Every year, the auditors Ernst & Young (E&Y) draw up a report for the International Cycling Union on the economic situation of the professional peloton (UCI ProTeams and UCI Professional Continental Teams). In particular, this document focuses on indicators such as trends in team budgets and ridersâ salaries.
E&Y produces the report as part of a mission entrusted to it by the UCI to monitor professional teams. This mission relates to the registration of the teams with the International Federation. The task has two objectives: to ensure the equal treatment of teams (all must conform to the same regulations) and to guarantee the protection of riders (employers must respect ridersâ rights).
The document drawn up by E&Y illustrates a heartening trend in cycling between 2003 and 2009, and in particular since the reform of road cycling in 2005. This reform saw the establishment of the UCI ProTour and the UCI Continental Circuits as well as the replacement of Trade Teams 1, 2 and 3 by UCI ProTeams, UCI Professional Continental Teams and UCI Continental Teams.
In 2009 the UCI created the World Calendar, which brought together UCI ProTour events and "Historic" races, representing the top of the pyramid, while the UCI Continental Circuits still form the bulk of cycling's International Calendar.
Upward trend for accumulated team budgets
The accumulated budget for all professional teams1 was 160 million euros in 2003. By 2009, this figure had risen to 235 million euros, representing an increase of 46%.
The budget for UCI ProTeams rose from 140 to 182 million euros, an increase of 30%. The difference is even more marked for UCI Professional Continental Teams, whose budgets have more than doubled (from 22 to 52 million euros).
These figures show that accumulated investment by sponsors has steadily grown despite the drop in the number of professional teams. This drop can be attributed to the introduction of more rigorous requirements to obtain the status of UCI ProTeam or UCI Professional Continental Team. However, the total number of teams registered has increased considerably when Continental Teams are taken into account. There were 126 teams in 2003 but this figure rose to 172 teams by 2009. Cycling continues to attract sponsors who find the sport effective and profitable as a result of the good visibility it offers throughout the year.
Precarious teams on the way out
The E&Y report also shows a very positive trend in the lowest budgets of professional teams.
With regard to UCI ProTeams, the lowest budget was 673,000 euros in 2003, but this had risen to 3.7 million euros by 2009. The corresponding figures for UCI Professional Continental Teams were 438,000 and 920,000 euros respectively.
The riders were among the main beneficiaries of the gradual disappearance of professional teams operating on very limited resources. These teams were gradually replaced by structures that were more stable, particularly in financial terms.
Another interesting finding was that the significant increase in the budgets of UCI ProTeams following the introduction of the UCI ProTour in the 2005 season did not curb the growth in the budgets of Professional Continental Teams.
Ridersâ average salary increases
The average salary of professional riders rose from 70,000 euros a year (2002) to 136,000 euros (2009).
The increases were considerable for riders in Professional Continental Teams (2002: 20,000 euros; 2009: 60,000 euros) as well as their colleagues in UCI ProTeams (2002: 100,000 euros; 2009: 190,000 euros).
This means that the majority of riders on UCI ProTeams have a good, or indeed very good, salary. The percentage of athletes in a precarious financial situation in this category has become negligible. As for UCI Professional Continental Teams, an increasingly large proportion of riders can live well â and even very well â from their profession.
Towards the elimination of the "pedalling poor"
It is also notable that the percentage of very low salaries is also decreasing, both in UCI ProTeams (only 15% of riders earn less than 40,000 euros a year) as well as Professional Continental Teams (neo-professionals apart, there are no longer riders who earn less than 27,500 euros a year, whereas over half the group earned under this amount four years ago). This latter result arises from the joint agreements reached by the representatives of the teams (AIGCP) and the riders (CPA).
The E&Y report thus depicts cycling in good economic health, in part as a result of the reforms introduced by the UCI. Disparities in the sport have been reduced.
In view of these figures, professional cycling seems to be relatively little affected by the global economic downturn of recent months. However, the UCI continues to monitor the development of the situation in order to take any measures necessary to get through this period in the best manner possible.
Jonathan Vaughters, President of the AIGCP (Association Internationale des Groupes Cyclistes Professionnels) and Manager of the UCI ProTeam Garmin-Slipstream, is delighted by this progress: "It is very encouraging to see how far professional cycling has come in the last ten years. Cycling continues to provide the best investment value of any sport for its sponsors. As we move forward, we need to continue to seek new ways to attract fans and additional revenue models to help support the higher dollar figures now in play at the ProTour level. Good progress has been made and it is up to us as a sport to continue that progress."
CÃ©dric Vasseur, President of the CPA (Cyclistes Professionnels AssociÃ©s), the organisation that represents professional riders, also considers the figures to be very positive: Â« Iâm delighted by this encouraging development. The most renowned riders, of course, but also a large number of riders who we would situate in the middle of the group, have benefited from it. I am now confident that athletes with lower incomes will be able to see these increase; this will happen, notably, with a rise in the minimum salary envisaged by the joint agreement between the AIGCP and the CPA.â
1. UCI ProTeams, UCI Professional Continental Teams and UCI Continental Teams replaced Trade Teams 1, 2 and 3 in 2005. The first three denominations can only strictly be used for the period from 2005 onwards. However, for convenience, the current terminology has been used in this text, including for 2003 and 2004.
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