Ebbsfleet United is a football club created online and funded by hundreds of backers, all of whom have a say in the running of the minor league men’s football club. Team manager Stefan Wyman and sports trainer Dave Smith want to do something similar for women’s cycling: help fund a ‘fan backed’ team so it can compete internationally without having to worry about funding.
The idea sprang from a posting Wyman did on cyclismas.com.
"In the new world of social media and ease of information there is an opportunity for [funding such a team] to work. It need not be the primary source of funding. Salaries to riders would not be dependent on it. It would be run by a small, but perfectly-formed, committee. A large part of the fund would be used for promotional events for the good of growth and development, not racing cost."
Wyman is the director sportif for the Matrix Fitness – Prendas women’s cycling team, a team co-sponsored by Hargroves Cycles. This team includes Olympic gold medallist Dani King.
He said: "#fanbackedwomensteam would run alongside the ‘Matrix Fitness – Prendas’ team. It would be there to provide ‘community’ backing to the team and women’s cycling in general. Members of the community would not have voting rights or any control over the team itself. It would not be the primary source of funding for the racing team. The team has its own commercial sponsors and would continue to develop commercial relationships to expand its operations as it seeks to establish itself as the UK’s primary racing academy for women."
What would fans get?
"The return will be the opportunity to be a part of something new and exciting that has the potential to change the face of women’s cycling," said Wyman.
"We are looking to build a primary community of 500 people, with an initial funding target of £50,000. We believe that there will be ongoing opportunities to reward these partners with benefits, like VIP events, once our community is established."
Backers can pledge cash – £100 gets full ‘community membership’ – or sweat equity, such as help with photography or events organisation.
Wyman’s idea was picked up by Irish sports trainer Dave Smith.
He said: "Let’s say my daughter and one of my sons became pro cyclists and they were both world road race champions, both won three classics per year and an Olympic gold. How awkward would it be round the dinner table discussing salaries? Just because they’re in different halves of the population. That sucks. It shouldn’t be like that.
"I tweeted that I would donate £100 to establish a seed fund for a new pro women’s team if 500 others also did. Not an investment, not sponsorship. Kissing goodbye to £100 in the hope that it does some good.
Using the hashtag #fanbackedwomensteam the momentum started and to date there is around £10k pledged in less than 24 hours.
"It’s not a team budget, it’s a budget to enable a team to be built. There are industry people watching the progress who I believe will come on board."
In a similar vein, prowomenscycling.com is organising the ‘unofficial unsanctioned social media jersey’ award for women pro cyclists.
The jersey competition will be for riders who raced in the Tour de l’Ardèche, the Brainwash Ladies Tour in the Netherlands or the Giro della Toscana and the ‘jersey’ will be presented to the rider who the community deemed the best at using social media to share their thoughts on any of the races.