License to will

October 26, 2011

“Morally reprehensible”, “morally repugnant”, “Do not use the UCI license to force teams and organizers to do something”. Just some of the responses to my suggestion that WorldTour teams and races should be required to have a women’s team resp. race as well.

In my view, these people are missing the point. The concept that UCI licenses should not be used to force certain behavior is ludicrous. In fact, adjusting behavior is the ONLY objective of licenses. If you’re against any sort of governing body, any sort of license, OK, that’s consistent. But having a governing body doling out licenses and then saying you don’t want that to influence behavior makes no sense.

Every license has certain criteria attached to them. These criteria further the UCI’s agenda. Some criteria are related to health and safety, others to the sporting level, or to giving young riders and riders from underdeveloped regions a chance to get a spot on the world stage. You fulfill those criteria, you get a license. It’s actually one of the few ways in which a federation can influence behavior.

I didn’t hear anybody complain about some Iranian dude making a salary that could support an entire women’s team, just because he scored a bunch of points on the AsianTour and those points help Lotto to get a WorldTour license. It has nothing to do with the real sporting level of that team for next year, it’s a complete distortion of the ranking, but it’s in the rules to help develop the sport in regions outside of Europe (a crude method in my view, but that’s another story).

Yet if the UCI would start counting women’s ranking points towards the WorldTour status (a great idea from @inrng) instead of AsianTour points, all hell breaks loose. And that’s really a much better idea, since unlike the Iranian rider the women don’t have to race against the men the way this Iranian guy now has to.

It’s all very simple; either you don’t want any governing body doling out licenses or you accept that there are criteria to obtain such licenses and those criteria are aligned with the governing body’s mandate.

Even if you accept that the governing body can set criteria, that still doesn’t mean race organizers or teams don’t have a choice. The Tour de France didn’t like the ProTour, so they never asked for a ProTour license. Cervelo TestTeam didn’t like the ProTour, so it didn’t ask for a ProTour license either.

I’m planning a series on the unintended side effects of the current license process. It’s quite staggering actually, so if you’re interested, you can subscribe here.

28 Responses to “License to will”

  1. Ethan Says:

    “some Iranian dude,” huh? Nice.

    • Hi Ethan, no disrespect to Sohrabi, “some Iranian dude” reflects how no doubt most cycling followers will feel when they hear about Lotto’s signing. Did you know his name when you read “some Iranian dude”? That was my point.

      • Ethan Says:

        I did but I follow these things more closely than most. I am having a much harder time being critical of these signings. (I’m thinking also of the new Ag2r riders who are drawing similar criticism)

        I suppose I got what you were going for with the phrasing but it still felt disrespectful. These riders are being treated like they stole these points or otherwise did not earn their places in their new teams.

  2. spanielsson Says:

    Basically the UCI as an organisation stink on many levels. In your opinion, how far away are we from seeing a breakaway from the UCI?

    Do you think the formation of another organisation/union would stop the boom, bust and financial instability that is a continual problem within our sport?

    Sorry Gerard, more questions than opinion!

    • I’m hijacking Gerard’s blog quickly, only because this is something I’ve been debating with a few people at various levels of the sport this past week or so.

      It’d be much easier for non-Olympic sports to breakaway (i.e. Downhill and Cyclocross). In the grand scheme of things, UCI adds very little to these sports. This is proven by Freecaster’s decision to walk away from the UCI (due to costs) and set up a rival DH series, only for the UCI to then approach Freecaster to ask for the series to be brought into the UCI as the UCI would look pretty bad not having the premier DH series associated with it.

      On the whole, the Olympics are more important to women’s cycling then men’s cycling (the endorsements from being an Olympian are financially more important to a female cyclist than a male road cyclist on €1m a year), so a breakaway from the UCI would hit the women hard… unless IOC backed a breakaway or women’s cycling would earn greater rewards financially.

      Would be an interesting one to get Gerard’s views. Gotta love the politics in sport.

  3. Larry T. Says:

    Doesn’t the points rule get this “Iranian dude” into the top level of the sport from a kind of backwater? Isn’t this kind of what the point of the points requirement was? UCI has set a mission to globalize the sport and this would seem to do that.
    A “Title 9” program for women’s cycling is a novel idea…but what do the women think about it? Do they want to be part of something forced onto a men’s program or part of a team that truly WANTS to promote women’s cycling? Any time men decide they know what’s best for women there can be serious problems.
    Off-topic–great blog! I have little interest in the bikes you make but like your (often humorous) willingness to “call ’em as you see ’em” and take on those who try to start needless acrimony with other readers.

