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Redundancies at British Cycling amid "declining membership"

A year on from that controversial Shell deal and British Cycling says membership is down seven per cent

Jobs have been cut at British Cycling amid "lower than forecast sponsorship and rights fee income growth" and "declining membership" in the financial year when the governing body controversially announced an eight-year partnership with oil giant Shell.

The news, reported by Cycling Weekly, came from a draft of British Cycling's annual report and financial statements for the year up to April 2023 which was leaked and showed 11 redundancies had been made out of approximately 250 employees, while membership had fallen by seven per cent and there had been a £1.35 million loss in commercial income.

The report blames "a combination of lower than forecast sponsorship and rights fee income growth, declining membership and increasing cost pressure" and confirmed that a "review of the organisational structure is taking place in 2023/24, with a number of roles being put a risk".

Pointing at troubles post-HSBC's departure, a headline sponsorship that still has not been replaced, the report says British Cycling's commercial partnerships made £1.84 million in the year ending 31 March 2023, down from £3.19 million a year earlier.

> British Cycling and Shell: How HSBC pulling plug and COVID-19 hit governing body's finances

"It is important that we focus on reversing this decline, improving our service to members and returning to a position of growth," the report suggests.

Commenting on the redundancies and overall state of play, British Cycling's new CEO Jon Dutton, appointed in April of this year following a successful overseeing of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup, accepted change was needed amid challenging financial times.

"I do not think it will come as a surprise to anybody to see that the global economic climate and cost-of-living crisis have made our work to attract new members and commercial investment incredibly challenging," he said. "It is a challenge shared across sport, and one which households up and down the country will recognise just as keenly.

"Since joining the organisation as CEO we've moved quickly to progress a number of vital strategic projects to help us to modernise and innovate our offer, and enhance the value we provide to our members.

"We're looking forward to sharing more detail on this in the coming months as we head into another year filled with opportunity, not least how we look to capitalise on the spotlight and inspiration of Paris 2024.

Katie Archibald World Championships 2023 (Will Palmer/SWpix.com)

[Will Palmer/SWpix.com]

"I believe passionately that as an organisation we can't simply bunker down and wait for the economic forecast to improve, and that to set ourselves up to thrive in the future we need to be bold and brave in our decisions today.

"That change won't always be easy, but I am absolutely convinced that it is in the best interests of our members and our sport, and we are fully committed to taking them on the journey with us."

It has been a controversy-troubled past 12 months for British Cycling, the governing body last September apologising in the wake of advising cyclists not to ride their bikes during the state funeral for Queen Elizabeth II. Following an online backlash the advice was swiftly removed and the "we got it wrong" admission shared.

A month later and it was British Cycling's partnership with oil giants Shell that caused outrage, members calling the deal "greenwashing" and "ethically abominable", with many cancelling their membership.

> British Cycling and Shell: THAT very controversial deal discussed on the road.cc Podcast

That partnership even prompted an Extinction Rebellion protest at the National Cycling Centre in Manchester, two demonstrators climbing onto the roof of the building to display a 'Get Shell out of British Cycling' banner.

Extinction Rebellion protest at National Cycling Centre

More recently and members have expressed disgruntlement at a series of sign-up offers, one tempting new members with smart lights worth £99, leaving one member to say it is a "shame loyal members can't access" the offer.

On a more positive note was the reaction to British Cycling joining forces with other organisations to call for an end to "hazardous leniency" in sentencing of drivers who kill or injure cyclists.

British Cycling sponsored the All Party Parliamentary Group for Cycling and Walking's (APPGCW) latest report, which was published in Parliament and made recommendations to improve safety on Britain's roads.

British Cycling marked the day of the report being published by emphasising a desire to see "changes to the justice system to clamp down on repeat road offenders" and bring an end to "hazardous leniency which allows some offenders to escape driving bans or being held accountable for their actions."

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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26 comments

Avatar
Muddy Ford | 4 months ago
3 likes

Shell are acheiving what they set out to do with this partnership. I switched to CUK and quoted to BC that their deal with Shell was the reason I switched. However, I now realise that CUK is better anyway, and is more focussed on everyday riders. They seem more engaged to get improvements for active travel and to make the roads safer. BC, you reap what you sow.

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Cupov | 4 months ago
2 likes

I was with BC for a few years before giving up in 2021, now with CUK. Other than a few stickers, 3rd party insurance and 10% off at Halfords I felt BC were poor value for money. I got out before the Shell/royal funeral controvesies and have to say wish I'd moved over sooner. CUK is far more relevant to me as a cycle commuter and someone who prefers to cycle than sit in a car.

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mattw | 4 months ago
6 likes

Interesting one.

I see no reason to be puritannical about Shell, as all the energy companies will have to move with the time anyway.

I have been in BC, but CUK now do things more aligned to my interests - which is promoting transport cycling, #banthebarriers etc. Plus seem to be far better at promoting ordinary cycling.

