The administration of the sport cycling has enormous challenges but Cycling Australia’s CEO, Steve Drake, believes the foundations have been laid for a prosperous future.

 

One of the best ways to engage any community is to communicate with it. To this end, Cycling Australia’s (relatively) new CEO has easily eclipsed his predecessor. Steve Drake took up the position early in February 2018 and he has steadily been chipping away at improving the state of our sport in Australia.

Today he published an open letter with news about a new system for membership that will be rolled out in the coming weeks, one that allows month-by-month renewals (rather than annually). He also explains that talk of a ‘One Cycling’ project – something that brings a range of cycling entities together under one umbrella group – is gaining momentum.

“We are all focused on the betterment of the sport of cycling and improving opportunities for clubs and riders,” writes Drake. He outlines some major conquests during the first year that he’s been in the position and rightly gloats about Cycling Australia winning the bid for the 2022 road world championships in Wollongong, initiating a national championship for freestyle BMX, and other exciting initiatives.

Drake outlined his vision for cycling early in his tenure and he has been willing to listen to suggestions from the membership, the media, and the Board.

There have been a range of innovations introduced early in his tenure and there is reason to believe that the federation can cope with some hurdles that have appeared in recent years.

 

Improvements from Cycling Australia

Financial woes and a stagnating membership are significant problems and Drake is not only aware of CA’s shortcomings, but actively campaigning to manage them and allow cycling to prosper again. He is certainly open to innovative concepts on the racing front and the introduction of a range of new programs suggest that there is indeed scope for expansion in 2019 and beyond.

Some recent announcements for changes at Cycling Australia include:

  • “Investigating improved cooperation” with BMXA and MTBA
  • Livestreaming of NRS events
  • Changes to the road nationals program
  • Introduction of a national criterium series
  • Establishment of the ‘Podium Potential’ program, as part of the high-performance unit
  • Hosting of the inaugural freestyle BMX nationals
  • Winning bid to host the road cycling world championships in Wollongong in 2022
  • Introduction of the fixed gear national championships
  • Introduction of the eRacing Criterium national championships

 

Of course, more can be done to improve the sport, but the first steps are to ensure CA’s financial prosperity, achieve proper cohesion amongst the many factions, and generate stronger traction in the media so that sponsors receive an appropriate return on any investment.

The open letter from Drake outlines elements the federation has been working on. Key amongst them are a new customer relationship manager (CRM) system for members, and the establishment of what he refers to as ‘One Cycling’.

“Across the disciplines of cycling in Australia,” writes Drake, “there are many great people working hard and doing their best for the benefit of the sport… However, sometimes the structure of the sport makes it difficult to achieve the desired outcomes.”

He goes on to explain that – between the road, track, BMX and MTB disciplines – there are “19 corporate entities, once state and territory bodies are included”.

Drake believes an amalgam of these groups would serve the cycling community better.

“Each of these entities has a board of directors, audited accounts, audit committee, etc,” Drake explains. “The result is a significant degree of duplication which costs money, time and effort which could be better invested in services for clubs and riders.”

His argument makes sense but a question that arises is: why would other entities opt to collaborate with Cycling Australia, a federation which, in recent years, hasn’t earned the best reputation as a sports administrator?

The obvious answer is: because Cycling Australia receives the lion’s share of government funding for cycle sport in this country. Does it deserve to be? That’s a matter of interpretation: some say ‘yes’, others argue ‘no’.

 

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For ‘One Cycling’ to prosper, it obviously requires support from the 19 entities that are charged with some form of administration, primarily state and territory federations, as well as BMXA and MTBA.

RIDE Media has contacted the other cycling NSOs (national sporting organisations) and understands that both BMXA and MTBA are open to dialogue with CA about a more collaborative approach.

Not all factions, however, are satisfied with how cycling is being managed in Australia. Furthermore, for the sport to prosper it needs more amiable relations with its membership, better interaction with media, and a stronger understanding of its fundamental function – ie. to manage cycle sport in Australia.

Drake outlines some primary goals in his open letter and it is encouraging to see an emphasis placed on grassroots development, and programs “aimed at getting more kids riding bikes”. It is curious, however, to note that CA is also looking to get more vocal with lobbying for cyclists’ rights “for both racing and recreational riding”. Both these elements should be priorities for any cycling organisation: without the engagement of our youth and an ability to ride safely, there is no future for cycling.

