Last Saturday a lively and controversial Extraordinary General Meeting of British Cycling in Warrington finally approved changes to the constitution as demanded by UK Sport’s proposals for Olympic funded sports.
But only after the governing body gave way to allow a crucial amendment to allow the 10 English Regions a place on the Board.
In a statement on British Cycling’s website, Julie Harrington, Chief Executive Officer of British Cycling, said:
“Today, British Cycling’s National Council voted in favour of changes to our constitution in order to ensure that we are compliant with the Code for Sports Governance. Our membership also voted for an amendment to create the role of a director nominated by the English regions to go alongside those nominated by Scottish Cycling and Welsh Cycling. We have heard the concerns of our National Councillors and we will actively work with our membership to ensure that the voice of the enthusiast remains central to our purpose.
“Securing funding for elite and grassroots participation through these changes will enable us to inspire more people on to two wheels across communities the length of the country. Without secured funding we will not be able to share our love of the sport and enable others to try it. Our sport is growing and growing up. Today’s vote is the start of an exciting new chapter for British Cycling and our sport.”
But it was anything but straight forward.
The following story is gleaned from officials representing South East Region and Central Region who were at the forefront of the opposition to some of the proposals.
They faced a weekend of intense lobbying and debate. It ended with British Cycling succeeding in keeping its £43 government funding as National Council voted to accept the controversial new code of governance demanded by UK Sport and Sport England.
Bringing in Sir Chris Hoy late last week to make an emotive plea to support the vote appears to have swung waverers. Hoy claimed that without funding he could never have achieved his six Olympic gold medals – a British record.
His intervention appears to have saved the Federation’s bacon – their jobs and funding!
British Cycling had feared their proposals would be rejected by National Council which had judged them to be too severe, that the changes would make National Council obsolete.
It became apparent to some on the eve of the EGM that BC management had underestimated the strength of feeling and as a result they climbed down on some of the points.
Crucially, this led to the acceptance of an amendment to the proposal by South East Region to allow the 10 English Regions representation on the new board to preserve National Council’s influence in board decisions.
That was the crux of the matter to most of those opposed, including the South East’s Peter King. The former CEO of British Cycling had warned that National Council would likely reject British Cycling/UK Sports controversial changes to the organisation if National Council lost its voice.
However, Tony Doyle, former president of the British Cycling Federation, wanted the proposals rejected and to use the three month deadline he says was provided to negotiate a better deal. Funding would have been frozen during that period, not lost, he told me.
Doyle described those Regions which voted against their mandate as “Turncoats”.
“I'm staggered by yesterday's outcome. Integrity is seriously in short supply amongst our National Councillors. Shame on them,” he said.
He says National Councillors were bullied into submission when they were told that 225 British Cycling staff would lose their jobs, and that the redundancy payments alone would cost the Federation £2.1 million.
Peter King didn’t take kindly to be called a “turncoat”, and neither, he ventured, will his fellow South East Region Councillors.
King also objected to what he called a “challenge to my integrity” and called for perspective into the whole affair.
He and his fellow South East delegation had not disregarded their mandate, he says.
“The view of my colleagues, taken right at the end of the meeting when almost all of our proposals had succeeded, was that we were mandated to vote against the key proposal if it was not amended but that a view should be taken once the outcome of the amendment process was known.”
But he added that even if all SE Region votes had been against, the proposals would still have succeeded. He added he cannot speak for the Central and South Votes.
King said his position at the EGM was exactly what it had been all the way through this, since his first discussion with Doyle. “We agreed that modernisation was overdue and that we expected the proposals to be passed by the EGM. We also agreed that if the proposals were to succeed then we needed to try to get them amended to mitigate the primacy of the Board and the authority of National Council. In both respects those aims were achieved,” says King.
Doyle had wanted to bring to account those members of the Board and others he felt had brought the Federation into dispute in the recent past, while King’s intention, he says, was to “contribute to the necessary improvements in governance, direction and management going forward.”
However, the EGM is just the start of the affair! King says he has spoken to people at Regional meetings who don’t think the proposals go far enough. There is a sense of “an increasing disconnect between the Board and senior staff and the sport as we know it at local level. These concerns now need to be addressed urgently. The question is, what do we do now?”
Central Region’s Stuart Benstead paid tribute to Peter King for the way he formulated the many amendments that re-shaped the documents into an acceptable form to National Council.
Benstead said it was recognised that further modernisation of the documents will be necessary. He said the task now was to elect the right people to what is likely to be an all-new national Board.