The only way for cycling to have an "improved business model" is through cooperation between WorldTour teams, Jumbo-Visma's boss Richard Plugge has said.
It follows news that Ineos Grenadiers and Jumbo-Visma are among teams looking to create a new racing league for cycling, in a move to drive more money towards the squads, according to Reuters.
Sources told Reuters that external investors are being sounded out to help finance the project, which could bring together new and existing races.
About five teams, including Ineos and Jumbo, are said to be involved in the early discussions, which are being helped by accountancy and consulting firm EY. The deadline for indications of interest is this week, it was reported on Thursday.
On Thursday afternoon, Jumbo-Visma's managing director, Richard Plugge, all but confirmed the reports. He said: "It’s obvious that cycling is a sleeping giant and deserves an improved business model. For all stakeholders, but especially for the WorldTour teams. The only way to get there, is by cooperation.”
The point of the move is in order to distribute money from cycling events among the teams, which are currently forced to rely on external funding, whether that's through title sponsorship, like Jumbo-Visma, or through billionaire backers, in the case of Ineos Grenadiers and Sir Jim Ratcliffe.
At present, most of the profits and television money from cycling's biggest races, from the Grand Tours - the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España - to the Classics like Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, go to the race's organisers, with little flowing back to the teams by way of prize money or contractual patments.
The Tour, Vuelta, and a host of other races, including Roubaix, are organised by ASO, while RCS manage the Giro and others including the UAE Tour. Meanwhile, Flanders Classics runs most of the one-day races in Belgium and the Netherlands, and lots of cyclo-cross events.
According to Reuters, one of the companies that have shown interest in the project is CVC Partners, a private equity firm which has invested in Formula One and Six Nations rugby in the past.
Cycling is far from the first sport to look to outside investment to disrupt the current order; in recent years golf and tennis have been shaped by funding from Saudi Arabia.
Cyclingnews reported on Thursday that the funding for cycling's new league could come from Saudi Arabia too.
A decade ago, a similar concept was floated, World Series Cycling (WSC), which proposed a new calendar alongside some of the existing biggest races, but failed to get off the ground. Eight WorldTour teams were involved in that, including the precursor to Jumbo, Rabobank.
In 2014, 11 teams joined forces to create a new organisation called Velon, which hopes to create greater stability within the sport by providing more commercial and marketing opportunities. The organisation later created the Hammer Series, an attempt by the teams to organise their own races and take power away from cycling's governing body, the UCI, and the bigger race organisers. It was scrapped in 2020.
Any new project will have to contend with the fact that the biggest races are in the hands of private companies; it would take a lot for ASO or RCS to change their current strategies.
This has been a tumultuous off-season to date. Reports emerged earlier this month that two of the top teams in cycling, the Dutch Jumbo-Visma, and the Belgian Soudal Quick-Step, were to merge, posing questions not just about the future of the team's riders and staff, but about cycling's sustainability as a sport. That was later called off.
Ineos Grenadiers were approached for comment, but declined to speak on the matter.
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