Twitter has become the touch paper igniting a flame of discontent concerning how the official governing body of cycling operates. We see hints of the UCI’s standard operating behaviour in the bon mots burbled by President McQuaid in interviews with the journalistic likes of Lionel J. Birnie, Herbie Sykes, and Mark Johnson. We see the cycling twitterati share 140-character criticisms concerning the governing body’s pattern of behaviour, and then we see two distinct camps form over it.
And what are those camps? The group of people who want to do something about it, and those who are tired of hearing about problems and only want to focus on the positives in the sport.
Funnily enough, rarely do you see anyone overtly support a pro-UCI stance on Twitter or Facebook or even in print. Today we finally saw someone attempt to be positive about the UCI in the form of Brian Cookson’s ramblings on the GB cycling home page. To all intents and purposes, it seemed like someone from Aigle was standing over him as he typed, prodding him to highlight what “good” the UCI does, while conveniently neglecting to provide any specifics about this mysterious and anonymously populated “UCI Common Ground” session. Apparently the details and principals of such an initiative aren’t appropriate for public awareness, even though this is some sort of “committee” empaneled to suss out a “way forward” for the sport.
I’m a big fan of Brian Cookson, however, this “blog post from Belgium” penned by the the British cycling icon all too disappointingly reinforces the strong-arm tactics coming from Aigle. What UCI president Pat McQuaid repeatedly fails to recognise is the fact that many of these pesky “anonymous” Twitter accounts with “axes to grind” are actually influential people within the sport – from the manufacturing side, the supplier side, the management side, the pro peloton itself, and even from within the very ranks of the organisation whose best interest he purports to oversee. Frankly, if the sport were run in even the most rudimentary fashion of openness or collaboration – as governing bodies are supposed to operate, I think you’d find even yours truly willing to drop the charade.
However, the fear of retribution from those in power is the very reason why many of these folks have gone “underground.” In fact, the UCI attempted to bully me back when I first opened this Twitter account. But happily for me, since national and international laws PROTECT my right to share my opinion, well, here I am.
What is the danger in sharing one’s opinion? What is the danger in discussing your thoughts on the sport, even if it goes against conventional wisdom, or even the opinion of the power brokers in Aigle?
The danger for those in Aigle is that something they wish to hide runs the risk of being exposed. In fact, in some ways, they fear the dialogue because of just how deep the exposure could cut and how much corruption they might bleed. Bank accounts in the British Virgin Islands, bank accounts in the Caymans. Deals with friends, family, neighbours and questionable sorts who may not be the best choice to represent the sport – they all line up like a veritable Who’s Who of corruption and cronyism that would make Bernie Madoff proud.
In fact, Pat McQuaid hit out at the Twitter community and the cycling fan base in an email sent to a certain team owner who is quite active on the social media platform, on March 22nd. In it he said the following:
You have an idealistic view of cycling and cycle sport which revolves around franchises etc. you want a sport organised by teams , run by teams and in which the profits go to teams. I am sory [sic] [team owner name] but it isnt going to happen.
So I think it is time that you accepted that and made up yopur [sic] mind to work with those within the sport to improve it but you will have to accept that your opinion, godly as you may think it might be may be a minority opinion. UCI is an easy target for your frustration but all you are doing is feeding the frenzy because those nom de plume idiots whom you tweet do absolutely nothing for our sport.
This pretty much sums up how the UCI is run. There is no room for teams to have a say in the sport. ”Nom de plume idiots” do nothing for the sport. Since when does Pat McQuaid take the time to find out exactly how these “nom de plume idiots” are involved in the sport? They might be influential people, after all. Fans? Who cares about the fans?
But wait, there’s more:
You need to understand that in every sport there are arbitrary decisions – the french for referee is arbitre from which the word arbitrary is derived. There are occasions in every sport where the referee has to make decisions in an arbitrary fashion as happened in Catalonia and indeed also happened in a premiership footballl [sic] match last week in the UK. Sport, as a « living » entity has to accept that and those within should also accept and abide by the decisions of the referees, which cant necessarily be regulated completely.
Last time I checked, a referee was only allowed to make a decision during the match itself. I don’t see referees making arbitrary decisions on bans, or throwing a player off the field for wearing a headband incorrectly, or tucking in his shirt inappropriately, or suspending him for doing a back flip after a goal. You see, what this says to me is that the UCI fails to understand well and truly what its role in the sport is. Last time I checked, they were a governing body, which means they set the rules for the federations and race organizers to follow. They send out a representative to ensure that those rules are followed. Nothing more. Promoter? Private race organizer? Conflict of interest come to mind here?
These email excerpts show that the UCI needs to undergo tremendous change. They have utterly lost touch with those who are in the sport and those who follow the sport. It is a sad state of affairs. When the UCI president feels the need to hit out at a team owner in this fashion, it shows that there is no room for collaboration, dialogue, or inclusion in Aigle for any of us.
I ask you now – how much more are we all willing to take?