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UCI to closely follow Team Sky sponsorship search

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Team Sky await the start

Team Sky await the start
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Team Sky line up on stage

Team Sky line up on stage
(Image credit: David Ramos/Getty Images)
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Egan Bernal bides his time in the Team Sky line up during Il Lombardia

Egan Bernal bides his time in the Team Sky line up during Il Lombardia
(Image credit: Getty Images)
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UCI president David Lappartient faced questions from the media

UCI president David Lappartient faced questions from the media
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

The UCI has told Cyclingnews it will closely follow the evolution of Team Sky after team owners and sponsors Sky and 21st Century Fox announced they would stop backing the team after the 2019 season.

Sky had been expected to fund Team Sky at least until 2021, but changes in ownership of the broadcaster have apparently led to a change of strategy. Sky was bought by Comcast in September for close to $40 billion after a fierce ownership battle with 21st Century Fox.

Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas and Giro d'Italia winner Chris Froome both have contracts that last until 2021, while Egan Bernal signed a five-year contract that runs until the end of 2023. Cyclingnews sources say that 10 Team Sky riders earn more than €1 million per season.

Team Sky have said they hope the team's future will be secured by the time the Tour de France comes around in July. However, changes in team ownership and major changes in sponsorship and team structure can result in rider contracts being annulled.

Team Sky are managed by the British-registered company Tour Racing Limited, which is 85 per cent owned by Sky, with 21st Century Fox owning the remaining 15 per cent. If they fail to find new owners and new title sponsors, or reach a deal with the riders involved, Tour Racing Limited could be liable for the outstanding rider contracts that go beyond 2019.

Under UCI reforms to the WorldTour, new three-year WorldTour licences will be awarded for 2020-2022, with the application process carried out in the second half of the 2019 season. The UCI will scrutinise all WorldTour applications and is ready to take action via its Licence Commission if needed.

"In relation with Sky's leaving as the team main sponsor, while it appears premature to make projections at this stage, the UCI will closely follow the evolution of the situation and assess whether concrete risks may be identified and take action if appropriate," the UCI told Cyclingnews in a brief statement.

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The UCI was forced to spend a significant amount as it fought a legal battle with Team Sky and Chris Froome after he returned an adverse analytical finding for salbutamol after the 2017 Vuelta a España. The UCI and the World Anti-Doing Agency (WADA) eventually cleared Froome and accepted his explanations for the high level of the asthma drug in his body.

UCI president David Lappartient has often criticised Team Sky and clashed with team manager Dave Brailsford during the Tour de France after Brailsford suggested the head of the global governing body had a "local French mayor kind of mentality."

Lappartient suggested that Brailsford's attack was not very clever and that he had criticized "35,000 mayors, and then all the people who support them." Team Sky subsequently came under fire from a section of French fans at the Tour de France.

Lappartient has not commented publicly on Sky's announcement, but the UCI congratulated Sky for its support of professional cycling in the past 10 years.

"Sky's presence in cycling since 2008 has contributed to the development of our sport, both in Great Britain and beyond," the UCI said.

"Team Sky has become a high-performing team on the road, clocking up success after success, including several victories at the Tour de France. We congratulate Sky and the confidence it has put in cycling over the last decade."