 

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hawkinspeter replied to mattw | 4 months ago
5 likes
mattw wrote:

I see no reason to be puritannical about Shell, as all the energy companies will have to move with the time anyway.

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2023/oct/25/shell-boss-set-to-cut-jobs-from-low-carbon-division

Shell’s new chief executive is poised to cut hundreds of jobs from the oil giant’s low-carbon division as part a plan to boost the company’s profits.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/oct/26/uk-regulator-trying-block-release-shell-north-sea-documents

Lang Banks, the director of the conservation group WWF Scotland, said: “It’s an absolute farce that the regulator is spending public money on lawyers to try and prevent the release of documents that should have been made publicly available a long time ago.

“If they are prepared to use these documents as part of the planning and the licensing process then they should also be prepared to make them public.”

Tessa Khan, an international climate crisis and human rights lawyer and the executive director of the campaign group Uplift, believes the regulator’s efforts to keep the documents out of the public domain are for the benefit of the oil and gas industry and at the expense of the environment and general public.

“The NSTA’s job is to act as an independent regulator but, for as long as it’s been around, it has favoured oil and gas firms, including colluding with the industry on how to best sell new drilling to the public,” she told Sky News.

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a1white replied to mattw | 4 months ago
2 likes
mattw wrote:

Interesting one.

I see no reason to be puritannical about Shell, as all the energy companies will have to move with the time anyway.

They aren't moving with the times though. They cut investment in green technologies so they could make increased profits from Oil. Sponsoring British Cycling is the definition of Greenwashing.

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Rendel Harris replied to mattw | 4 months ago
3 likes
mattw wrote:

I see no reason to be puritannical about Shell

Look up Ken Saro-Wira and Shell's complicity in his execution and those of other tribal leaders and rape, torture, extrajudicial killings and destruction of villages in order to further their interests in Nigeria, not to mention the grotesque pollution of farmland and water supplies in the Niger delta, might change your mind.

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alan sherman | 4 months ago
1 like

The trans issue hit membership too. The partial backtrack showed another error of judgement like the shell sponsorship.

But isn't there also a backdrop of road cycling, and racing in particular, having peaked?

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dubwise replied to alan sherman | 4 months ago
1 like
alan sherman wrote:

The trans issue hit membership too. The partial backtrack showed another error of judgement like the shell sponsorship.

Really, I doubt very much that the vast majority of current and ex members care about it.

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to dubwise | 4 months ago
2 likes

I thought it was the UCI which back tracked, not BC which is just the local enforcement of UCI rules. 

There was one multiple repeat PBU who under their various guises had left BC over the Trans debate and something else, but was also proud to be a BC member when Shell was announced. The goal of these posts was to get the most responses as trolls need that to live. 

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Adam Sutton replied to dubwise | 4 months ago
3 likes

I didn't give a hoot about the shell matter, but as someone with a trans nephew them feeding into the TERF narrative, some of which reared its head on here, was absolutely why I cancelled and joined Cycling UK.

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alan sherman replied to Adam Sutton | 4 months ago
0 likes

BC royally ballsed up the issue, and managed to annoy many viewpoints. I left because I have a daughter and thought the initial BC position was unfair.

I don't race any more but did feel staying a member was part of give back for the years I did. I suspect the non racing older members are the ones that left (for whichever reason) because we didn't need the racing licence so could leave without really being affected. The challenge for BC is how to win back the support of non racing members whilst growing the racing community.

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huntswheelers | 4 months ago
4 likes

I'm in both BC and CUK and I hesitated last at renewal time of BC.... the Shell thing and no recognition of Gravel Biking and Adventure cycling made me think....but I thought too long and then the DD was up and too late...... I've left it this year and only a week or so ago was Gravel biking even mentioned...... Now CUK are way ahead of the game for us non pro cyclists ......  and have more support for the cycling campaigns...... I won't be renewing BC this year and I'm getting in 2 months before the renewal comes up.

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kil0ran | 4 months ago
3 likes

Sadly it will be the domestiques and stagiares who suffer from mismanagement here, not the DS.

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Velophaart_95 replied to kil0ran | 4 months ago
0 likes

If you don't follow racing, that won't mean anything......

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LeadenSkies | 4 months ago
7 likes

Got a "Sorry to hear you aren't renewing, can we ask why?" type of email yesterday. It's only taken them 11 and a half months to realise I hadn't renewed which says something in itself. For me, it was the lack of understanding of non-competitive cycling, the Shell debacle and the total lack of any benefit that I saw from my membership fee. I got the third party insurance for £1 a month from a commercial insurer and now spend the other £40 a year supporting cycle related causes and campaigns that actually benefit me.

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Jimmy Ray Will | 4 months ago
3 likes

I saw this news earlier and I had a sudden epithany... maybe, just maybe, BC aren't actually very good at governing the sport. 