    • Absolutely, the points scales were made to give relatively more weight to some underdeveloped regions, thereby globalizing the sport.

      My point is, why is it OK to “artificially” boost Asia and not women? After all, it doesn’t get more global than adding 3.5 billion people to your party.

  4. Larry T. Says:

    As I wrote, I think the women need to be asked if they’d like to be “used” in the same way as this Iranian fellow? It’s easy for men to decide these things but just like insulting minorities, it’s THE minorities who are the only ones capable of deciding whether they’re insulted or not. The first thing to do would be to encourage some women to get on the UCI, that would shake (and probably clean) things up!
    In a strictly business sense, think about the Giro in the old days when housewives were home to watch on TV…is it a surprise so many sponsors were kitchen makers like Salvarani or SCIC, skin creams like Nivea or appliance makers like Ursus? Women make so many of the buying decisions that affect non-bike-industry sponsors you’d think more of ’em would be interested in this, but when you struggle to keep your men’s team afloat in this rocky economy, women’s cycling is easily left out of the picture. I don’t know whether forcing these teams to set up women’s teams is the answer but it’s an interesting idea nonetheless.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    I’ve enjoyed all the posts here and elsewhere about Women’s cycling, and as an avid cycling fan I would watch it if it was on, as I would the Asia tour if I found it televised anywhere.

    That said, surely if enough people were watching the Women’s World Champs then Eurosport would show other women’s races. If people are not watching when it is on, why would they watch more if it was on more. The Womens Premier League football in the UK only had 2 matches shown live on TV at all last year.

  6. I do agree the world tour licence is a good way to make pro teams take the step to start a women’s team. But I don’t think you should force it. Just like you shouldn’t force women’s teams to also start a men’s team. Because there are also companies who are only interested to sponsor a women’s team, and there should be room for that as well. The suggestion by @inrng is, at least in my opinion, a good idea. You don’t force teams to start a women’s team, but the teams that do have a much bigger chance to get the world tour licence because they have an extra ‘source’ to earn points. You could do the same thing with a development team. This way teams like Garmin and Rabobank have three teams that can all score points, while for example Radioshack has two teams (Trek-Livestrong development team) and some other teams only have the pro team to collect points. This way it would be much harder to get the licence with just the pro team, so it will be very useful to support a women’s team and/or a continental team as well.

  7. Sidamo Says:

    Gerard, rather than imposing a women’s team on each men’s team (especially with almost all men’s teams currently struggling for sponsors), could we advocate for something simpler perhaps?

    If the issue is TV exposure, perhaps the UCI could hire 2-3 people, kit them out with video cameras & laptops loaded w/ editing software and have them dedicated to following the women’s season, tasked w/ producing quick-turnaround highlights packages which could then be given away free to TV and/or made available on the net. It could probably be done for, say, less than half a million euros (3 salaries, a car + 50k in vid/comp equipment, the rest in travel/accom).

    If there’s a genuine audience out there for women’s events, TV stations should jump at free content and viewing figures would provide a solid foundation on which to build a business case.

  8. david Says:

    1. Come on, Gerald. I, for one, never said or implied that the “UCI should not be used to force certain behavior,” and I don’t recall any of other folks you refer to in the first paragraph of this article doing so either. Or, again, Gerald says, “But having a governing body doling out licenses and then saying you don’t want that to influence behavior makes no sense.” I agree. I, for one, never said or implied such a thing. That’s just a big, phat strawman. I think I’m going to use it in the critical thinking class I’m teaching as a nice, real-life example of a strawman. (I won’t mention your name. I’ll refer to you as . . . the Adam of the future Conehead race.)

    2. The question I and others were addressing is whether the UCI *should* coerce, err. .. require men’s teams and men’s race organizers to fund men women’s races. I’m opposed to this. Quoting myself, I do find it “morally repugnant.” There’s nothing inconsistent about opposing this coercion and yet wanting the sport’s governing body to prevent Cancellara from using a motor-assisted bike.

    3. The UCI may or may not have the power, under whatever charter they operate under, to require men’s teams and men’s races to fund women’s teams and races. But, if they do, and they attempt to exercise that power, I believe the men’s side of the sport would be perfectly justified leaving the UCI. And, I believe there’s a good chance they would.

