Can Cannondale-Drapac really be saved by crowd-funding?

Can a WorldTour team run on money sourced from the public? Crowd-funding is an avenue that Cannondale-Drapac are exploring after sponsorship fell through for 2018

Cannondale-Drapac is turning to a crowd-funding to keep its team afloat in 2018 after its potential sponsor fell through, but questions remain on how and if it would work.

On Saturday, the team announced it released its riders of contractual obligations so that they can find employment for 2018 in the case a new title sponsor fails to materialise. In the meantime, a Kickstarter-type fund raising website popped up with the support of fans.

“It’s quite a lot of money that is needed,” Cannondale-Drapac sports director Tom Southam told Cycling Weekly.

“I know people are working on it flat out. If it comes up who would be great in fantastic that crowds have funded the team.”

>>> ‘We are now literally racing for our jobs’: Cannondale riders react to shock sponsorship announcement

General Manager Jonathan Vaughters was in talks with a potential new sponsor, our sources say Unibet, but it fell through. In an interview, he said he needed someone new to step in and cover the $7 million short fall if they are to operate on a $16 budget for 2018.

The team includes stars Rigoberto Urán, second in the Tour de France behind Chris Froome (Sky), Pierre Rolland and Michael Woods.

Vaughters over the weekend posted a link to the Slipstream Sports management website with the crowd-funding details.

The post read, “When we shared the news of our uncertain future, #GreenArgyle fans responded with an incredible show of support.” And goes on to ask people to register and show their intent to support the team.

Rigoberto Uran placed second in the Tour de France for Cannondale-Drapac. Photo: Yuzuru Sunada

“I don’t feel super wonderful about using people’s hard-earned money to pay professional athletes,” Vaughters told the Denver Post. “But my hope is that a global corporate partner sees this and says, ‘Holy moly, this is impressive and we want our brand to be associated with a team that is this loved’.”

Vaughters is in a race against time because the more time passes, the more likely his star riders will find new teams. Without them, he will not be able to entice sponsors or field a WorldTour team. The answer could partly come in the funding project.

>>> Budget caps for teams like Sky not the answer to Cannondale-Drapac issues, says Chris Froome

“It’s an interesting concept,” American cyclist Joe Dombrowski said before starting the 10th Vuelta a España stage. “I know as much about it as everyone else does. I don’t know if it can close that total budget shortfall or if it would just augment another sponsor stepping in.

“In the NFL, the Green Bay Packers sell stock in the team. You could say it’s more or less crowd-funding. You probably can’t copy something like that to cycling but it’s interesting that a successful sport like American football has a different business model and generated a large sum of money basically from the fan base.”

The Slipstream team began in 2007 and earned a wildcard invitation to the Giro d’Italia in 2008, where they won the opening team time trial. Over the years, they have won Paris-Roubaix, stages in every grand tour and the Giro d’Italia overall title.

“I’ve only been here for six months but I see the people really care for this team,” continued Southam.

“The way things went for the last couple years with results, people were pissed off. Somebody said to me that that means of people care care for the team and want to see it do well. It is team that people like.

“It was a team that when I wasn’t in it, I liked it as well. It’s always been the team that people tend the like. If any team will be able to do it it will be this one.”

Supporters can join into the team for only $25. More details should follow on the website on the team’s tiered offers.

“Crowd-funding is becoming more prevalent. You see bands making albums that way. With things like Patreon,” added Southam.

“I pay around ten quid a month for guy to be an artist. The whole music industry is changing. I don’t know if that will work in sport, though.”

“For it to be successful the founders have to have some sort of benefit out of it,” Dombrowski said. “One thing is transparency, where’s your money going and how does this work? I may love a team but I just don’t want to give my money away and have no idea where it goes.

“And on the other end, there needs to be some benefit to the shareholders so that they feel that they really are part of the team and get the value out of it. I am sure they can brainstorm come up with some good ideas.”