February 16, 2017

Cycling must Support Cycling

VDR22

After being involved in cycling at different levels for well over a decade I have witnessed first-hand the evolution of the sport and its rise to widespread popularity. However, as a rider, team manager and administrator, the sport continuous to confound me. Cycling is so popular in its basic format across all ranges of ability from young kids on balance bikes through to the Sunday grinders. Participation and interest levels are the highest they have ever been; yet financially cycling as a sport continues to struggle. Those involved need to capitalise on this interest base. This is where the solution to cycling’s financial woes lie.

Cycling relies on support. Each and every sport does. Everyone involved in our sport tells me that they want it to succeed. Whether they are bike racers, media, administration or simply casual observers they all want the best for cycling. However no one realises that collectively they all have the ability to empower the cycling model. To really make it happen, sport relies on support at all levels and lots of it! And unfortunately, we do not support ourselves in the way we would like to be supported back!

One often has to look outside of what we are so focused on to be able to really understand what is going on. For example the AFLW league kicked off a number of weekends ago now. This was a terrific step forward for women’s sport, not just because it happened but because it happened to an extent where not only is the league sustainable but it has the possibility to grow into something which could in a short time rival aspects of the men’s league. This sustainability is not because Erin Phillips single handily helped defeat a strong Bulldogs side last weekend but because people showed that they wanted to support a women’s football league. They wanted to support women’s sport and they did this by turning up and paying attention. Where once there was nothing suddenly there is a commercially viable sport. There are multiple revenue streams (tickets, merchandise, and membership) and there is a marketable product. This is not because of business or government handouts supporting sport. This is people.  Everyday Australians paying attention and becoming part of the fan base supporting the sport.

Cycling has to follow suit. Let us look at some numbers. Last year there were close to 40 teams between the men’s and women’s National Road Series. Let us assume that there was an average of 8 riders in each team. That totals to 320 cyclists. There is probably another 4 people per team who have a heavy stake in each team which makes 480 people. Each one of those is more than likely going to have at least 2 family members or close friends that care enough about the sustainability of the domestic elite calendar. Without pushing these assumptions too far that’s 1440 people who all care about the future of cycling. Add on the officials from Cycling Australia and each state or territory’s governing body, mum’s and dad’s the supporter base can balloon out fairly quickly.

Whilst on the topic of numbers and the ever growing supporter base of elite cycling, Cycling Australia is lucky to get 50 likes on any National Road Series related content. This is pretty poor for a page of 26,617 ‘likes’ on Facebook, of which each of these likes represents a real person who maintains at least some interest in seeing cycling thrive. When put differently; Why should sponsors (current or prospective) care when the riders and supporters don’t? Let’s once again use Facebook as an example. Each of these interested parties could all like, comment on or even potentially share each piece of media that comes out of a National Road Series race but as of yet they do not. In a society now so heavily dependant on social media marketing the answer or at least the next step towards positively marketing cycling seems so simple. Are we simply too scared or blinded by our own personal goals to take it on?

Talking to one of the few team managers who understands the direction that the sport needs to go in they said “cycling needs to support cycling”. No other sport in the world considers it “uncool” to support a team. You don’t get shunned for wearing an AFL jersey or an NBA snapback but in cycling you get labelled a hubbard. 

It is time for cycling, and those involved in cycling to stop complaining. Stop complaining that everything isn’t perfect because as many people well know cycling is far from perfect. We cannot however let the past dictate where cycling’s future is going.  That direction lies with us. The cyclists and supporters. Each one of us needs to roll up our sleeves and give it the support that it needs in order to take cycling back to being one of the premier domesetic sports in Australia.