    4. I’m astonished by the fact that so many in discussions of this issue just so easily assert that the men’s side of the sport should be required to support the women’s side. Male racers, men’s teams, and men’s race organizers will be harmed by this requirement, and this fact is never countenanced by those who so easily claim the men’s side should/ought to/is obligated to fund women’s pro racing. It will reduce the salaries of male racers, prize awards, and the number of men’s races. Money that would go to men’s racing will be diverted to women’s racing. Is there any doubt about that?

    5. I challenge anyone to spell out the grounds on which the men’s pro racing is obligated to fund women’s pro racing. I’ve seen no one do it. As close as anyone gets is an argument that goes something like this.

    (i) The UCI’s mission is to promote bicycle racing, men’s and women’s bicycle racing.
    (ii) The UCI can promote women’s bicycle racing by requiring men’s teams to fund women’s teams and men’s race organizers to run concurrent women’s races or otherwise run women’s races.
    (iii) So, the UCI ought to require men’s teams to fund women’s teams and men’s race orgranizers to run women’s pro races.

    The conclusion just does not follow.

    6. I dig women bicycle racers. They are damn sexy. I like to watch them race bikes, and not just because they are sexy. I just like watching bicycle racing. I would watch more women’s racing if it there more of it to watch. I wish them luck in developing their sport. But, it’s their sport, not Cancellara’s or Gilbert’s, nor J.V.’s or Bruneel’s.

    • Tim H Says:

      Fantastic post again David. I agree with everything you said.

      There is no basis to force men’s teams to fund women’s teams. This is a commercial enterprise and the sponsors should be able to choose how they spend their money, at least in sexist arguments like this one.

    • So you say you are not opposed to the UCI forcing certain behavior. So what behavior do you feel they should be able to force through their licenses? Your electric bike example falls flat as it has nothing to do with the licenses, that’s in their main rules.

      I get the sense that people actually have no idea to what extent the licenses currently already modify behavior, in ways just as acceptable or unacceptable as promoting women’s cycling.

      • david Says:

        With respect to the issue raised in my paragraph (1), the distinction between licensing requirements and rules governing racing on the road is a distinction without a difference. The general level question raised in my (1) is whether the UCI should force certain behavior. You claimed that I, we, were saying they should not. We were not claiming that, or at least, I certainly was not. Of course they should, whether through licensing or other means. The issue is whether they should force men’s team and men’s race organizers to fund women’s pro racing. I claim they should not. That does not imply or presuppose they should not force anything else.

        As to what the UCI should require of teams? I’ve no problem with salary requirements, minimum and maximum team sizes for WorldTour teams, mandatory race participation, no drugs, no head-butting in sprints.
        Wait . . .I do have a problem with that. Head-butting should be allowed. At any rate, it’s really not my place to have a problem about these matters. I’m a fan, amateur racer and help run small amatuer races. That’s all.

        It is my place to have a problem with men being forced
        fund women’s pro sports. There’s broader moral and political principles involved here that bear on issues outside of bicycle racing.

        • OK, so why do you not have a problem with mandatory race participation. After all, that’s nothing other than a tool to support unviable races by making them bask in the glory of the important ones. Sounds pretty similar to how you feel about in your view unviable women’s races basking in the glory of men’s races?

        • david Says:

          Something interesting might come of comparing different mandates.

          1. The UCI can plausibly claim that requiring participation in WorldTour races is good for the sport, the men’s pro sport. I’ve not really heard teams or riders really chaff under the mandatory ProTour, now WorldTour calender. So, it’s not clear they are being coerced, i.e., forced to act against their will. The UCI cannot claim with nearly as much plausibility that subsidizing women’s pro racing is good for the sport, the men’s pro sport. And I think there’s little doubt that a good number of the men’s teams would feel as if they were being coerced.

          2. Should the men’s teams/race organizers and the UCI come together and agree that the men’s side of the sport should subsidize women’s pro racing, for whatever reason, and agree that such support should be a licensing requirement, I’d not say a word. Wouldn’t be any business of mine. And it would certainly be interesting if every men’s team had a women’s team as well flying the same colors. (Hmm. Or would it? Maybe we should want to see unique sponsors for women’s teams.)

  9. tom hewitt Says:

    How about the UCI mandating that organizers include a handicapped race, a junior race and a master’s race with every pro men’s event, as well?

  10. Larry T. Says:

    Interesting comments from David. I’d like him to tell us if he supports or opposes the Title 9 legislation in the USA? And for a guy who calls himself an academic (ie “the class in critical thinking I’m teaching”) to describe women’s cycling as sexy comes across as more than a bit sexist and demeaning to women in a similar way that the beach volleyball rules that require them to wear skimpy costumes do. Where are you teaching this class?
    Finally I believe Mr. Vroomen’s name is GERARD, not Gerald.

