This week's reports have unveiled a strategic initiative aimed at revolutionizing the economic framework of professional cycling, with key industry players at the helm of this transformative endeavour. Jumbo-Visma's CEO Richard Plugge, alongside affluent supporter of Soudal-QuickStep, Zdenek Bakala, is orchestrating a plan to funnel substantial venture capital into the sport, addressing the progressively challenging financial landscape.
While specific details of the plan remain under wraps, insights were shared during a discussion on the 'Radio Cycling' podcast featuring Plugge and Jonathan Vaughters, CEO of EF Education-EasyPost. The overarching goal is to restructure the sport, amalgamating various teams and events into a viewer-friendly format and eliminating any existing race overlaps in the current world.
The foundational principles of this initiative echo the establishment of the World in 2004, ensuring premier riders and teams participate in a consistent series of races throughout the calendar year. However, as Vaughters highlighted, this new venture distinguishes itself with an innovative approach, aiming to package races together to optimize broadcasting rights sales.
The generated revenue would then be equitably distributed amongst the teams. This strategy resembles previous endeavours of creating a breakaway league, which Bakala notably supported in 2011.
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This time, however, the momentum seems stronger, with Reuters reporting active interest solicitation from investors by a consulting group, aiming to raise €600 million.
The target is to incorporate RCS Sport, the organizers behind Giro d'Italia, into this new framework. However, as history has shown, both with the UCI's ProTour (2004-2008) and the attempted breakaway league of 2012, the involvement and approval of Tour de France organizers, ASO, are pivotal.
Plugge has initiated conversations with ASO's strategy head, Yann Moenner, and anticipates further discussions with ASO and UCI in the immediate future. "Our real competitors are global sports giants like football, rugby, NFL, and Formula 1.
We must be 'future ready' to ensure cycling's growth and prosperity," emphasized Plugge. Vaughters, having recently navigated his team through financial turmoil, expressed his unequivocal support for the proposal, underscoring its potential to stabilize the sport's economic foundation for the benefit of all involved parties.
Despite potential resistance from specific teams and internal disputes within the Association International des Groupes Cyclistes Professionals (AIGCP), Vaughters and Plugge remain steadfast, viewing this initiative as an indispensable step forward for the future of professional cycling.