With just under a week to go before the governing body for world cycling elects its new President, I’ve never been more confident now that our own year-long mission to remove Pat McQuaid from the post is about to reach its climax.
For more than a year, we’ve used the values that the SKINS’ brand has developed around protecting the integrity of sport, to challenge the old guard at the UCI and give cycling a fresh chance. Integrity has become a key word in all this because we – and it seems millions of other fans and stakeholders around the world – firmly believe Pat McQuaid is incapable of bringing that attribute to the post. His only rival in the election on the 27th September, Englishman Brian Cookson, seems to have loads of it.
One thing to get straight here is that this hasn’t been just about getting Brian Cookson elected. It’s also been about getting Pat McQuaid ousted.
Ever since we created the pressure group Change Cycling Now, we’ve focused on a new beginning for world cycling with someone at the helm who is more attuned to modern thinking. Frankly, it wouldn’t have been difficult to find a more suitable candidate than Pat.
In the last 12 months, I’ve been proud to have created a group which included such luminaries as Greg LeMond, Jonathan Vaughters, Antoine Vayer, and journalists Paul Kimmage and David Walsh. All of them share the same goals as SKINS and me that cycling has to change – hence the most obvious of names, Change Cycling Now.
Since then, I’ve also been pleased to have regularly continued adding my weight to the growing acceptance that Pat’s time is finally up. We’ve lobbied publicly and behind the scenes and discussed and supported on a regular basis because as a commercial partner for cycling, SKINS has done what other brands haven’t – we put our heads above the parapet and said what we truly believe to be right.
We believed all along that Pat McQuaid was not suitable to lead a sport we’re actively involved in and the rapidly growing support for Brian Cookson in next Friday’s two-horse race shows we are into the final stretch.
In the last months, Pat has used every trick in the book to cling to power. He’s tried to use the Irish and the Swiss federations in an attempt to secure a nomination (and failed) and rallied smaller nations around the world in a manner only he could stoop to attempt. He appallingly even attempted to change the UCI constitution retrospectively to further his own personal agenda. The news that Brian Cookson now has support from the US and Canadian Federations as well as Australia and all 14 voting European nations is not a bad start, needing 22 of 42 potential votes.
Of course, you can never bank on anything until the votes are finally cast and I’m sure Brian won’t be complacent in his approach in the last few days. Anyone needing an illustration of how duplicitous such ‘secret’ ballots can be should remember the plight of England in the last round of FIFA World Cup bidding. After many promises of support, some of which were given directly to HRH Prince William, England gained just 2 out of 26 votes. One of those came from their own man, but the funny thing was the FA then took calls from THREE different voters in the days afterwards, all claiming that they provided the other one!
So nothing can be taken for granted, but the news of a growing level of consistent and significant support for a viable alternative to the current President, is beginning to make me feel the last 12 months of SKINS’ being prepared to stand up for what our company truly believes in, might just have been worthwhile.