Cycling Australia’s annual report: the Drake/Duncan effect
This has been a season of significant change for Cycling Australia; the sport’s governing body has a new chair, new CEO, and a bold new approach to administration. The annual report for 2018 has been published and here’s a quick overview…
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A small budget surplus is one of the elements of the Cycling Australia’s 2018 Annual Report but there are other significant news items from the year in administration. One of the big surprises of 2018 was the announcement about one of the best kept secrets in our sport, the procurement of the 2022 road cycling world championships which will be contested in Wollongong, NSW.
This was also a season in which elusive world records were broken and our Commonwealth Games athletes dominated at home.
There has been plenty of action on the tracks, roads and trails. Meanwhile, administrators have rarely had a moment to rest as they look to bring cycling into a period of bold changes to streamline the sport, increase participation, and make bike riding a more popular activity.
The new chair, Duncan Murray – who replaced Steve Bracks earlier this year – is working closely with CA’s CEO, Steve Drake, to effect significant changes, and revitalise cycling in Australia.
“I want us to be proud of our history, passionate about this glorious sport, celebrate the many things we are already doing well, but be introspective about where we need to lift our game,” writes Murray in his Chair’s Report.
“If there is to be an overarching narrative, I want this to be a period of very significant, tectonic change and reform.”
(Scroll to the bottom of this post to read the full transcript of Murray’s report.)
Cycling Australia’s 2018 annual report was published in advance of the AGM in Melbourne on 23 November.
Murray and Drake have a strong vision for where cycling could be and they acknowledge that CA has a lot of work to do before the sport reaches a halcyon time in Australia.
“We administer the sport, rather than enliven it,” writes Murray, well aware that considerable improvement must be made if CA is to progress. He notes the problems and doesn’t shy away from the desperate need for change.
“We don’t support, nurture and innovate enough.”
To recognise that a problem exists is a positive first step to fixing it. Cycling has prospered and there is plenty of room for growth yet, but it must be able to attract new members, new sponsors, and new energy.
It helps that Sport Australia (previously known as the Australian Sports Commission) has also recognised the need for change, to nurture a growth in participation rather than hold a single-minded focus on achieving high performance results.
Steve Drake reports that Cycling Australia “produced a net profit of $108K which represents an improvement of $78K over the previous year”. It’s a positive sign that the changes that took place in 2018 are creating a healthy environment for financial stability after a period of significant strain.
Savings were made by slashing the travel budget (from $2.83m in 2017 to $1.73m in 2018). Much of this would is likely to have been due to the decision to send an abbreviated team of only four athletes to the track world championships in the Netherlands.
Meanwhile, spending on R&D grew considerably: from $51,813 in 2017 to $439,723, an increase of 749%! Exactly how much of this relates to the change of bike supplier midway through the year, from BT to Argon 18, is not certain but RIDE Media understands that there was considerable investment made to test a wide range of equipment prior to the new accord with the Canadian brand being signed.
The introduction to the Annual Report highlights CA’s awareness of the need for changes to continue in order for the health of the sport to improve – both financially and in terms of participation/membership.
“Our strategic focus will be to improve our global competitiveness, diversify our revenue streams and build a solid base for future investment. [CA] will target growth of our membership base with a particular focus on servicing our racing members while at the same time expanding our recreational membership base.”
The financial reports (above) are healthier in 2018 than they were not too long ago.
The wholesale changes – or “tectonic change and reform” that Murray writes about – are needed, amongst other reasons, to ensure CA doesn’t continue to miss out on membership and sponsorship revenue. Both these avenues of income dipped in 2018, with membership in decline and sponsor investment halved.
Murray and Drake are aware of the shortcomings and CA’s efforts in campaigning for the 2022 worlds is sure sign that good work is being done in an attempt to make cycling more prosperous.
Even some with close links to the MTB community admit that the legacy of the mountain bike world championships (contested in Cairns in 2017) is not as significant as what we can expect from the road worlds in Wollongong in 2022. In participation terms, there is strong growth thanks to MTB but this doesn’t always translate to exposure, sponsorship investment, and an increase in media coverage.
Track cycling remains the focus of the high-performance unit – largely because of the glut of medals on offer at the Olympics, in comparison with other disciplines – and there is some positive momentum on the domestic racing scene. There are two new Six Day races coming to Australia, one in Melbourne in February, another in Brisbane in May… with strong promotion, ticketed venues, great facilities, and a wealth of talented athletes, these events will breathe new life into a discipline which has lost some of its lustre in recent years.
