Return of the sponsored team kit saga…

Not sure what it’s like where you live. But here in NSW there’s been plenty of chat and, yes, aggravation in 2015 with regards to the wearing of registered club kit in bike races.

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Over the past few years there’s been a noticeable rise in the number of ‘sponsored teams’, whereby club members race in a separate team kit as opposed to their club kit. We’re not talking about Conti, Pro-Conti or even NRS teams here, rather a tier or two further down the pecking order. According to Cycling NSW (CNSW) there were 46 of these sponsored teams as at 30 June 2015, spread across the State’s 60-odd clubs.

In my experience, until relatively recently few clubs in NSW really seemed to care what you wore to their races, as long as you had a gold CA licence you were sweet. One Sydney club aside, most were just happy you were there racing with them at all which seems fair enough in many ways. However not everyone was happy about this situation, and it’s certainly been festering for a while now.

After seeking feedback from a variety of interested parties on the matter, CNSW made several amendments to its by-laws from 1 July 2015 which were communicated to CNSW members in a memo from CNSW CEO Phil Ayres on 30 June. Without going into the minutiae, the changes generally allowed sponsored teams to keep wearing their own race kit – as long as it’s registered with CNSW and, as part of that process, also formally approved by the club/s of the riders involved.

Agree or disagree with the CNSW decision, you’d think the official edict would be the end of the matter? But no. It’s proving a decidedly slippery can of political worms that continues to ooze on a reasonably regular basis. As if domestic cycling doesn’t have enough things to worry about.

At a personal level, I can see both sides of the argument. I’ve been with my club for about six years now and came into cycling from a variety of other club-based sports – cricket, AFL, basketball – where we always proudly wore our club’s uniform, resplendent with sponsors’ logos on our backs, chests and derrieres when competing. It’s just the way it was. There were no ‘sub-clubs’ within the club proper.

Coming from this club-first background I do sometimes feel it’s a shame the identity of cycling clubs is often diluted when many of their riders are competing – if not lost altogether. I also wonder what the club’s main sponsors must think when, after investing 4 or even 5 figures to support that club each year, many of its best riders (sponsored teams are most common in the higher grades for obvious reasons) spend the season racing in non-club kit sporting the logos of completely unrelated businesses? Personally I love nothing more than racing in my club kit as much as possible. On the odd occasions when I don’t, it just doesn’t feel right. I almost feel guilty.

But…I also get the flipside. Sponsored teams undoubtedly bring new brands, businesses and levels of investment into our sport – things that anyone who knows about the delicate financial state of Aussie cycling right now, can appreciate are vital to the future. Sure, it’s great to be idealistic about our clubs. But cycling costs money. Without plenty of it we simply don’t have races, teams or clubs at all. If someone wants to kick in some cash to help back a group of committed riders – rather than an entire club – surely that’s a good thing? Who’s to say one of these sponsors won’t be the next Jayco? Every relationship has to start somewhere.

So, what to do? Well, for starters I reckon it’s a lot like the advice I give to motorists who complain about the road rules pertaining to cyclists. If you’re not happy about the current rules/by-laws, you’re free to have that view – but rather than sling shit and cause trouble, lobby people with some influence to maybe get the rules changed. But until that happens, suck it up and let the rules guide the way. That’s why we have them. It’s called democracy.

Beyond this I did notice Page 9 of the current CNSW by-laws stipulates all sponsored team kits must display the logo/name of their associated club on the left breast of the jersey:

6.7 Registration of Club and Team Colours
B. iii. The uniform must carry the Club’s name or abbreviation on the left breast.

Now, granted I haven’t had a close look at all 46 kits in NSW, but I’m 99.9% sure this is something not all team kits currently do. Which is a shame, really. By all means have your own design if you must. But at least show a hint of the club that, ultimately, allows you to even exist at all.

That’s what I think, anyway. What do you reckon?

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2 thoughts on “Return of the sponsored team kit saga…

  1. Rules are rules, that’s true, and we all should abide by them. But as promoter of road bike racing, Cycling NSW should be encouraging participation and eliminating anything that discourages it.

    Does Cycling NSW believe a beginner with toe-straps, rugby shorts, and a t-shirt who has come in first place be DQ’ed in a D grade crit for not having their correct club kit? Or an A grader in the same attire? LOL!

    PS. I usually race in my club kit and I’m proud to wear club colours. But sometimes its all in the wash due to my laziness and I have forgone racing already once because of this recent CNSW controversy. Rules are rules.

  2. CQLD has a sponsored kit policy and it is not a major source of angst up here. Not sure that the club logo is required on jerseys, a local sponsored team has riders from various clubs rather than just one.

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