Ok, back to the cycling commentary. I’d usually leave this to the likes of The Inner Ring or Festinagirl but couldn’t help feeling there was something in this that spanned my love of cycling and a professional interest in co-operation. In his latest blog on Cyclingnews.com Jonathan Vaughters describes the potential withdrawal of Geox as a team sponsor in the light of their failure to secure ProTeam status as:
an example of an absolute failure of cycling to arrive at a cooperative system that encourages stable, long term sponsorships to exist.
It is interesting he uses the term co-operative, particularly given all the positive talk that co-operatives have received in the UK in the last year. But I suspect JV is not talking about the Rochdale Principles here. Having said that, and in light of some work Charlie Leadbeatter and Ian Christie did 11 years ago, that the most resilient form of mutualism is its softer form, i.e. people coming together with a shared interest. Now if the survival of professional cycling isn’t a scenario requiring the collective and concerted attention of the governing body, the teams and the race organisers to develop a shared way forward I’m at a loss to suggest what is. So a co-operative way forward makes sense for everyone. The problem is that it never has and in the last 6 years the power battles have left some powerless within this scenario – is this story starting to sound familiar.
Over the last few years I have been researching housing co-operatives. What I have found is that in the UK housing co-operatives too have been relatively unbalanced in terms of the power possessed by the various stakeholders. The housing co-ops themselves have been increasingly under the control of other governing and owning institutions such as housing associations and the government’s regulator to the extent that housing co-ops themselves have been co-opted into other people’s strategy and game. The same appears true of professional cycling these days: the UCI and the major Tour organisers wrestle with each other for power over the sport, the teams find a shifting playing field on which to sport their outfits and ultimately the riders , especially the non-stars, lose out in the uncertainty that is created. Vaughters highlights just one scenario of the potential doom to hit the sport but he is right. Only in developing a solution of mutual benefit to all parties can a sustainable future be carved for the sport. This requires co-operation rather a cabal of interests. Co-operation requires trust an in so developing certainty becomes a very real providing the foundations on which to build and expand. At the end of the day instead of one winner and several dissatisfied followers, a genuine win-win-win for all involved. This is what the Rochdale Pioneers envisaged for a co-operative movement and as I have argued in a professional capacity it is the purpose and principle rather than the legal form that will drive the success. So here’s to JV’s co-operative solution and a chance for cycling to show the world it is groundbreaking for the right reasons.