By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - Cycling teams are being "taken for granted" by world governing body the UCI and fear that planned reforms will continue to leave them short-changed, according to a representative of cycling's team organisation, the AIGCP.
Team bosses, race organisers and other stakeholders held a meeting in Madrid earlier this month in which they outlined their concerns ahead of reforms proposed by UCI president David Lappartient to be implemented by 2020.
Top of the agenda was the UCI's push to reduce the WorldTour from 18 to 15 teams with promotion and relegation, something the International Association of Professional Cycling Teams (AIGCP) is fighting to prevent.
AIGCP vice-president Richard Plugge said the Madrid talks with Lappartient had been held in a "good atmosphere".
Yet having since been briefed on the UCI's proposals he was pessimistic, saying that their economic concerns were not being heard.
"We asked that we keep the minimum bar, what we already have, 18 teams and three-year licenses. It's not a win but we want to keep that," Plugge, director of Team LottoNL-Jumbo, told Reuters in a phone interview.
"Yesterday we were briefed on the plan and the minimum bar was there but no progression at all in the (economic) reform."
Plugge says cycling has become the poor relation of other sports such as tennis, golf, soccer and Formula One and that the economic model has barely changed for 50 years.
He says the teams, whose only source of revenue is what they receive from sponsors, are "bankrolling" the UCI and have effectively had their negotiating rights taken away.
The AIGCP wants to bundle rights together with organisers to create new revenue streams for the teams.
"We were the first sport professional to have money coming from sponsors, 50 years ago," he said. "From that moment on the economic model stood still.
"(David) has said he wants to improve the economic model but at this point the plans he showed us are not in that direction.
"If that is really what he wants then he should get the organisers and the teams in one room and let them make a good business plan and economic model for cycling."
The UCI Management Committee will discuss the reforms at this month's Road World Championships in Innsbruck.
Should they not meet with approval some teams are understood to be considering by-passing the UCI altogether and negotiating directly with race organisers.
AIGCP president Iwan Spekenbrink, CEO of German team Sunweb, says revamping the economics of cycling is a "no-brainer".
"Economic rights are being taken from the teams and their riders so the model is already not good," he said on Thursday.
"Only half of the teams at the start of the WorldTour have survived. We keep working on this flawed system which is fragmented instead of working in partnerships.
"Everyone has known for 20 years that this model kept in place by the UCI is the wrong model for the sport. It's a no brainer. The moment you allow organisers and teams to bundle the rights and create a complete product and sell it you will generate much more money for all stakeholders."
Spekenbrink also said reducing the WorldTour to 15 teams could put some his members out of business.
"All the teams are looking for more stability," he said.
"(The teams) are happy to work in a competitive environment to win bike races but not happy to be in a competitive environment for survival."
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Edting by Toby Davis)