The Way Ahead: Domestic Racing Part 9

Final part in Brother UK Cycling’s look at British domestic racing – Now, more than ever, the sport needs sponsors with vision and integrity.

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The Way Ahead: Domestic Racing Part 9

British domestic road racing faced serious challenges even before Covid19 decimated the 2020 calendar. How can it recover, strengthen and achieve sustainability? Enjoy part eight of our in-depth investigation. You can read the full article on the Brother UK Cycling Blog.

Completing the jigsaw

The jigsaw of British cycle sport contains many pieces, all of equal importance. Remove one – any, in fact – and the picture is suddenly incomplete.

To extend the analogy, investment creates the level surface required for its assembly. None of the ‘pieces’ – teams, riders, race organisers, or even the federation – can dovetail without it. Sponsorship then must be the most important component of all. This is not an attempt to lionise Brother UK’s contribution to the health of the sport, despite its significance. Indeed, Phil Jones MBE, the company’s Managing Director, puts its well when he describes the sport’s total dependence on sponsorship as a problem to be solved.

E-racing, he suggests, offers a significant additional resource. The numbers make a compelling case. Just 40 per cent of the revenues of a typical e-sports team come from sponsorship, he says. The remainder is made up from sources as varied as merchandise, prize money, premium content, fan experiences and more. Is it time for cycling teams to follow their lead?

Only some of these alternative revenue streams are available to race organisers, of course. Sponsorship seems likely always to be the dominant funding source for events, but the evolution of local authority support, as councils recognise cycling’s potential to address a raft of health, transport and social issues, is an encouraging development.

So too is cycling’s lockdown boom. The work of Sweetspot’s Jonathan Durling with stakeholders including directors of public health represents a more holistic approach. A future in which bike racing’s capacity to inspire is harnessed by public bodies to drive participation in health and transport programmes is one in which all parties should benefit.

The next 12 months will be critical. Erick Rowsell’s vision for the sport’s development is to be welcomed. His pledge that British Cycling will hold a National Road Series this year is heartening too, but, quite aside from Covid, the clock is ticking. Existing sponsors will not wait forever for domestic cycling to fix itself, and new backers will hardly be attracted to a sport seemingly in constant disarray.

Darkness is often greatest before the dawn, however. British road racing does not lack intelligent people able to pursue creative solutions, and in Brother UK it has a partner with an entrepreneurial culture hardwired to seek opportunity, even in times of the greatest adversity. Now, more than ever, the sport needs sponsors with vision and integrity. In 2021, a year which already seems pivotal, Brother UK will again remain at the side of British domestic road racing.

Click here to read the full article or listen to a panel of experts including Phil Jones MBE, Erick Rowsell and Larry Hickmott on the Brother UK Cycling Podcast, available now from Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify.

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