September 16, 2014 / 2:08 AM / 5 years ago

Speed-driven Aussie cycling given funding lifeline

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Cash-strapped national governing body Cycling Australia has had a board shake-out and received a A$2 million (US$1.81 million) lifeline to keep its Olympic programme on track after battling back from virtual insolvency.

Former International Cricket Council boss Malcolm Speed will replace outgoing president Gerry Ryan and lead a new board of bankers and business people as the sport completes a governance review and tries to generate more revenue to close the gap on big-spending cycling powers like Britain.

Ryan, owner of pro cycling team Orica-Greenedge, steps down after less than a year in charge but will remain as a director and help the administration appoint a new CEO in coming months.

Australian cycling has undergone a period of soul-searching in recent years, with the exposure of Lance Armstrong as a drug cheat leading to Australian duo Matt White and Stephen Hodge quitting their posts after admitting to doping during their cycling careers.

A long-time investor in the sport, Ryan said CA had also battled a financial crisis, as sponsorship revenue failed to materialise and a venture into events management turned sour.

“If it was a private business it wouldn’t be operating,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday.

“What we had to do was unfold the events business, it was a joint partnership and we had to move on some of the personnel and scale back.

“We have a small events business now which is profitable. Basically, they grew a little bit faster than the revenue that was coming in.

“We’ve got a financial platform going forward and hopefully (can) repay those loans before the five years (are up).

“Thanks to the Sports Commission and the states we are now in a better financial position, a financial position we can trade on and prosper.”

The Australian Sports Commission, the agency in charge of channelling government funding into national sports, will kick in A$1.5 million of the loan, with the rest to come from state member associations and Mountain Bike Australia, the ASC said.

The interest-bearing loan has strings attached, however, being subject to completion of the governance review and the formation of a high-performance “oversight committee” to ensure the money is well-spent, ASC chief John Wylie said.

“We’ll work very closely to make sure that our high performance programme remains very much on track for Rio 2016.

“We see it as a board in transition, a sport in transition and that’s an appropriate measure of investment by the AIS,” he added, referring to the Australian Institute of Sport, the peak nursery for elite athletes Down Under.

Australia has enjoyed a thrilling rivalry with cycling power Britain but came off second-best at recent Olympic Games.

Ryan said CA was looking to raise another A$2 million from the public, either from corporate sponsorship or direct contributions from the 1.4 million regular cyclists in the country to give the country’s Olympic team their best chance at the 2016 Rio Games.

“As I’ve always said, if you look at football clubs who have the most money, they’ve won the most premierships,” Ryan added.

“I travel the world and it’s no fluke that the Brits have done what they’ve done and they’ve done it with money.

“It’s a priority of Cycling Australia to increase our income to support high performance.”

Editing by Greg Stutchbury

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