
Pillai has confirmed to Cyclingnews that Novo Group Holdings did not apply for a WorldTour licence but insisted that the team's plans to create a team have not been compromised.
Time, the final UCI deadlines and application process will tell if Team Alonso will exist in 2015.