Brian Cookson: “I’m in touch with ASO at the highest level”

Yesterday, at the UCI Track World Championships in London, UCI president Brian Cookson told the media that the UCI would continue to negotiate with ASO but he also added that the WorldTour reforms and the calendar would go through for 2017 even if an agreement proves elusive.

“We’re not going to have a war or a massive fallout,” Cookson said according to Cyclingnews.com. “I’m in touch with ASO at the highest level and I’m hopeful that we can have an on-going dialogue for the next few months. I’m confident that we can find a solution that will acknowledge that the sport needs to grow but that we need to protect people’s existing assets and their vision. I think we can come up with a solution that works.”

Cookson was reluctant to use the term ‘power struggle’ but did acknowledge that the ASO had been attempting to protect their own position in the sport. In addition, he hinted, albeit vaguely, that the French organisers are taking the rest of the sport as hostages by not compromising with the UCI in order to protect their own interests.

”Perhaps ASO felt that their assets were threatened by expansion and by giving the teams more solidarity and by giving them more long term licenses, but what we’ve tried to do is look at things that will help the cycling economy grow in a more sustained way and internationalise the sport while also protecting the heritage and what makes the sport great. There’s nothing in the proposals that will damage anyone else’s profits and why would we want to do that? We want to grow everyone’s economics in a way that’s sustainable.”

Time is, evidently, an issue. When quizzed if the UCI were running short of time in order to find a workable answer to their WorldTour reform plans, Cookson replied:

“Obviously it would be better if we didn’t have a situation where the ASO were saying that they won’t be part of the WorldTour for 2017, but we have time to resolve that. What we have though is those 20 events that want to be part of the WorldTour and invest in cycling. All that I read is that riders want to be part of the WorldTour, and the teams, RCS Sport and Flanders [Classics] also want to be part of the WorldTour and help it grow. There is some who debate over the detail and all of those people want the best for their assets, and we understand that, but we can achieve more by working together.”

Cookson emphasised that cooperation with ASO was his main objective and he seemed positive that the WorldTour would go ahead next season even if ASO should fail to be part of a reformed WorldTour. Such a scenario, Cookson explained, would be preferable to the current status quo.

“Of course, I don’t want to have a WorldTour without the ASO. Their events will always be big in the world of cycling, of course, but there is sufficient enthusiasm from the events that do want to be part of the WorldTour for us to have a calendar than can exist without ASO but that’s not an option that I really want to see. I think the other organisers want ASO in the World Tour, and the teams too. The Tour de France will always be the biggest event in the world and the event that captures the majority of the media in July and probably the rest of the year as well. I’m not going to try and put a WorldTour on that challenges ASO. I guess we’ll have to work around them. Ultimately we would have a series of events without ASO but that would be regrettable.”

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