Five leading WorldTour teams, including Ineos Grenadiers and Jumbo-Visma, are reportedly working on a secret plan to shake up the business model of professional cycling by attracting venture capitalists to the sport as investors and stakeholders.
The Reuters news agency has reported that “a number of major European cycling teams have been exploring plans to create a new competitive league in a move that could reshape the sport’s landscape and allocate more funding for participants.”
Cyclingnews has also been informed of some of the details of the plans.
This new project is not a breakaway league, but it could create an exclusive new race series within the sport and so spark a power struggle with the UCI, who govern the WorldTour, and with Tour de France organiser ASO.
The group of teams involved are trying to find ways to generate extra revenue and so make them less dependent on sponsorship.
Reuters suggested the venture could amalgamate new and existing races to create new revenue. However, ASO controls the Tour de France, the Vuelta and other races, the Giro d’Italia is controlled by RCS Sports, and Flanders Classics own many of the biggest spring Classics.
Reuters reports that accounting and consulting firm EY is seeking expressions of interest from potential investors for the project and has set a deadline for indications this week. Reuters also suggests that “an agreement is not imminent and a deal may not proceed.”
One well informed source told Cyclingnews that funding could come from Saudi Arabia investors, as was the case with the LIV golf breakaway league. Saudi Arabia has recently invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the Saudi Pro League football tournament, paying some huge amounts to some of the biggest players in global football.
Reuters suggested that CVC Partners, the former owner of Formula One motor racing, could be interested in investing in the teams. In 2021 CVC Capital Partners paid £365 million ($509 million) for a 14.3% stake in the Six Nations rugby tournament.
Both EY and CVC Partners refused to comment to Reuters about the deal. Ineos Grenadiers and Jumbo-Visma also refused to comment.
The WorldTour and ProTour teams are part of the AIGCP (Association International des Groupes Cyclistes Professionels) but have become deeply divided in recent months about the work of the AIGCP president Richard Plugge.
Plugge is also the manager of the Jumbo-Visma team and has reportedly been working on the venture…