WITH the cycling world in thrall to the Tour de France as it builds to its climax this weekend, few will be aware of a battle of a different order this side of the Channel on Saturday (July 22). This is the race to save British Cycling from itself at an Extraordinary General Meeting organised in unseemly haste to make controversial changes to the constitution.
Both Peter King, the former CEO who created the new-look British Cycling 20 years ago, and Tony Doyle, a past president, have now gone public because they are profoundly concerned that the membership remains largely unaware of the controversy threatening to derail Britain's top Olympic sport.
They and at least two of BC’s Regions (Central Region and South Eastern) fear that National Council – the voice of the 130,000 grass roots members – will be rendered almost obsolete as a consequence of satisfying British Cycling’s funding partners, UK Sport and Sport England, and their new code of governance.
Another likely consequence, if the grass roots sport suffers, is a mass exodus of riders to other cycling organisations and the negative impact that will have for the sport.
According to British Cycling, the changes are all about improving Britain’s most successful Olympic sport. In reality they are being forced by the government to make changes to show they are fit for purpose after the spate of scandals lowered cycling’s esteem.
But if they don’t do what UK Sport want, British Cycling risks losing £millions in government funding! And with it, also lose a fair number of the 300 or so jobs at British Cycling HQ.
Some call this blackmail. Certainly, British Cycling is at the mercy of government quangos.
No one wants this. We’ve all enjoyed the unprecedented rise in popularity of cycling and cycle sport and the huge international successes by British riders. We want this to continue, for BC to move forward.
But not like this, not under a new and divisive constitution being rushed through without proper discussion by a board some say cannot be trusted.
It has been noted there are several omissions from the agenda; most notably there is no mention of the place of National Council!
Perhaps that’s because it is to become obsolete?
There is also concern that many problems have arisen because BC admin staff are having too much say in matters and their proposals are being accepted without being given proper scrutiny. It’s an authoritarian streak which crops up from time to time and National Council could always be relied upon to take the wind out of HQ’s sails!
It all points to a heated debate in Warrington next Saturday.
Both Peter King CBE, the former CEO who 20 years ago laid the foundations for British Cycling’s historic rise to fame and Tony Doyle, the former BC president whose ideas inspired the changes King brought about, are appalled at the prospect of National Council being silenced.
If those two major players are flagging this up surely they must be listened to?
King, a chartered secretary and accountant, and member of Redhill CC, was appointed CEO of the British Cycling Federation 20 years ago, called in to rescue the governing body from financial ruin and a crisis of their own making.
He carried out a root and branch reorganisation with the aim of making cycling Britain’s most successful Olympic sport and was awarded the CBE for doing so. The crisis of their own making was created when the board refused to work with newly elected President Tony Doyle MBE, the former World Professional Pursuit Champion who was chosen by the members to replace Ian Emmerson.
In doing so, the board were in breach of their own constitution and chaos followed resulting in an EGM and legal action which cost the Federation dear. The board was sacked and King set up a completely new team with the express intention of developing Doyle’s ideas for modernising the sport.
King says that “this EGM is all about making National Council a largely impotent and perhaps even pointless gathering.” ….
“My aim,” he said earlier this month, “is to ensure that all of those who represent the membership/clubs/regions at the EGM are aware of exactly what they are voting for or against – i.e. the transfer of ultimate authority from National Council to a Board where 6 out of 12 members, including the Chair with a casting vote, are not elected or appointed from within the sport.
“At the very least, the England Regions should have the right to elect the four members who will be elected by National Council.”
He is especially concerned that the Chair will have a casting vote on any contentious issue…and that the balance of power will sit with the independent appointed directors.”
For these so called independent directors might not necessarily have much experience of the sport, but still be able to wield undue influence!
Last week King and Doyle shared their views at the Pedal Club luncheon in London, whose members include many top Regional and national officials.
On the table are proposals for wholesale changes to the management structure and board.
It is a serious matter.
To a certain extent it is felt that British cycling have brought much of this upon themselves following their failure to act on the King Report of 2012. It was Peter King’s Review, commissioned by British Cycling, which revealed how some elite athletes had been subject to bullying and sexism in the drive for medals. This so shocked British Cycling they failed to do anything about it. And nothing of the report was made public until recently.
The affair only became public knowledge last year when Jess Varnish, dropped from the Olympic team, broke her silence. She was followed by other riders claiming similar experiences.
As we know, the whole sorry tale has since been paraded before a Parliamentary Committee when matters were made much worse by British Cycling top brass failing to provide adequate explanations.
No wonder UK Sport want BC to put their house in order if they are to be seen fit to continue to receive £millions in public money.
But why is it necessary to make National Council all but obsolete? That’s the argument.
Should National Council pass all proposals as they stand the balance of power will shift from National Council – representing the Regional members - to British Cycling’s new style management which it is feared will be under the thumb of UK Sport.
Any other organisation proposing major changes to its operation would spell out the pros and cons for its shareholders to consider.
Have BC done this with members?
Doesn’t look like it. They fear losing the money. Who wouldn’t?
So they’ve sweet talked the whole thing which leads some to conclude they want members kept in the dark about the down side.
This is akin to changing the locks to the building while everyone is out - watching Le Tour, for instance.
Except that both South East and Central Regions have rumbled them. They have recognised the issues and on Saturday will debate and vote accordingly in the hope of preserving National Council’s democratic right to have a say in the running the sport.