Female rider minimum wage – UCI rules

October 5, 2011

Andrew P asked this question and I thought the answer warranted a new blog post:

Garmin Cervelo womens team were a UK registered team, no? UCI contract “suggests” that the team pay one of the following:

“This pay may not be less than the following amount:
(Choose one)
– The legal minimum wage of the country of the nationality of the UCI Team;
– The amount set by (name of NF) in its national regulations;
– The minimum wage negotiated by (name of NF) with (e.g. name of riders’ union) of the country”

Seems anomalous that GC team’s minimum wage rates set below the UK NMW limit.

For starters, I made a mistake in my write-up. So thanks for pointing that out, I have corrected it. The UK minimum wage when I calculated it last year came to 14,600 Euro, not 19,600 I have corrected the numbers in the blog now. It should also be noted that neo-pros are usually young, and different minimum wages apply to younger people in most countries (including the UK).

This also highlights another problem, which is exchange rates. The UCI rules reference the minimum wage of the registering federation (UK in our case) but obviously a rider living in Spain or the Netherlands wants to be paid in Euros, not GBP. And the team has no real choice in where to register, it is based on its roster (or it would have to hire some fake riders in a specific country, which is not unheard of).

Secondly, as Andrew indicated, the UCI nor most national federations mandate a minimum wage for women or continental riders, they merely “suggest” one. This is again different than for Pro Conti and WorldTour riders, where the minimum wage is mandatory.

Thirdly, even if the “suggestion” was enforced, not all riders on a continental or women’s team are considered “professional” by UCI rule standards. Article 2.17.004 states:

A continental or women’s team will comprise riders who may or may not be professional, in the elite and/or under 23 men’s categories for a continental team and elite women’s category for a wom- en’s team. It must have between 8 and 16 riders.

So you can have a continental or women’s team where nobody gets paid a salary. This is not necessarily a problem, if people want to race at that level, don’t want or need a salary, then they’re free to register and compete with other Continental teams and sometimes with Pro Conti teams. Most women riders do get paid, but the amount is below the minimum wage suggestion.

As it stands now, this is not a problem because it’s merely a suggestion, and even if it became mandatory, those women below the threshold would probably become “amateurs with some compensation”.

Fourthly, there are no definitions of full-time and part-time in the UCI rules. We compensate all riders on the basis of 12 months, and the analysis I showed before was based on what minimum wages look like for 40 hours onbut that doesn’t mean they are “locked-in” for those 12 months. Quite a few women riders study or work in parallel with their cycling career. Of course some do so because they have no choice given the salary they make riding, but for many it’s also a more cerebral choice.

For example, we have a rider who had a very good job at a major multinational before she focussed more on racing. She races the full season, but then in the Fall/Winter she has a few months to do projects for her old employer or some other companies. It keeps the door open for life after racing, and of course it supplements her income too. Similarly, we have a rider who is working on her PhD in the off-season.

Finally, which country applies? The UCI rules suggest to look at the country of registration, and certainly for the federation rules which need to be followed that makes sense. But for a legal discussion regarding minimum wage, it makes a lot less sense. For example, other than the registration at the British federation, Garmin-Cervelo has no ties with the UK. It’s not a UK company, virtually none of its races are there, virtually none of its riders live there.

In fact, for the national authorities (not the cycling authorities, but actual labor and tax authorities), the country of registration of the team is completely irrelevant. They look at where the employer and employee are based. If you are a UCI team registered in Spain and you pay a rider living in Switzerland a wage that is above the UCI minimum, above the Spanish minimum but below the Swiss minimum, you’ve got a problem (I’m simplifying a bit, it depends on self-employed vs employed, etc, but safe to say, it’s complicated).

7 Responses to “Female rider minimum wage – UCI rules”

  1. Again Gerard, thanks for the analysis of women cycling and minimum wages. As you say, it is a complicated matter, and it is not only visible in women cycling but in many sports or society in general. We want as many participants as possible within the sport to find the talented, but we also want to state that when you are part of a team which is successful you should be compensated on a level which is acceptable. But then, the women who are part of the successful teams can probably solve that within the team themselves, if there is an interest. With the current financial situation globally I just hope that as many teams as possible survive.

  2. connie Says:

    This is all good information and helpful in framing the dialogue.

