A sponsorship deal with Shell – what was British Cycling thinking?

JThe outrage that greeted the news that British Cycling had sold the next generation, signing an eight-year sponsorship deal with Shell, Europe’s biggest oil company, was instantaneous.

His Twitter feed was inundated with furious members and cyclists condemning the decision. Within hours, an online petition set up by Badvertising had been signed by more than 1,000 cycling clubs, former Olympians, members of British Cycling and other organisations.

As co-founder of Stop Killing Cyclists, together with our committee, we voted with our 8,000 members to see if they support a boycott of British Cycling and a call on the cycling community to stage protests at events British Cycling. The result was an astonishing 98% support!

But that’s just the latest furor from British Cycling. The organization was recently ridiculed for calling on cyclists not to cycle on the day of the royal funeral (imagine AAs telling drivers not to ride?) and it was only last year that the former British Cycling doctor has been found guilty of a huge doping scandal. .

But what eluded the cover was that British Cycling’s former major sponsor was HSBC – the world’s 13th biggest fossil fuel funder. And the great British international professional cycle racing team Ineos Grenadiers, the former Team Sky, is now sponsored by the richest British fossil fuel billionaire, Jim Ratcliffe, the owner of Ineos.

So why are so many corporate sponsors of fossil fuels drawn to sponsoring cycling? Their logos get millions of pounds of free publicity as they are plastered all over the running gear of young competitors. It even takes them past the BBC advertising bar, where the Shell logo on British Cycling’s young competitors is already splashed across its screens and website.

But more importantly, being associated with a green sustainable mode of transport like the eco-bike is their brand. The eight-year sponsorship deal with Shell takes us to 2030, when the UN says we must have cut carbon emissions by 45% to have a chance of staying below a 1.5° temperature rise vs.

But recent reports indicate that Shell plans to spend $46 billion to expand its fossil oil and gas investments over this eight-year period. It is of course much more advantageous for Shell to associate its brand with friendly young green sportsmen than with its economic model which sacrifices the climate.

So how did British Cycling get into this mess? A possible clue is that its board of directors is dominated by the world of financial services and banking, many of them having this background. Their chairman, Frank Slevin, is the former head of Global Banking for HSBC, the former sponsor of British Cycling since 2017.

When we asked British Cycling: “Can you confirm whether or not in that capacity Mr Slevin oversaw HSBC loans to Shell or other major oil and gas companies?” British Cycling said it could not comment and also declined to say how many members quit following the announcement.

Besides this scandal, it should be noted that British Cycling totally fails in its primary objective of promoting cycling in the United Kingdom. For decades, despite some bright spots in London and Manchester, pioneered by Sadiq Khan, Chris Boardman and Andy Burnham, cycling’s share of transport travel has languished below a miserable 2% for decades.

When Stop Killing Cyclists staged a nationwide protest calling on the Conservative government to increase its current abysmal 1% of the transport budget dedicated to cycling, up to the 20% advocated by the UN, British Cycling refused to support the action.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, groups of cyclists have for years organized a nationwide protest called Pedal On Parliament, which helped build momentum for the SNP/Green coalition to announce that 10% of Scotland’s transport budget would be invested in the construction of a protected national network. cycle network in Scotland.

To keep up to date with all the latest opinions and comments, sign up for our free weekly Voices Dispatches newsletter. click here

So while it is crucial that British Cycling immediately reverses its betrayal of young cyclists across Britain by abandoning the Shell deal which requires young athletes to wear what is – for many of us – its logo despised, that is not enough. Board Chairman Frank Slevin must step down immediately, along with the rest of the financiers who got them into this mess.

We need a new board to ensure British Cycling becomes an effective advocate for investment in Britain’s protected cycle network, to enable children to cycle to school safely , adults to cycle to work in good health and to reduce our carbon emissions linked to transport, which remain the biggest source. UK territorial broadcasts, as well as to promote competitive cycling.

Great Britain deserves much better than what the current British Cycling Board offers. And it’s time to kick out all the dirty oil companies and their bankers who are trashing the climate of all cycling institutions and competitions. We got rid of tobacco advertising; we can do the same with this far deadlier threat to young people.

Comments are closed.