By John Ensor •
Published: 08 Feb 2024 • 20:13
Image of the tour de France.
Is professional cycling on the brink of a revolution? Talk of a cycling super league, led by its elite teams and backed with Saudi money, could radically transform the sport.
The proposed One Cycling ‘super league‘ aims to inject fresh sources of money into the sport, with its promotors targeting a 2026 launch to coincide with the next WorldTour cycle.
The new initiative is being championed by Visma-Lease a Bike’s Richard Plugge and Soudal Quick-Step’s Zdenek Bakala and is tipped to include Formula 1-inspired events
Eight teams are currently engaged in discussions, including notable names like Ineos Grenadiers, Lidl-Trek and Movistar, though specific identities remain under wraps.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) is reportedly the leading candidate to support this ambitious project.
SRJ Sports Investments, a firm established in August 2023, is purportedly finalising negotiations for a substantial investment of $270 million (€250m, £214m).
This move aligns with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, which aims to amplify the kingdom’s global influence through strategic sports investments as it has done with golf, football and Formula 1.
‘It’s obvious that cycling is a sleeping giant and deserves an improved business model. For all stakeholders, but especially for WorldTour teams,’ said Plugge, highlighting the necessity of a revamped business model for cycling whose main source of income is from its sponsors.
This new league could introduce innovative changes to the sport, like allowing team substitutions during the first week of Grand Tours, as suggested by Movistar’s Eusebio Unzue.
However, the proposed super league faces hurdles, notably the Tour de France’s organisers’ reluctance to cede control, potentially setting up a rivalry with cycling’s most prestigious race.
Critics also express concerns over Saudi Arabia’s involvement, fearing it could be an attempt to deflect from the nation’s human rights record.
As the project seeks to generate higher income through broadcast deals and ticketed events, it might lead to increased costs for fans, echoing former UCI president Brian Cookson’s sentiment: ‘Profits come ultimately from consumers paying to buy a commodity… That’s you, the cycling fan.’
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Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina.
He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.
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