Postponement of Tour fears worst for cycling

A flourishing showcase for Amaury Sport Organization (ASO), the Grande Boucle represents a French monument but also the economic lung of professional cycling. Its cancellation due to covid-19 would have serious consequences.

A flourishing showcase for Amaury Sport Organization (ASO), the Grande Boucle represents a French monument but also the economic lung of professional cycling. Its cancellation due to covid-19 would have serious consequences.

(AFP) – While maintaining the planned dates (June 27-July 19) seems de facto impossible with the ban announced Monday by President Emmanuel Macron of “events with a large audience” in France “at least until mid-July next ”, a postponement to August is under consideration in an attempt to save the soldier Tour de France.

The black hypothesis of an outright cancellation would not only deprive millions of afternoon viewers who stretch to contemplate breathtaking landscapes of France, punctuated by epic battles in the mountains. Because the Great Loop is above all a pillar for the budget of the teams involved, 22 in number for the 2020 edition. And if the centenary test does not take place, “this opens the possibility of an economic collapse of the sector” , warns Jean-François Mignot, researcher at the CNRS and author of a “History of the Tour de France” (ed. La Découverte).

“It is very simple. If the Tour does not take place, teams could disappear, runners and members of management would find themselves without work “, predicts Marc Madiot, the manager of the Groupama-FDJ team, whose budget is estimated at around 20 millions of euros

Le Tour and nothing else

The threat is not due to the premiums paid to the teams by ASO, around 2.3 million euros in the 2019 edition, according to the Sporsora association, which brings together players in the sport economy. But quite simply, explains Jean-François Mignot, because for “many team sponsors, the only reason for being in cycling rather than elsewhere lies in the Tour de France. If the sponsors agree to invest, it is so that viewers can see their mark on the jerseys of the riders during the Tour, because it is the only cycling event that is so massively watched ”.

“There are quite a few sporting disciplines that are based to such an extent on an event, which is more owned by a private sector” and not a federation, underlines Bruno Bianzina, director general of the Sport Market agency. It was thanks to revenue from TV rights and sponsors that racing became such a flourishing business for ASO from the mid-1980s, its turnover then increasing tenfold over the following two decades (from 5 to 50 million ‘euros), according to estimates contained in the work of Jean-François Mignot.

ASO, also owner of the Vuelta, Paris-Nice and Dauphiné, as well as great classics like Paris-Roubaix, is known for not giving figures but according to Sporsora, the turnover of the 2019 edition rises at around 130 million euros, 40% to 50% of which come from sponsors, 50% to 55% of TV rights and between 5% and 10% of communities that invest in hosting a stage start or finish. This would represent more than half of the turnover declared in 2018 by the company of the Amaury group (233.5 million euros according to

“Spot” for tourism

For all observers, a summer without a Tour would be a blow for ASO, which did not answer questions from AFP. “Le Tour is their cash cow”, sums up the boss of Sport Market. “This is what keeps everything else”, adds an actor in cycling. Understand, less profitable trials. Because if “everyone needs the Tour, the Tour needs the rest of the calendar,” says Marc Madiot, also president of the National Cycling League.

Event sponsors would also lose a lot. Because the Tour de France is a unique opportunity to reach the general public, via broadcasting on screens, but also on the spot, with the famous Tour caravan, a real rolling advertising circus (31 brands and institutions in 2019) which comes before peloton. ASO claims 10 to 12 million spectators on the roads.

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According to Sporsora, it takes around 250,000 to 300,000 euros for the Tour’s smallest partner. According to unconfirmed sector estimates, it would cost the LCL bank, partner of the yellow jersey since 1987, more than 10 million euros. But the shortfall does not stop at the sports sector. “It goes far beyond. Le Tour is also the best advertising spot for French tourism, ”notes Bruno Bianzina. “The territorial network of the event means that the consequences of a cancellation would be increased tenfold,” also notes Sporsora, stressing the losses for the communities hosting the race.


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