First up I should probably confess that the title of this post will wind up being more of a question than an answer, sometimes that’s how things go. For well over a year I’ve observed with interest the collective headscratching and uncertainty surrounding how to sustainably build a professional cycling team. It’s a complex and involved set of issues, rather than just something that can be considered as a standalone problem. This is because cycling exists as a fragile ecosystem and changes to any one part of it have effects (sometimes unforeseen) on the rest of it. So the question of sustainable cycling models is by necessity going to be a tough nut to crack. Something I think the sport itself is really only starting to come to terms with.
In particular Jonathan Vaughters has been vocal on the issue and has at different times had varied ideas and suggestions on how a more sustainable structure may be put into place. Along the way Mr Vaughters has done a good job of explaining why this matters and why the current system is not really viable or in the best interests of cycling.
Let’s start at the start – the dependency of cycling teams on sponsorship deals leaves them in a peculiar and vulnerable position compared to most other professional sports. Most sports derive their primary income from broadcast rights. That is, tv networks pay them large sums of money in order to broadcast the sport. Cycling Oddity the first; broadcast rights are held by race organisers not by any sort of league or association (as is the case with other, larger sports). This means that teams have limited bargaining power in terms of money and in offering exposure to potential sponsors. Problematic to say the least.