Broken promises and unpaid salaries: SkyDive boss slams 'unacceptable' treatment

Riders and staff in the United Arab Emirates-based cycling team SkyDive Dubai have not been paid

Skydive Dubai in the Elite Mens TTT of the 2016 World Road Championships
(Image credit: Graham Watson)

Riders and staff from the SkyDive Dubai team have not been paid since April, Cycling Weekly has learned. A situation which the team says is "unacceptable".

You may think that a team based in the oil-rich Persian Gulf should not have to worry about being paid, but SkyDive Dubai's cyclists and staff have seen the well dry up.

The squad is part of Al-Ahli Club that includes a top football team. It began in 2014 as a UCI Continental team and dreamed of taking the next step with 2013 Italian champion Ivan Santaromita and former Liquigas/Cannondale director Alberto Volpi. Now, they simply want their promised wages.

"It's unacceptable, yes, but not only for cycling – also for other occupations, including journalism," Sports Director Alberto Volpi told Cycling Weekly. "My bosses in Dubai are serious, but they have the same payment problem."

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The Italian will hop over to neighbouring island Bahrain and work with WorldTour team Bahrain-Merida, with star Vincenzo Nibali, in 2017. It will be the first top-level team from the Middle East.

"The problem is bigger than the cycling team, it’s the club, but I can't talk about that. The Al-Ahli Club involves the top-level football team, basketball, baseball, and the cycling is in that. All of those sports are in that club, 100 or so people are waiting to be paid."

Francisco Mancebo

Spaniard Francisco Mancebo is one of the SkyDive Dubai team's most prominent riders
(Image credit: Graham Watson)

The former cyclist and longtime sports director keeps faith and says he is "hopeful" those in Dubai will meet their commitments. Some payments were made to the team in September. The 2016 roster included Santaromita, Francisco Mancebo and seven local UAE cyclists.

However, the Association of Italian professional riders (ACCPI) warned that if payments do not arrive in 10 days then it will take the case to the cyclists' union and cycling's governing body, the UCI.

"Unfortunately, we condemn the situation that is occurring in Team Skydive," the association wrote in a letter. "The Italian riders, as well as the technical staff, have been waiting since April for their salaries as per their signed contracts.

"There have been broken promises to date from the manager and legal representative of the team. So we want to inform you that the riders have always done their job without ever putting a bad light on the name of the sponsors and the national federation. We urge an intervention by the team responsible for solving the situation."

The team continued to race regardless of the problems. It counted 10 wins in 2016, with Palini taking the biggest one in the Tour de Langkawi.

Santaromita, formerly with team Orica, will race for Nippo-Vini Fantini in 2017. Palini will join Androni. Volpi said SkyDive's future is uncertain.