Team Sky funding boost under Ineos sparks budget cap discussions

Team budget caps could be discussed, though new funding in the sport is considered healthy by UCI president

Team bosses and the UCI’s president have raised questions over fairness within cycling as Team Sky’s budget is set to increase under new sponsor, Ineos.

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The British WorldTour outfit will change its name to Team Ineos on May 1, with funding coming from the chemical giant owned by Britain’s richest man, Sir Jim Ratcliffe.

The team already had a budget of approximately €40 million euros (£34.3 million), and it has been rumoured that the takeover will mean more money, not less.

Rivals are estimated to be ‘getting by’ on budgets closer to 15-20 million.

Team Sky has won six of the last seven editions of the Tour de France, and their dominance sparked discussions over a possible team budget cap last year.

It was suggested that being able to afford a high number of strong riders meant that Team Sky was “blocking” races, by having a dominant force patrolling the front of the bunch on the climbs whilst leader’s of lesser teams had limited support.

The suggestion of a further increase has brought those comments back to the surface.

In a BBC podcast, EF Education First manager Jonathan Vaughters said: “You’re purchasing the ability to win.

“You’re looking at an almost impenetrable wall of money. You can basically go buy all the best riders. The question for the sport is if they are all on one team, is it fun for spectators to watch?”

President of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), David Lappartient told Reuters on Wednesday that a budget cap, to preserve fairness, is something that could “be discussed.”

He said: “I understand there can be concerns that the team with the biggest budget can have all the best riders and it affects the uncertainty of sport.”

Lappartient has brought up the idea of budget caps before, saying in November 2017: “I am against a salary cap for the riders, cyclists can earn as much as they want and teams have to pay as much for a rider as they want.”

“What I am talking about is introducing a ceiling for the team’s budget in general, which means that if you pay a certain rider a high wage, you will have less money left for other riders. That means you would naturally have the strong riders better divided among various teams.”

However, the UCI president also called the arrival of a new sponsor “healthy” for the sport, noting “one of our objectives is to have an economy that is more solid.”

Alongside the arrival of Ineos, oil and gas business Total has also been linked to French team Direct Energie, in a move expect to take place in 2020.

Patrick Lefevere, the manager of Belgian team Deceuninck-Quick Step, welcomed the arrival of the new funding streams, saying: “If it’s true that Ineos and Total are making their entry in cycling then this is fantastic news for cycling. [I] hope that others will follow.”