    • But I’m sure the blog on is more interesting!

    • Tim H Says:

      I do NOT support title 9 legislation but this is a more difficult case because universities are not supposed to be commercial enterprises (cough, couch). As I showed in my earlier posts, women’s teams have grown at the direct expense of men’s teams, to the point that women’s teams now outnumber men’s teams. Let’s see if title 9 works both ways and women’s teams get cut back?

      I think his description of “sexy” is his opinion, and I do not find it demeaning. Is it sexist to say most supermodels are pretty? How far does your PC addled mind go? Not right or wrong, simply his opinion and he is entitled to it.

      • So how do university sports work in general? Are they self-supporting, or is real university money (tuition fees, etc) going to sports teams? Open question, I have no idea on US university sports.

    • david Says:

      The imposition of Title IX in the US was barbaric. It destroyed several men’s collegiate sports to make way for women’s sports that at the time had no real base of support. I had wished that a better way had been found to expand the participation of women in scholastic and collegiate sports. Maybe there wasn’t one.

      Yes, I am an academic, and as such I can and will think for myself. I find nothing wrong or inappropriate at all publicly calling women bicycle racers sexy. It’s just a plain fact, and I’m not too concerned with corrupted sensibilities of people taught to be offended by nonsense. “A man saying certain women are sexy in public. Good God, what has the world come to!? What a terrible thing!”

      Sorry, Gerard, about your name. Posting while drinking beer has its risks.

  11. trounder Says:

    As a man, I say let’s make more women into professional cyclists. Because, hey, they are sexy!

    @david and @Tim H- is it just the principle of the thing that you are against, or are you genuinely afraid that men’s professional cycling will somehow suffer great economic harm if the UCI imposes a rule that favors licenses for teams with women attached?

    Title IX implementation has a 39 year history in the U.S.A. affecting all publicly funded education, and it goes beyond just collegiate athletics. It includes harassment and gender equality in education broadly. To draw conclusions regarding a Mr. Vrooman’s (by way of Inrng) hypothetical proposal for a new rule in a professional, international sport (cycling) based on the bureaucratic and legal entanglements resulting from the reallocation of athletics funding in response to an American Civil Rights statute seems a bit myopic…or hyperbolic…or both. I mean no disrespect.

    I agree thoughtful and incremental change is a better strategy in the long run, and I think this licensing incentive idea is a good start. Thanks Mr. Vrooman!

  12. david Says:

    Both the principle and the consequences. More costs shifted to men’s race organizers will very likely reduce the number of men’s races. The Tour of California, which I have the pleasure to watch in person, is struggling. They are trying to charge the host cities more and more and some quality hosting cities are balking. Solvang won’t host this year, even though it would like to. San Diego, in one of the biggest cycling areas in the state, stopped hosting two or three years ago. It’s already hard enough for cycling out there in the current economic climate.

    My concern with principle is this. A number of folks, not just bloggers PWDB, have talked as if the fact that women don’t have good salaries–and some no salary at all–and don’t have as many prestigious races as the men do, is a violation of their rights. That is, I’ve heard insiders in the sport talk about how “equality” requires forcing men to fund women’s pro sports. That’s highly troubling. There’s no civil, human, or natural right to race a bike for a living, and there is just no discrimination against women bicycle racers that would be a violation of their rights to equal treatment under the law, at least as I understand that right.

    (The recent IOC demand to make room for more women’s events in the Olympic games puzzles me, but it is against the rules of PWDB to do any research whilst engaged in the activity. Maybe Gerard can do it. On what grounds did the IOC require the UCI to alter its medal structure, leading to the UCI to change the track program for the Games? I seem to recall something about threats of lawsuits against the IOC.)

    I’ve become alarmed seeing more and more people appear to have a mindset like the following. If I want it, really, really bad, then I have a right to it. And, if I have a right to it, then others should make sure I get it. The recent OCCUPY phenomenon has not done anything to lessen my worries.

    On the other hand, I’ve read or heard a number of prominent women in the sport express *anger* at their position in the sport. The quick, sharp reply from top women racers to McQuaid’s remarks about the women’s side of the sport not being ready for mandatory salaries, I’d count as one example. That anger I’d like to understand, honestly. Argh . . . .too many words.

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