I think the whole world is sick of elections – that is, that part of the world that holds them! But there’s one important one in sport coming up later this year that I want to write about. Already, the campaigning has started.
My old favourite sporting organisation, the world governing body of cycling, the UCI. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know I’ve had a keen eye on world cycling for some time. I am absolutely proud that SKINS had a role to play in bringing about change in the UCI and the ousting of the former President, Pat McQuaid, in favour of the current incumbent, Brian Cookson.
Cookson is being challenged after four years in charge by David Lappartient of France.
Lappartient is former President of the French cycling union, now of the European cycling union, vice-president of UCI, and a local politician. Lappartient is standing apparently on the basis that he sees a need for change, without being really clear about what the challenges are and the change he would like to see.
I have no issue at all with David Lappartient per se. At 44 years of age, I think he has plenty of time on his side. I also note that he is endorsed by the UCI President we fought so hard to move out, Pat McQuaid – and that’s not a point in Lappartient’s favour, in my view.
My old buddy, Lance Armstrong, takes the view of ‘ABC’ – Anyone But Cookson – but that’s no surprise. For many, Armstrong’s disendorsement will not count against Cookson.
Cookson faced a huge task of cultural change when he was elected President four years ago. Getting a new culture embedded into an organisation takes time.
The political reality of what cycling faced four years ago was that he needed to do what was achievable and to balance the competing demands and priorities of different stakeholders.
Cookson faced an enormous credibility and reputation gap in world cycling which he has made giant strides to restore. He also had to bring about critical governance changes, address necessary changes in competition structure and technology, and take steps to ensure that the interest in cycling worldwide continued to grow and prosper.
That is not to say that there isn’t scope for improvement at UCI, but under Cookson’s leadership, it’s already come a long way. Cookson outlines some of his achievements here. He also says he only wants the four years of one more term. While other sports politicians have made similar promises they didn’t intend to keep (hello Sepp!), I believe Brian Cookson.
In my view, Brian Cookson deserves four more years. A second term gives him the opportunity to ride harder, take even tougher decisions, see them through and establish world cycling on the right path for the decades ahead.