UCI set for commercial growth after landmark Infront deal

The International Cycling Union (UCI), the governing body of world cycling, has signed a comprehensive four-year media rights agreement with the Infront Sports & Media agency.

The International Cycling Union (UCI), the governing body of world cycling, has signed a comprehensive four-year media rights agreement with the Infront Sports & Media agency.

The deal will see Infront distribute broadcast rights to the UCI's annual road, track, mountain bike and BMX world championships from 2013 to 2016.

The deal also includes the UCI Track Cycling World Cup, an annual series the UCI is keen to grow, over the same period.

The rights, previously distributed by an in-house team along with the EBU, cover all territories except USA and Japan.

The UCI has confirmed to SportsPro that it will receive a guaranteed income from Infront for the duration of the contract, but no further details have been released.

In the release announcing the deal, Infront suggested that broadcast distribution was just the beginning of the partnership. 'The UCI and Infront Sports & Media envisage to collaborate in other areas, including the centralised media production, sponsorship distribution and the introduction of new technologies, such as digital media solutions,' read the release.

The Swiss-based company, which is headed up by Fifa president Sepp Blatter's nephew Philippe, already has some involvement in cycling. Through a joint venture in Switzerland called InfrontRingier, it exploits the commercial potential of Swiss Cycling, and will organise and market the Tour de Suisse from 2015.

Of the UCI properties Infront has been tasked with distributing, the road world championships are by far the most lucrative, accounting for around a third of the UCI's income which, in 2010, was just over US$9 million.

This year's road world championships are currently underway in Limburg, Holland. Next year's event will take place in Florence, Italy, while the 2014 championships are scheduled to take place in Ponferrada, Spain, although the UCI has recently issued Spanish organisers with a warning to meet their contractual commitments.

The 2015 road world championships will take place in Richmond, USA, while Doha, Qatar has just been announced as the host of the 2016 event.

The world championships combined account for around 50 per cent of the UCI's yearly revenue.

The UCI Track Cycling World Cup series, which next year takes in visits to Cali, Colombia, Glasgow, Scotland, and Aguascalientes, Mexico, is a competition the UCI has spotlit for growth.

In an exclusive interview with SportsPro magazine following the London Olympics, UCI president Pat McQuaid said: "At our world cups, at our world championships, at the Olympic Games, the track events produce spectacular cycling. And yet we still have to get to grips with the worldwide television exposure for track cycling and that’s something that commercially we have to look out.

"We’re having discussions internally at the moment, and with some external partners as well, about how we can maybe find one or two commercial sponsors who would be prepared to come and invest in track cycling together with the UCI in order to develop it onto a global scale in terms of television. It is an extremely attractive television product when it’s presented properly and when people understand what they’re watching. So we need to work on that; it’s one area that’s vitally important for us to develop."