Today sees the launch of Velon, a breakaway rights management company that represents eleven professional cycling teams "to drive a financial model that, in line with other international sports, ensures a sustainable future for the teams."
Velon will be UK-based and has appointed a former football executive as CEO. Graham Bartlett has previously worked at Uefa, Nike and, from 2011 to 2012 was the commercial director at Liverpool Football Club.
The new company will manage the TV rights and more for Sky, Tinkoff-Saxo and other major teams.
Through Velon, the group will continue to work on partnerships with other stakeholders in the sport, including the UCI, the race organisers, and the AIGCP professional cycling association.
Velon’s founding members are Belkin Pro Cycling, BMC Racing Team, Garmin-Sharp, Lampre-Merida, Lotto-Belisol, Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, Orica-GreenEDGE, Team Giant-Shimano, Team Sky, Tinkoff-Saxo and Trek Factory Racing. The group is said to be open to working with other teams that share their objectives and values, either to join Velon or partner with the company on new business.
Velon aims to extend the use of on-bike cameras to bring races alive from the rider’s perspective, showing fans what it’s like from the saddle.
A statement from Velon said it was about "creating a new, better economic future for the sport, through collective action and increased co-operation between the teams and other stakeholders."
Team Principal of Team Sky, Sir Dave Brailsford, said: “Collaboration is the cornerstone to positive change and as such this is very exciting for professional cycling and a big step towards the sport reaching its full potential. The teams involved in creating Velon have come together with a powerful shared vision to optimise the sport and develop new ways for professional cycling to grow.
“If the teams unite and work collectively with other key stakeholders to make cycling better to watch, easier to understand and get guaranteed commercial support it’s to everyone’s benefit and will encourage even more fans to follow the sport we love.”
Each team is represented on the board.
Bartlett said: “The existing, sponsor only, business model is fragile for all teams. We need to change this to a more rounded one with fans at the heart of it, investing in new technological initiatives to generate greater excitement from the races and bring the sport closer to its fans. The company will look to use the combined commitment of the teams to create new revenues.
“This combined commitment can help to deliver more of what the fans want to see from the sport – exciting races brought to life with great technology. What we’re trying to build will hopefully create a virtuous circle where it’s easier for fans to engage with the teams and riders and gives the teams even greater incentives to maintain credibility.”
The first example of Velon’s work came earlier this year, when these teams got together to work with their riders and the race organisers to implement on-bike cameras during the races.
Bartlett adds: “This could only have been negotiated and delivered with the organisers by having a unified group. Initially co-operating with IMG for the Tour de Suisse and then continuing with A.S.O. at the Tour de France, the Vuelta and a number of other big races in the calendar.
“By using new technology, and by working very closely with the race organisers, the teams were able to capture fantastic, never seen before footage showing the riders in spectacular fashion and the response from the fans was even better than we expected.”
Graham Bartlett is formerly of UEFA, Nike and was Liverpool FC's commercial director from 2011 to 2012.