Still, shouldn’t sporting administrators make sport the priority and leave lobbying for cyclists’ rights to organisations like We Ride Australia?

If CA had proven itself as a successful sports administrator, expansion into other aspects of the cycling realm should be part of the federation’s ambitions but, in 2018, there is considerable malcontent about some fundamental elements of what already falls under the CA charter.

 

Masters: majority of the membership

“Masters are the life blood of cycle racing and if they decline the financial underbelly rots away,” writes one correspondent to RIDE Media. “Fancy bling with either a Richie Porte or a revamped NRS are totally irrelevant to the crisis facing Masters and local club racing.”

It is a poignant argument made even more relevant when you consider the membership numbers.

Masters represent the majority of Cycling Australia members with 9,670 registered to race in 2018. And yet there is a considerable lack of resources allocated to satisfy this considerable audience.

Someone with a close eye on the Masters market is concerned about the future of the sport and suggests that its decline is indicative of what’s happening elsewhere in the sport. “The demographic, social and economic trends,” he suggests, “need much deeper analysis to mitigate the current serious decline that we now see.”

According to the 2018 Annual Report Cycling Australia’s membership is 34,218.

A considerable percentage of members are denoted with an asterisk: “Temporary members”. There are 8,354 in this group, the third-largest in the breakdown of members.

Exactly how many of these temporary members become annual members is not referenced but anecdotal evidence suggests that there is not a large uptake and that CA is, quite simply, missing the mark when it comes to “finalising the sale”.

 

Equality for the disciplines

As has been repeated often in articles by RIDE Media, track cycling continues to be the focus of the federation; this is largely in response to government funding requirements – with an emphasis on achieving Olympic glory – rather than being linked with membership numbers.

Of all the disciplines in cycling, track is the one that seems to have the least appeal for the everyday rider. Still, Cycling Australia – by virtue of its reliance on Sports Australia funding – must kowtow to whims of government and maintain its focus on a discipline that, exciting as it can be, lacks engagement with the membership.

The approach of Drake and his team – one which is striving to expand the membership base and make road, BMX, and mountain biking more of a priority – suggests that the One Cycling concept is at least responding to market demand.

By combining the powers of respective NSOs, cycling would achieve a stronger foothold in the media market and, with that, have greater appeal to potential sponsors.

For all this to become a reality, however, it requires support from the Board, members, and cyclists – young and old, experienced or novice – around Australia.

 

A few questions to conclude…

You can read the full text of Steve Drake’s open letter (below) but perhaps your response to a few pertinent questions could help shape policy for CA as it rides into the future. (Feel free to provide your answers in the comments of this post on RIDE Media’s Facebook page.)

  1. Are you a member of Cycling Australia?
    – If so, why?
    – If not, why not?
  2. What do you expect from your membership fees?
  3. What cycling discipline(s) do you do?
  4. Why would you encourage friends and associates to become members?
  5. How could Cycling Australia make cycling a more successful sport?

 

There are many other themes that could be considered in the broader discussion of how we could expand the Australian cycling community but, for now, let’s consider the points raised in the open letter and be grateful that there is a CEO who is attempting to strengthen the sport, get more people riding bikes, and make cycling more of a part of everyone’s lives.

 

 

– By Rob Arnold

Photo: Con Chronis

– An open letter from Cycling Australia CEO, Steve Drake –

 

Hi there,

As we approach the end of the year I wanted to write to all members of Cycling Australia (CA) to update you on some important and practical changes that are to be introduced soon and some that we will work hard to introduce in 2019.

After being a competitive cyclist in the late 80s to mid 90s, I got involved again with CA in early 2017 with a desire to help CA to recover, build and realise the potential of an organisation that had found itself in some difficulties. Although a refinancing from the then Australian Sports Commission (now Sport Australia) and a number of member states and territories had provided CA a lifeline, it hadn’t allowed CA to make more fundamental changes and provide members and clubs with the services they need and deserve. 

Over the coming months we will start making these changes.

