I mentioned the salary cap in my previous blog. I said:
The only way for teams to stop losing money is for them to work together, and sit down with a united front to negotiate a deal with governing bodies and riders to agree on some sort of salary cap. Not just in their own interest, but also in the interest of the riders, so that costs can be controlled and fat years provide a cushion for any lean years ahead.
I got many responses to the blog, and one came from Joe Papp:
Perhaps only someone who never tried to make a living racing a bike would suggest, with no apparent sense of irony, that the wages of those actually doing the pedaling be artificially suppressed – ostensibly so underfunded and/or poorly-managed teams can escape responsibility for their own failure to secure sufficient backing before applying for a UCI license.
Let me address that as follows:
- I don’t think we have much of a disagreement.
- I’m not an enormous fan of salary caps, but they can work in some cases – to the benefit of all.
- My comment was that the only way teams will make money is if they have a salary cap. Not because they need to keep the riders under control, but because they need to keep each other under control. That’s what a cap does, it deals with the distrust and incompetence among teams. Joe seems to agree. So again I don’t care if there’s a cap, because I don’t really care if teams make money.
- Ironically, it appears that in many sports with a salary cap, athlete salaries rise. Caps don’t tend to cap in the long run, they provide certainty which teams can use to plan long-term and as revenues grow, the athletes negotiate their part of that pie. However, in no way do I think caps are a miracle cure, and in cycling they may be no cure at all.
- Rider salaries increase when the team landscape is stable. Salaries plummet (for example in 2008) when teams fall over and there is a glut of riders. You’re right, it won’t affect the Contadors of the world, but it does affect the levels below them. A salary cap is a way to stabilize the team landscape, although it is by no means the only action that would need to be taken to achieve that.
- Bottom line, if you maximize your pay today and thereby stretch a few teams so that financially or athletically they are no longer competitive and they fold, then your pay comes down again. Let your pay grow a little slower and you improve the chances that it will continue to grow.
And I’ll say it one more time just in case it wasn’t clear already; I am under no illusion that a salary cap magically solves cycling’s problems, or maybe even part of it.