Medals have been won and fast times set in racing at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, but you won’t see any coverage of the event on RIDE Media this year. It goes against my natural instincts but AusCycling’s lack of vision – and dreadful management of the media – has prompted me to sit this one out.
– A blog by Rob Arnold
Believe me when I tell you how proud I am of the Australian riders who are putting in world-class performances in Birmingham now that the Commonwealth Games are underway. The team pursuits are done, medals won and fast times posted. This is traditionally when I go into overdrive in front of the computer, posting stories and interviews, highlighting how and why this is such an important event in Australian cycling history.
In 2022, I’m going to refrain from that tradition. It’s not easy to stay silent but I’m making something of a personal stand because of the complete disregard that our sport’s administrators have for specialist media, or any media that may be interested in reporting on cycling.
AusCycling is the name of a federation that is in charge of managing cycling in Australia. I’ve written about it since well before it came into existence and I’ve had a lot to say about why it is important that there has been a rethink on the administration of the sport.
I’ve been critical at times but I have also gone out of my way to explain the complexities of what’s involved in running an organisation like AusCycling. It’s not easy to satisfy everyone who is passionate about cycling.
The re-branded organisation is essentially still in its infancy, but many of the nasty old habits of what had been a rank management by Cycling Australia remain. Instead of supporting organisations that support the sport, we see a continuation of the obvious disregard for external media and a myopic, stunted approach to promoting something so beautiful.
The Commonwealth Games is a chance for AusCycling to progress, to push its agenda of growing our sport while national team representatives are committed to giving the best of themselves on an international stage. There could be a huge swathe of media releases and updates issued to showcase the efforts of our athletes… instead there’s little more than silence, with a little bit of social media on AusCycling portals and its homepage.
‘Why back external media when we could attract readers to our own site…?’ This seems to be the mantra that AusCycling is operating with. And so, we’ll leave them to it.
You won’t see time splits or results from the Comm Games on this site, not this year. And it feels strange for me to refrain from writing about the times set by our women and men overnight, but I’m doing so just the same.
This stance may yield what AusCycling actually desires: more traffic to its site and, in theory, more interest in the organisation. If that happens, that’s fine.
The great shame, however, is that cycling – and cycling fans – will only get the official party line. There’ll be no criticism or objective commentary. There will likely be interviews to read and explanations of the results and why they are significant, but it will lack balance and even the historical context that comes with years of experience and insights.
There aren’t many journalists in Australia who have covered cycling for as long as I have, and yet I know how I’m referred to in AusCycling offices – and I know that it’s not kind.
This is part of a much longer saga, one that involves considerable bullying and denigration of the work I’ve done over the years. It is a sad situation which upsets me and has forced me to make a stand – as personal as it is.
Of course I’d much rather be involved and feel like I’m part of the greater cycling family; I’d love to sing the praise of our national team and speak with the riders who are bound to put on a good show in Birmingham. But this time I’m going to refrain.
If you too feel hard done by when it comes to your dealings with AusCycling, I can sympathise. If it were an organisation funded by its own success, rather than the tax payer, then it might be a different story. But the reality is, AusCycling receives the bulk of its budget from government grants – not membership fees, not sponsorship… and so it should show more respect to the many ‘benefactors’ that keep it operational.
Alas, respect has been on the wane over the years and it has now reached a point where it seems impossible to collaborate with the organisation that was created to make cycling more popular, more inclusive, and all that it could be in Australia.
What a great shame.
– By Rob Arnold