Cycling is a unique professional sport which is contested by individuals and teams on the open road. The lack of “stadiums” which can gather money from ticket sales is one reason, among many, that the sport is so dependant on sponsorship funding for races and teams. This is why an athlete union is so important for creating cooperation among all of our sport’s stakeholders to create new revenue opportunities.
Athletes only have to look at other sports for inspiration to find unity. All of the major global sporting leagues have strong unions to negotiate changes which lead to economic prosperity. This includes popular sports like European football and the U.S. Major League Soccer (men and women), American Football (NFL), the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Women’s NBA. In each case, the athletes banded together, reinforced and controlled their labor and earning rights, and negotiated with their respective sporting partners to develop all aspects of economic progress.
As we talked about in our previous article on image rights, strong athlete unions have successfully leveraged the image rights of their athletes to create the conditions for economic change. A union can negotiate a Collective Bargaining Agreement, or CBA, which licenses these rights to the teams, a league, or a broadcasting partner (or all three!) in exchange for an annual fee or a percentage of the sport’s revenues. In the same way, a CBA sets an expectation for all of these parties to cooperate.
A CBA puts the right kind of business pressure on the teams, league, and media partners to engage more creatively and emotionally with the fans, new markets, and media to increase their sports’ appeal. This cooperation leads to new and innovative revenue opportunities which benefit the entire sport. A CBA makes each of the partners, including the athletes, accountable to each other and equally responsible for the sport’s success.In men’s pro road cycling, the stakeholders have rarely been on the same page at the same time. Aside from a Joint Agreement between the ProContinental and WorldTour men’s riders and their teams, the teams, race organizers, and UCI have rarely agreed on how to fix the important economic, structural, and governance issues. Women’s pro road cycling is in a different stage of development, and the issues which have prevented men’s cycling’s stakeholders from coming together in a CBA aren’t as strong in our sport. There isn’t a dominant economic party, or strong divisions between national cycling federation interests, or a long-standing and consistent strategy to grow the women’s sport. We can draft the future of women’s cycling on a clean sheet of paper.
The best way to build a stronger sport is to start with a strong foundation of its athletes. Our unity comes from the fact that we are all professional women first. This is why we reached out to you and listened to your needs, personal stories, and career aspirations before we started working with labor rights and other advisers to create our platform. We are already meeting with our stakeholders and partners in the teams, race organizers, and the UCI to explore the possibilities and find new ways to work together.
We see many opportunities to develop the economics of women’s pro road cycling, and joining The Cyclists’ Alliance is an important step in the journey to exercise your rights, improve our sport, and develop your earning power. However, we can only be successful if we join together and speak with one voice. If you haven’t joined The Cyclists’ Alliance yet, please gain your membership today, and if you would like to donate to our efforts in our first year, please click the link at the bottom of this page.