Former UCI and British Cycling president Brian Cookson has said that he has not ruled out returning to cycling in a governance position, despite saying that he is now a ‘nobody’.
Speaking to City A.M., the 66-year-old from Lancashire said “now, I am a nobody” when reflecting on the abrupt end to his tenure as UCI president when he was ousted in last year’s election in favour of Frenchman David Lappartient.
Cookson fell victim to political pressure within the UCI due to his links with British Cycling and Team Sky, both of which have come under scrutiny in the past year. British Cycling was at the centre of allegations of sexism and bullying, and Team Sky were embroiled in a furore over the contents of a jiffy bag delivered to the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné.
Cookson was president of British Cycling for 17 years prior to being elected at UCI president in 2013. He was diplomatic when asked about three recent appointments at the top of organisation: chief executive Julie Harrington, chairman Frank Slevin and performance director Stephen Park.
Some concerns have been raised over their experience in cycling. Harrington came from the Football Association, Slevin from the House of Fraser and Park from the world of sailing.
Commenting on Slevin, Cookson said: “I think he has got what appears to be a good track record in business.”
“There are many similarities between running major businesses and running a national governing body of sport but equally there are many differences as well. I don’t think the skills are necessarily transferable. But they can be.”
When asked whether he would ever consider making a return to British Cycling himself, Cookson said: “I have a little bit to give. If the sport asked me to come back and get involved in governance, perhaps I would consider that.”
Cookson has far from left the world of cycling behind as he focuses on creating a top-level women’s racing team and playing an active role in gaining support for the building of a velodrome in the Midlands ahead of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. Currently, the plan is for 2022 track cycling events to take place in London.
Even if the cycling venue does not get built in time for 2022, Cookson says that it will benefit the region – and help in the fight against childhood obesity.
“I do think the West Midlands and Birmingham needs a velodrome,” said Cookson.
“What we’ve got in the UK now, as is the case of many other developed nations, is an epidemic of lack of fitness, obesity, health problems – all related to that lack of exercise.
“Investing in these kind of facilities is expensive. But it is even more expensive to be treating people all the time in the NHS for problems of lack of fitness, lack of exercise.”