The first change is to the way we interact with members via the introduction of a comprehensive new website and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, the first iteration of which will be rolled out in the coming weeks. This has been a major project and we are grateful to have been assisted in the development of the CRM by Sport Australia. Version 1.0 of the CRM will allow us to introduce monthly billing for membership, a feature that we know you have wanted as an option for many years. In the near future, this new system will allow us to provide tailored content for each member to increase the relevance of our communications with you. As part of this, our website will be dynamic so that content specific to you, your state and if you are a club member, your club, is displayed on your version of the CA website.

As part of this update to our systems, we will ask you to confirm your details when you renew your membership in the new system. If there are any issues, our customer service team will be available to assist.

Rolling updates to your web experience with CA will occur during 2019 which add more features, content and guides to give you the opportunity to improve as a rider and enjoy your cycling even more. We will update you on those as they occur.

One of the other major initiatives we have been working on during 2018 is a longer-term project to improve the efficiency of the organisation and management of Australia’s cycling bodies so that we can direct more resources and provide better services to clubs and riders. This initiative is sometimes called One Cycling.

On 28 July 2018 CA, BMX Australia and Mountain Bike Australia announced that they were working in conjunction with the (then) Australian Sports Commission to look at ways in which the three cycling sports organisations might work together collaboratively to benefit their combined membership bases and for the broader community base of cycling participants in Australia. Part of this work involved the assistance of an external consultant, EY, to investigate how the three National Sporting Organisations (NSOs) might work together in the future.

Across the disciplines of cycling in Australia there are many great people working hard and doing their best for the benefit of the sport, whether on a paid or voluntary basis. However, sometimes the structure of the sport makes it difficult to achieve the desired outcomes. Many of you are aware that there are three National Sporting Organisations (NSOs) representing the major disciplines of Road/Track, BMX and MTB. What you might not be aware of is that along with these NSOs there are 19 corporate entities once state and territory bodies are included. Each of these entities has a board of directors, audited accounts, audit committee etc. The result is a significant degree of duplication which costs money, time and effort which could be better invested in services for clubs and riders.

 

The types of changes we are considering introducing are:

  • A dedicated club and member services team that spreads best practice across Australia and in particular can help prevent club management from reinventing the wheel when similar issues have been encountered and solved elsewhere;
  • An improved commercial function so that we can do a better job originating sponsors and looking after them when they partner with us;
  • An advocacy team to lobby for cyclists’ rights and for access to cycling related infrastructure (for both racing and recreational riding);
  • Improved participation products including expanded cycling education programs including a national bike-ed program aimed at getting more kids riding bikes (irrespective of the type of bike…); and
  • Strengthening development pathways across all disciplines of cycling.

 

Work on this project, including the EY report, is continuing and I expect to have more to say to you about it in early 2019.

Discussions continue with our friends at BMXA and MTBA and we hope that they will be a part of this journey as we believe the sport and each individual discipline will be stronger as a result, particularly in relation to sponsor interactions.

Even if BMXA or MTBA don’t join us, we believe this project has significant benefits for CA members and clubs. One thing I want to make very clear is that we will always have state-based offices, as local delivery of services is critical to our member offering, particularly our racing product. There is no thought of changing this.

We want to keep the good parts of the current system and use the savings from avoiding the unnecessary parts to improve services to you, our clubs and our riders.

No changes will be made before members and clubs are provided with more information and have had a chance to discuss the changes.

We are working collaboratively with BMXA and MTBA and CA’s member states and territories to determine if there is a better solution than the current one; I am confident that there is.

We are all focused on the betterment of the sport of cycling and improving opportunities for clubs and riders.

During 2018 we announced a number of exciting major cycling events coming to Australia in the coming years from the UCI Track World Cup in Brisbane in 2019, UCI BMX Supercross World Cups in Shepparton and Bathurst in 2020 and the UCI road world championships in Wollongong in 2022. This year, we hosted the first BMX freestyle national championships and will look to grow this dynamic and appealing discipline of the sport – especially now it has attained Olympic status. We were inspired by the performances of Australian athletes in many other disciplines of cycling from the UCI Track world championships, the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, the UCI para-cycling world championships to Rohan Dennis’ win in the individual time trial at the UCI road world championships.

Looking back, 2018 has been a great year for cycling and I believe 2019 is looking even better!

I hope you all have a great summer and are able to spend as much time on the bike as you would like.

 

Steve Drake

Cycling Australia CEO

 

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