‘British Cycling has seriously let down its membership’ - Green Party slams British Cycling's Shell deal

Green Party spokesperson says governing body has also 'let down the British public'

Rhys Britton
The Shell logo was clearly visible on British riders' kit at the European Track Championships last week
(Image credit: SW Pix)

The Green Party has criticised British Cycling’s new eight-year partnership with fossil fuel giant Shell announced last week saying the governing body has “let down the British public”. 

The deal will see Shell fund British Cycling's efforts to reach net-zero and invest in expanding cycling opportunities for people with disabilities.

But Green Party culture spokesperson Jack Lenox told Cycling Weekly he was “stunned" by the announcement. 

"It beggars belief that one of Britain's leading cycling bodies thinks it's acceptable for their brand to be used to launder the public image of one of the world's largest fossil fuel companies.

“Shell is one of the highest polluting companies in the world. It is estimated to be responsible for 1.6% of global carbon emissions, and has so far invested much more in marketing year-on-year than it has on the transition to low-carbon and renewable energy.

“British Cycling has seriously let down its membership, which it doesn't appear to have consulted about this deal in any way.

He added: "It has also let down the British public – the organisation receives tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money, with £26.6 million of National Lottery funding from Sport England announced as recently as May this year.”

In the initial announcement last week, British Cycling said the partnership with the oil and gas provider would help them accelerate its path to net-zero. This is a claim which has been roundly criticised by environmentalists including Greenpeace UK which said at the time that the deal was “as absurd as beef farmers advising lettuce farmers on how to go vegan”. 

Elsewhere Sir Chris Hoy admitted in an interview with the BBC that while the partnership is “controversial” it could also give British Cycling “a voice” and help to persuade the oil giant to closely look at its environmental policies. 

When approached by Cycling Weekly in response to comments from the Green Party, a spokesperson for Shell said: "Shell has a clear target to become a net-zero emissions business by 2050. In the UK we are planning to invest up to £25 billion in the energy system over the next decade - more than 75% of this will be in low and zero-carbon products and services. 

"We look forward to working with British Cycling in areas including net zero, accessibility and innovation, as part of a long-term commitment to the sport”

ANGER AMONGST BRITISH CYCLING MEMBERS

Of over 40 members Cycling Weekly has spoken to in the last week most were critical of the partnership, though there was a significant minority who were in favour of it.

Some former members have even accused British Cycling of using disabled people to try and attempt to justify an “unethical” decision. Others have accused the governing body of getting involved in "sportswashing"

Writing on Twitter, Dr Harrie Larrington-Spencer, a former British Cycling member and member of a diversity and inclusion working group within the organisation said she had resigned from her post and posted a screenshot of the membership cancellation email she had received from British Cycling.

Larrington-Spencer shared her response to the message which said: “I particularly resent British Cycling using disabled people to try and justify their partnership with Shell. My response: ‘I am disabled. Climate change will disproportionately impact disabled people. Don’t use my community to try and justify this unethical decision.’"

Other former members echoed the opinion of Larrington-Spencer on the social media platform. One user even suggested that the move was a guilt tactic that “somehow shoe horns disabled people in to try to make you feel bad for not wanting to enable sportswashing/greenwashing.” 

Last week an open letter was sent to British Cycling asking them to renounce the new partnership and we asked our readers via Twitter if they had cancelled their British Cycling membership as a result of the decision to partner with Shell. 

While many were vociferously against the new agreement, others also expressed the dilemma it had personally left them in. Some members explained that withdrawing their membership would make their other commitments to the sport impossible. 

"WHERE'S THE FUSS ABOUT ESSO ON THE BELGIAN JERSEY?"

Remco Evenepoel after winning UCI Road World Championships with Belgium

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Club cyclist James Warrener was a member who chose not to cancel and referenced on Twitter other fossil fuel groups involved with cycling. In response to a Cycling Weekly tweet, Warrener said: “Where's the fuss about Esso on the Belgian jersey? Are people sending their 100% glasses to landfill as a result of Peter Sagan riding for Total?” 

When contacted by Cycling Weekly, Warrener said: “I get all of the other arguments, it makes perfect sense, but if Shell are making these multi-billion profits in a sustainable mode of transport then that’s got to be applauded right? If Tom Pidcock retains the Cyclocross world title and he’s got Shell on his kit then I think everyone might move on.” 

In response to the criticism from members that surrounded the new deal, a spokesperson for British Cycling said:  “This partnership makes a long-term commitment to cycling and will deliver real benefits across our sport. We understand there will be different opinions and are committed to answering any questions our members have.

“We will also share further details on our plans for the Limitless programme, and how we intend to take important steps towards net-zero, in the weeks and months ahead.”

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