This week there was a minor twitter controversy, as in a podcast interview with Suze Clemitson about women’s cycling, for Velocast, UCI President Brian Cookson said that he wouldn’t be looking to introduce a minimum wage for women road riders this year, which had been one of his election manifesto promises, and on twitter he cited advice from the UCI Women’s Commission as a reason for this decision.
I was interested in this, and wanted to know more, so I asked Kristy Scrymgeour, who sits on the Commission as owner and manager for Specialized-lululemon, and she told me a bit more detail about why the Commission have advised this – and how the minimum wage will be addressed.
Kristy: We have discussed minimum wage a lot. It’s not that we don’t want equity for women’s cycling, and for sure we push for equal prize money for UCI races and wherever there is a common organiser, but we have to also think about the reality of women’s team budgets right now. Some women’s teams have enough money to send women to races but not enough money to pay rider salaries, so how can you impose a minimum salary on those teams? In the end you’d just cause them to shut down and then there would be less opportunity for women to race.
The most important task for us now is to get more exposure for women’s cycling so that teams can get sponsorship and create sustainable budgets so the UCI can start to enforce a minimum wage.
We are doing a lot of analysis now on the budgets of women’s teams and what the UCI can impose and what the sport is not quite ready for. Of course one big plan is to structure the sport so that there are divisions and that the top division teams will race the top races and those teams and races will need to comply with standards and that’s when a minimum salary can come start for those top teams. At the moment all teams have the possibility to enter all races. We believe women’s cycling is big enough to split the field into a few tiers and then the UCI can put in rules such as minimum wage into place for 1st division.
Q: So is there any kind of time frame for making those changes? It’s super-exciting to hear about a more nuanced structure, I think a lot of fans have wanted that for a long time.
Kristy: It makes sense for everyone. The best teams/riders will always race against each other and a division two would be a great thing for riders newer to the sport, or younger riders. Because there is no U23 division in women’s road cycling, often the leap from juniors to pro racing is difficult and this two or three tier system would be a great move for women’s cycling in general.
This is obviously something we would what to happen as soon as possible. The UCI are coming up with a three year plan, and I think there will be big changes as early as 2016. In the interim the UCI is very focussed on continuing to improve, encourage and help race organisers broadcast and/or stream the races. This is vital to the growth of women’s cycling. We need it seen. We need Return on Investment to go to sponsors with.
Minimum wage is something that everyone mentions first about women’s cycling but because of the way cycling is structured, all funded through sponsorship, its hard to enforce this right now. But it’s definitely a topic that needs to be discussed after the structure is changed.
Q: I think part of the problem this week is that fans don’t know what happens inside the UCI, on the Commissions etc, so the conversation this week seemed to come a bit out of nowhere. Are there plans to report on Commission activities?
Kristy: Yes, I believe there is a plan in place to communicate with the public. The Women’s Commission is a very active and progressive group and is definitely pushing for positive change.
Women’s cycling is on the move. 2014 was a good year. But overall we have to keep on pushing from all angles and pushing in positive ways to make positive change. It’s still very difficult to bring in sponsorship for women’s cycling (from personal experience) but there is definitely more interest from within and outside of the industry so now we just have to continue that movement. There are so many people and groups pushing for change and that push needs to continue. If we all keep pushing, change will happen. We can make change together.
Kristy has been busy this week with the launch of Ally’s Bars, a company based on Specialized-lululemon rider Ally Stacher‘s recipes. Have a look at their website, and if you’re in the USA, give them a try! And if you want to buy some great cycling clothing, check out Kristy’s company, velocio.cc.
You can listen to the full podcast with Brian Cookson on Velocast, if you’re a subscriber, or read Suze Clemitson’s write up of it, with a lot of comment about women’s cycling, on the Guardian website.