Thinking back, the first big failure I am aware of is XC MTB racing. That sport was decimated by foot and mouth in 2001 and never recovered.

More recently, the road and circuit scene has been gutted by the pandemic and apart from some rudamentary plasters, BC has done nothing to rebuild the scene. Looking back, the last significant reform of road and circuit racing was nearly 20 years ago. 

BC seemingly leaves the facilitation of the sport to its volunteer network, who are great when things are good (think post 2012 olympics) but are not really positioned to take a long term holistic viewpoint on the sport's development. That is for the governing body to manage surely. 

From my personal memory, any changes driven by BC to road / circuit events have not helped rider engagement at all. Memborable highlights include;

 - Removing Nat C cat event category (to enable a small number of elites to race more often) which instantly removed any tangible difference between Elite and 1st cat racers

- Reduced all mid-week points to the bare minimum (to ensure a small number of individuals were happy that elite cat racers truly reflected the nation's best riders). This had the wonderful effect of killing mid-week racing, and it also significantly reduced the general motivation to chase licence upgrades.

- Remove the lap out rule in circuit racing (to help literally one commissaire who'd had a bit of trouble in one race). This change compromised rider safety and delivered poorer rider experiences - there's nothing like puncturing / crashing at the start of a crit and ending your race after a minute to put you off! 

- Introduced Accredited marshals (to improve safety and reduce insurance premium). To be fair this is a good thing, but it has made racing more expensive

 - Ensured all courses were independently risk assessed (again to improve safety and reduce the insurance premium). A wise move in theory, but as in any risk averse situation, those assessing have taken a belt and braces approach which left many courses prohibitively difficult to organise. It's also limited the number of courses available, making racing 'samey' and less engaging.

Don't get me started on what BC haven't done.

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Sevenfold | 4 months ago
12 likes

Cancelled my membership renewal directly as a result of the Shell sponsorship. Now joined Cycling UK which probably more appropriate to me anyway. I simply cannot understand why they would want to cosy up with fossil fuel companies who are trying to greenwash themselves. 

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Moist von Lipwig replied to Sevenfold | 4 months ago
7 likes

Exactly the same here too.

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bobbinogs replied to Moist von Lipwig | 4 months ago
11 likes

My final straw with BC was the dictat telling me not to ride during the Queen's funeral.  The Shell decision merely confirmed that I had done the right thing by jumping ship to CUK who support cycling in the UK, rather than do the corporate crap with dubious sponsors.

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justinclayton66 replied to bobbinogs | 4 months ago
4 likes

Same reasons I left and joined CUK.
Having been instructed not to ride during queens funeral, I deliberately went for a 70odd mile ride. Roads were fairly quiet

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stonojnr replied to Sevenfold | 4 months ago
9 likes

With those numbers, without Shell who were the only offer they had,unless you wanted cryptocurrency involved, they'd have been filing for bankruptcy by now.

They've managed to decimate the UK road racing scene, you could argue the same for CX,MTB or BMX but they never cared about them anyway.

Better economic times would simply have hidden the fact they no longer know what their purpose is as an organisation, beyond administrative
oversight of lottery & government funded Olympic track cycling.

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EM69 replied to stonojnr | 4 months ago
3 likes

Very well put, its welcome to the real world I'm afraid.

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Secret_squirrel replied to stonojnr | 4 months ago
3 likes

Not actually the case.   They get 10's of millions of pounds from the UK government for grassroots sport and the Olympic program.  Plus more from the poor members who have to buy a monopolists racing license from them.

The commercial sponsorship is their gravy train/slush fund and arguably scope creep.  They should be firing the head of sponsorships and marketing.

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Junaid replied to stonojnr | 4 months ago
1 like

I do some work with BC, I can say first hand the Shell money (without going into the ethics!) is there and being used to drive the Para aspect of cycling. I already know a handful of coaches etc who have been hired as a direct result of that pot of cash, who will now create a lot more opportunities for para athletes.

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bobbinogs replied to Junaid | 4 months ago
2 likes
Junaid wrote:

I do some work with BC, I can say first hand the Shell money (without going into the ethics!) is there and being used to drive the Para aspect of cycling. I already know a handful of coaches etc who have been hired as a direct result of that pot of cash, who will now create a lot more opportunities for para athletes.

Wow! Great news for the Shell marketing department as they can now do some bonus virtue-signalling as well as greenwashing.  Double bang for dirty buck.

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Left_is_for_Losers replied to Junaid | 4 months ago
2 likes
Junaid wrote:

I do some work with BC, I can say first hand the Shell money (without going into the ethics!) is there and being used to drive the Para aspect of cycling. I already know a handful of coaches etc who have been hired as a direct result of that pot of cash, who will now create a lot more opportunities for para athletes.

But people here don't care about what the money is used for, only where it came from and if it looks unethical.

I have no qualms about oil money. Glad to see it used in Cycling, better that than stashed in someones pocket. 

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