Team Sky's sponsorship axed, future in doubt

LONDON • Team Sky will cease to exist at the end of next year after Sky announced that it will end its involvement in professional cycling then.

The news was broken to stunned riders and staff over dinner at their training camp in Mallorca on Tuesday night.

It draws to an end more than a decade of success during which the team won six Tour de France yellow jerseys along with the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana.

Team principal Dave Brailsford yesterday paid tribute to his cyclists, while expressing his hope for a new sponsor for the 2020 term.

However, with Sky having invested more than £150 million (S$258 million) over the last 10 years - making Team Sky comfortably the richest outfit in the sport - it remains to be seen whether a viable buyer can be found.

"While Sky will be moving on at the end of next year, the team are open-minded about the future and the potential of working with a new partner, should the right opportunity present itself," said Brailsford.

"For now, I would like to thank all Team Sky riders and staff, past and present, and above all, the fans who have supported us on this adventure.

"We aren't finished yet by any means. There is another exciting year of racing ahead of us and we will be doing everything we can to deliver more success in 2019."

He also lavished praise on his team, which began in 2010 with the goal of getting a British rider to win the Tour de France for the first time - a target that was accomplished when Bradley Wiggins took the yellow jersey in 2012.

He added that he was proud of their efforts in inspiring nearly two million people to cycle regularly.

"The vision for Team Sky began with the ambition to build a clean, winning team around a core of British riders and staff," Brailsford said.

"The team's success has been the result of the talent, dedication and hard work of a remarkable group of people who have constantly challenged themselves to scale new heights of performance.

"None of this would have been possible without Sky. We are proud of the part we have played in Britain's transformation into a cycling nation over the last decade."

Sky executives are understood to have told a shocked Brailsford last week that with Comcast's £30 billion takeover of Sky in September, it was the natural time to end the partnership.

The media and telecommunications company denied that the decision, which was made by chief executive officer Jeremy Darroch, had been influenced by a number of controversies the team have faced.

A damning report by the Digital Culture Media and Sport select committee in March created waves of negative headlines, when it concluded that Team Sky had abused the anti-doping system by using therapeutic use exemption certificates to allow the administration of the performance-enhancing drug triamcinolone.

However, Team Sky have always rejected any suggestion of widespread triamcinolone use by their riders ahead of the 2012 Tour de France, while Wiggins has denied he has used any drugs.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 13, 2018, with the headline 'Team Sky's sponsorship axed, future in doubt'. Print Edition | Subscribe