    Many contracts with riders are set up as independent contractors. This protects management, not the rider. In fact it’s another archaic practice within cycling BUT it also allows management to ignore minimum wage criteria.

    Comparing men’s and women’s events/distances with tennis. Women’s races don’t need to be longer or tougher to gain more exposure, and support. I believe that they simply need to be run in tandem with the built in audience….and run parallel with men’s races.

    So many topics to discuss. Why don’t you/we/the teams….organize a conference on this or lobby UCI to be part of the discussion?

    (AND Yes Gerard, last time I saw you – we were both being lapped by Zabel and the zealots in the celebrity ‘race’ who decided it was actually a real race. Bernard Hinault was pulling us along! I remember Eddy Merckx’s being quite miffed when the speed went up immediately after Prince Albert of Monica abandoned! And it was 95 degrees ! – you know what I really remember is that 5 women were in the field of elite retired professional men & sponsors – women! included! I was happy to be included but also very very surprised….that’s where women’s cycling is globally and professionally – grateful to be included. What is wrong with THAT picture! A column for another time….).

    • You’ve just revived part of my memory on that crit. I’ll write about that in the future.

      I am not sure if what you say on independent contractors is exactly correct. According to the rules, self-employed riders (which I presume is what you mean) must have at minimum 150% of the employed minimum wage. So they couldn’t be paid less than minimum wage just because they’re not directly employed. Am I missing something?

  3. It would be interesting if this salary discussion opened up a discussion on sponsorship monies since the two are directly connected especially in US women’s racing.
    I was surprised but not shocked that I could procure two jersey side panels on a major US women’s team for US$50k for a client of mine last year (along with the amenities, race day product sampling, etc etc). Admittedly, it was getting close to deadline, when teams are more willing to go lower–something is better than nothing–but still. That is a bargain for the right sponsor.
    I’ve found that many teams themselves (aside from Pro Tour) are not adept at creatively putting holistic packages together for potential sponsors, which becomes more important for a US women’s team where broadcast exposure is pretty much a non-issue, but organizing or involvement in a big charity ride the day before a race could be huge.
    The question really becomes: how to bring more money into the sport, and the answer is slightly different for US and Europe women, but both involve attracting appropriate sponsorship like lululemon for High Road that can be leveraged toward the best ROI throughout the season in a number of creative ways.

    • You’re definitely right and I would expand it, also at the ProTour (now WorldTour) level, many teams don’t know how to provide value to sponsors. Most teams are focused on winning races and figure that will be enough for the sponsors. It’s changing though, 8 years ago all top-level teams thought that way, now maybe half understand it takes more than that.

  4. Ebony Princess Says:

    Gerard reading the above just left me with a headache. I guess the issue is much more complex than I could have imagined; however, there is no excuse for not providing for the women racers.

    I have never heard of sponsors having “sleepless nights” about what women riders are paid in the U.S. Heck they don’t even care if a promoter offers an equal pay scale prize list.

    As for ROI, we saw what happened to HTC right? Although they sweep everything ahead of them, they still were not able to negotiate with the current or land a new sponsor. This still baffles me!!

    The financial world is changing and I suspect teams will have to become smarter at presenting how X will help Y sell more products, services or earn more notoriety in the marketplace. At the end of the day, it is about the numbers on the balance sheet and the major problem is that no team shares in the television revenues.

    Lastly, in the televised Word Road Championships the women did not earn any bonus points with such a boring race. The race did not get animated till Canadian Clara Hughes steeped on the gas. If a potential sponsor was watching I bet they were turned off by this lack luster event.

  5. Mr Atomic Kitten Says:

    [“Of course some do so because they have no choice given the salary they make riding, but for many it’s also a more cerebral choice.

    For example, we have a rider who had a very good job at a major multinational before she focussed more on racing. She races the full season, but then in the Fall/Winter she has a few months to do projects for her old employer or some other companies.”]

    One of your better riders, and definitely one of the riders who “had no choice” given the salary [sic] she made riding (as a neo-pro).

    You may have been doing a better job at paying women and paying them more than anyone else, but it was a pittance, no two ways about it.

    I really appreciate and enjoy reading your blog, but hiding behind rules and regulations and obfsucating the issue with team registration country and currency is a smoke screen, pure and simple.

    If it were me paying the rider above to move from her home base to Europe for most of the year, to ride full-time, I would be too embarassed to write let alone boast about what I was paying her.


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