Membership is down and sponsorship revenue was halved from 2017 to 2018.
Quest for ‘One Cycling’
One of cycling’s great strengths is the diversity of disciplines but this can also provide challenges for the administrators. What Duncan and Drake hope to do is create a more unified approach and they are aiming to do this with ‘One Cycling’, a working title that applies to the quest to integrate many disparate elements into one larger entity.
“There are 19 state or national cycling organisations across road, track, mountain bike and BMX,” Murray points out, “each with a President, CEO and Board.”
Beyond that there are numerous other entities representing cycling (and cyclists) that are also managed by teams of administrators. Alas, for all the good that’s being done by each category, the lack of a cohesive approach often translates to lost opportunities.
We wait to see what comes of ‘One Cycling’ and can only hope that a little bit of unity will help pave the way for an exciting future of our sport in Australia.
A lot of work has already been done by Steve Drake, Duncan Murray, Kipp Kauffman, the board, and others close to Cycling Australia. In a relatively short span of time, the new administration has begun steering the sport in a new direction. There are signs of hope and a sense of fresh energy and, even if things are less than perfect in 2018, it does feel as though we’re riding into the future with a sense of optimism.
– By Rob Arnold
Chair’s report – Duncan Murray
I am delighted to present my first report as the Chair of Cycling Australia. It is a privilege to play the role. There is a lot to celebrate about cycling in Australia. The sport is more popular than it has ever been at home and we are world class internationally across many disciplines.
However, we are also at an inflection point where the governance and operation of the sport is lagging its popularity. Even on the popularity side there are some issues that we need to keep a weather eye on – many of us rode to school as kids and spent the weekends roaming the suburbs on our bikes.
Kids do less of that these days, and schools prefer them to arrive in the back seat of a car.
As a result, I will be very disappointed if my term as Chairman is characterised by a “business as usual” approach. That is not the plan. I want us to be proud of our history, passionate about this glorious sport, celebrate the many things we are already doing well, but be introspective about where we need to lift our game. If there is to be an overarching narrative, I want this to be a period of very significant, tectonic change and reform.
There is already much progress. Steve Drake, as CEO and MD is doing an outstanding job and is leading a terrific team. The NRS is revitalised, we are bringing major events to Australia and Simon Jones is bringing a tough and rigorous focus to high performance. Our high-performance strategy has my full support. The organisation is also now financially stable and poised for health and growth.
On the other hand, as I have intimated, there are many things we are not doing well. When I started racing bikes in the late 80s, cycling was a fringe, working class sport. It is now enormously popular.
However, Cycling Australia does almost nothing for the vast majority of Australian cyclists. Most cyclists and indeed most of our members don’t see much value in our membership offer. Track is facing great challenges at a grass roots and competitive level, particularly when compared to its historical heyday. Cycling is part of the answer to a number of complicated policy issues facing governments at all levels across infrastructure, transport, the environment and health, including mental health.
We should be stimulating or producing policy positions and advocating and lobbying Government and its agencies actively. However, we are not playing that role, and to be frank, are not resourced to play it. Other sports are outperforming us on the funding of infrastructure front. We are also not doing enough in bicycle education. Instead of the current collection of bike-ed programs, there should be a national bicycle education equivalent of AustSwim or Auskick with a broad, cross discipline curriculum.
It is our job to make all of this happen.
The structural flaw that precedes many of these challenges is that, leaving aside the participation organisations such as Bicycle Network, there are nineteen State or National cycling organisations across Road, Track, Mountain Bike and BMX, each with a President, CEO and Board. Within the States, there are many more organisations again. The total gets close to 100. From a productivity perspective, 100 x 1 equals about 10. We administer the sport, rather than enliven it. We don’t support, nurture and innovate enough. The good news, however, is that Sport Australia, CA, MTBA, BMXA and our respective State members are in genuine discussion about what a better answer might look like. I’m quietly confident that the next 18 months may be the single greatest period of reform cycling has seen in Australia.
As is often the case in cycling, I expect to have a lot of fun, accumulate some scars and be better for the workout. It’s a great sport and I love it.
Finally, I’d like to acknowledge my predecessor, The Hon Steve Bracks AC. Steve has a long and proud history in the sport, having Chaired the Organising Committee for the 2010 UCI Road World Championships and been a Director and Chairman of Cycling Australia. His legacy is significant and he leaves big shoes to fill.
– Duncan Murray
Cycling Australia chair