Extinction Rebellion stages anti-Shell protest at British Track Champs

Two people carried a banner through the stands at Newport's Geraint Thomas National Velodrome

Extinction Rebellion hold 'Get shell out of british cycling' banner
(Image credit: Extinction Rebellion)

Extinction Rebellion staged a protest against British Cycling’s sponsorship deal with oil and gas company Shell UK at the British National Track Championships on Saturday morning. 

Holding a banner that read ‘Get Shell out of British Cycling,’ two members of the climate activism group walked slowly along the front of the spectator stand at the Geraint Thomas National Velodrome.

They then re-took their seats, before a security guard asked them to hand over the banner and refrain from distributing leaflets - though the mild-mannered pair were told they could have it back when they left the velodrome, and were allowed to stay and watch the rest of Saturday’s session.

The protest occurred just after the GB women's B team completed their qualifying attempt in the team pursuit. 

Protester Sarah Wilding told Cycling Weekly: “We're here today because obviously we're really pissed off with British Cycling taking sponsorship from Shell. Shell is making profits from extracting oil and gas, while millions of people will be displaced, killed because of climate change.

“We really wanted to send a message to the board because we tried to go to the AGM last year, but they shut down the AGM and put it online.” 

She added that the group did stage a protest at the National Cycling Centre in Manchester on the day of the National Council meeting, where protesters climbed onto the entrance of the National Cycling Centre in Manchester with smoke bombs.

Wilding, a British Cycling member and women’s ride leader who said she had “volunteered for years”, urged people who agreed that the sponsorship should be dropped to sign the “On yer bike” petition, which she said currently stands at around 2,000 signatories, to try and exert pressure on British Cycling management.

“Some people have said we need to have that Shell sponsorship, but we feel there is a price to be paid for that sponsorship and there’s no cycling on a dead planet is there?” said Wilding.

Fellow protester Michael Bastow added: “It's very peaceful, we're not trying to disrupt the cycling here, we're just trying to get a message across.”

Mixed reception

Reception in track centre was mostly one of bemusement, while in the stands there was a select group of people who applauded the protest.

Some, however, were strongly against it. As Cycling Weekly spoke to the protesters, a member of the public berated them, saying riders had “trained all year for this”. Bastow then argued there was a "bigger picture", before the outraged individual left calling him a “c**t”.

When asked what the next step would be, Bastow said: “We've got six years before we hit the limit of the carbon budget that the United Nations says will go into cascade events in the world. With millions of people starving in Africa right now…. climate change is happening now.

“So we will be, immediately this year, picking up other events like this and the Glasgow World Championships.”

Barstow was keen to emphasise that they didn’t want to disrupt the actual racing itself.

This is not the first time Extinction Rebellion has targeted bike racing. Earlier this month, two members of the climate activism group were arrested in Adelaide, Australia while protesting at the Tour Down Under against the race's title sponsor, oil and gas company Santos.

In October last year, British Cycling signed an eight-year partnership with Shell, citing a shared commitment to "supporting Great Britain’s cyclists and para-cyclists through the sharing of world-class innovation and expertise; accelerating British Cycling’s path to net zero; and helping more – and wider groups of – people to ride, including ways to make cycling more accessible for disabled people".

Shell UK is one part of a global group of energy and petrochemicals companies that produce millions of barrels of oil equivalent each day. It is estimated that Shell’s activities are responsible for around 1% of global emissions each year.

Last October, David Bunch, Shell UK country chair, said the sponsorship deal "reflects the shared ambitions of Shell UK and British Cycling to get to net zero in the UK".

British Cycling told Cycling Weekly that it would not provide comment on the protest.

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Having trained as a journalist at Cardiff University I spent eight years working as a business journalist covering everything from social care, to construction to the legal profession and riding my bike at the weekends and evenings. When a friend told me Cycling Weekly was looking for a news editor, I didn't give myself much chance of landing the role, but I did and joined the publication in 2016. Since then I've covered Tours de France, World Championships, hour records, spring classics and races in the Middle East. On top of that, since becoming features editor in 2017 I've also been lucky enough to get myself sent to ride my bike for magazine pieces in Portugal and across the UK. They've all been fun but I have an enduring passion for covering the national track championships. It might not be the most glamorous but it's got a real community feeling to it.