'Financial crisis' at British governing body as critical election looms

Time trialling body must act fast to halt long decline in riders and save money, say insiders

Hayley Simmonds time trial
(Image credit: Andy Jones)

Cycling Time Trials, the body that governs British testing, is “in financial crisis” and time trialling as we know it is at risk – so say voices in and around the top of the sport’s governing body.

A lengthy decline in income that has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic has been blamed, along with a reluctance to modernise. The consternation comes as the CTT prepares to vote four new members on to the board at its December AGM, with six candidates lining up for the four places.

Among those is former chair Sheila Hardy, who presided over the CTT for 13 years before resigning in 2021. Her potential re-election is proving controversial with some, who point to the fact that she was unable to address a long decline in rider numbers. Since 2002 the CTT has seen a long, slow decline in riders competing, from 80,000 open rides down to 30,000 this year.

When contacted by Cycling Weekly and asked for a comment on the issues in this story, Hardy said she was unable to do so as she was bound by a confidentiality agreement. However, in her pitch for re-election to the board she does say: “I don’t have the answers and cannot find anyone who does, but we must not give up. We are the sport that all the top riders cut their teeth on.”

Current board member Robin Field, who is a candidate for re-election, uses the first line of his election pitch to point out: “CTT is in a financial crisis, mostly due to a steady decline in rides for the last 20 years but also because of a large reduction in rides post-Covid lockdown.”

'Critical juncture'

According to former board member Glen Knight, the election represents a critical juncture for the CTT. He believes the failure to embrace modernising the CTT would be a “death warrant”.

In recent years a reluctance to modernise among some board members had cost the CTT money and stopped it moving forward, he argued, and had made his place on the board untenable.

“During the Covid pandemic, they were using an extremely expensive BT call conferencing system, even though they were paying for Microsoft Teams, for example,” says Knight, who is an IT specialist and co-founder of ZwiftPower. “It was mainly due to the fact that they didn’t want to modernise.”

Current interim chair Andrea Parish said that the CTT had moved on from that system and that it considered it had a duty to spend wisely. “The money we raise comes from the efforts of every single person who stands at the side of the road, who puts in all those hours to organise events,” she said. “That’s how we make our money, and every penny we spend, we need to be mindful of where that money comes from.”

CTT board member Martyn Heritage-Owen conceded that the CTT faced “a worsening financial situation”.

“CTT has made a loss this year, and is projected to make an even larger loss next year,” he said. “In a cost of living crisis, we recognise that we can’t just keep putting the levies up. And that is why change and managing our money effectively is really important.

He added: “I would encourage anybody who’s a time triallist to read the [CTT] candidates’ CVs and decide who they would like their district to vote for and to make their views known. We still need to do things to boost ridership,” he said, “and in my view the way we're going do that is by volunteers getting more engaged with the sport.”

Interim chair Parish – who was appointed following a short stint by Sue Bowler – is widely regarded as a progressive who is trying to lead change, starting with the distribution of a ‘state of the nation’ presentation to the districts, and working groups that include volunteers from outside the board.

'War footing'

“It would be a disaster for the CTT if that doesn’t continue,” said Knight of Parish’s work. Social media has been reverberating with consternation, with users on the Time Trialling Forum – often with intimate knowledge of the issues at hand – giving their own takes. The CTT was now “on a war footing”, said one user; while another lamented the CTT’s “disastrous year”, adding: “unless there are great changes in CTT, it will probably go under financially in a year or two.”

Another user speculated that it wouldn’t be long before a British Cycling licence would be required to ride a time trial. Knight pointed out that CTT’s core ridership tended to be over 40, and that if steps weren’t taken to recruit younger riders, the future of time trialling was in jeopardy.

“All the teens and the twenties and the thirties that we were seeing when there was nothing else happening during Covid – we’ve got to find a way of getting them back,” he said. “We’ve got to find a way of showing them that actually this is a serious sport, because like it or lump it, they are the future of the sport and if they’re not participating, the sport will die.

“I think Andrea as chair would definitely oversee a modernisation and a valuable period of change for the CTT,” Knight concluded. “With the support of the rest of the board, and also with the working groups that they’re setting up, my personal opinion is that she will rescue the CTT.”

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