Minimum wage for female cyclists could be counterproductive, says Brian Cookson

Brian Cookson says women at the UCI have warned against introducing a minimum wage for female cyclists as it could lead to fewer professional teams

Brian Cookson, Track World Cup 2013-14, Manchester

UCI president Brian Cookson says introducing a minimum wage for female cyclists would be ‘counterproductive’, and may lead to more professional teams reverting to amateur status.

Upon election in September 2013, Cookson promised to bring in the minimum wage within 12 months, but has reportedly been advised against it by women at the UCI.

Speaking at an event at the Rapha store in Manchester on Thursday (November 13) he said: “The women who have been involved in the Women’s Road Commission have told me that the result of that would not be 500 women suddenly being paid the minimum wage; they’ve told me that actually most of the teams that currently present themselves as professional teams would fold or re-register as amateur teams, so they wouldn’t end up paying those women anything at all anyway.

“It’s a bit of a chick and an egg [situation], I’m told, and passing a simple rule at this point in time could potentially be counterproductive. But it does remain an important objective.”

In the male UCI WorldTour, the minimum wage for a rider is €35,000 (£27,800), whereas elite female cyclists reportedly earn just €20,000 (£16,000) per year.

Commonwealth champion Lizzie Armitstead called on Cookson to introduce a minimum wage to the women’s scene back in October.

But Cookson advised that women’s races need to become longer and more difficult to make them more exciting to watch and ride before any plans for wages and a women’s Tour de France can be introduced.

“There is no reason why women’s road races should not be harder and longer,” he said. “Most women’s races are well within the distances in the regulations and it’s certainly something that we could look at.”

He added: “The Tour de France organisers tried [a long women’s race] to a lesser extent before and it was a disaster. If you suddenly did it one year it would be counterproductive, it would put back the development of women’s cycling…I would like to see a week-long women’s Tour de France, a challenging event, some mountain stages and so on. I think these things need to be changed incrementally.”

Source: Guardian

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Stuart Clarke is a News Associates trained journalist who has worked for the likes of the British Olympic Associate, British Rowing and the England and Wales Cricket Board, and of course Cycling Weekly. His work at Cycling Weekly has focused upon professional racing, following the World Tour races and its characters.