Reports that Mitchelton-Scott have cut wages to staff and riders have been confirmed by the team, with the ‘significant cuts’ aimed at ensuring the long-term viability of the Australian WorldTour squad.
Australian Cycling Insider followed up on reports in Cyclingnews with Mitchelton-Scott communications director Taryn Kirby confirming the basis of the reports, but not the claims of cuts to pay of up to 70 per cent reported.
“I can confirm that everyone in the team has taken a significant pay cut, the details of which I can’t confirm,” said Kirby. “The reason being, that we don’t disclose personal financial information, we do the same thing with not disclosing details of contracts that riders sign with the team. All of us, rider and staff took a significant pay cut.”
“It’s not a reflection of no racing, or workers not going to work. That’s been made clear to everyone, it’s not due to us not working, it’s more about the world economic situation.
“We get our money from mainly Gerry (Ryan, team owner and owner of Mitchelton Wineries and Jayco caravans), who’s in the entertainment and tourism industry and those industries are some of the hardest hit.”
Ryan’s businesses also extends to non-team sponsors, with numerous tourism developments, and ownership stakes in the Melbourne Storm, the Moulin’ Rouge musicial on Broadway and film production company Creature Technolgies. With the exposure of Ryan’s business empire to the downturn of the global economy, it was only to be expected that at some stage that would flow on to the Mitchelton-Scott team.
The biggest unanswered question at the moment is whether the team will be able to continue into the future if the downturn becomes a world-wide depression. There are no certain answers at this stage for the team as Kirby explained.
“The purpose of what’s happening now is to keep the team going,” said Kirby. “The future, I don’t think anyone knows what that looks like right now, people don’t know what the world’s going to look like.
“It’s an ongoing situation, not one we’ve given a timeline to, and we’re looking at the situation when racing comes back, how that will impact and what will change. The current impact is for now, for the future, it’s impossible to know. There’s no answer for the long-term, what we’ve seen for the short-term is how quickly things have changed around the world.”
The Australian team has made the most of a bad situation however with their impressive range of shutdown content for fans and riders alike, with regular appearances, hosted rides and races on the Zwift platform, a new ‘Peloton on Pause’ podcast, as well as social media videos with some of the personalities within the team.
“We were one of the first teams to withdraw from racing and I think mentally we had a headstart,” said Kirby. “We set up BikeExchange ‘where the world rides’ on Zwift, that was important to keep riders and fans engaged and promote some sponsors. We’re seeing the benefits of that a bit now, it’s quite a popular thing for teams to do now, but the reference is often made that we’ve had this series the whole time.”
“It’s good for fans and we recognise that it’s a select percentage of fans that have a trainer at home, so for people that are looking for other content we came up with ‘Peloton On Pause’. It’s almost like the off-season in a way, you have a bit more warning for the off-season and we’re relying on the riders. The good thing is that the riders keep coming to us, almost to the point where we can’t keep up. There’s no racing exposure, so we’re trying to give them exposure in other ways.”
Australian Cycling Insider is obviously always interested in the potential for a positive impact on the National Road Series and other local racing. While there’s no hard information to confirm this theory at all, there’s at least a potential that local racing could return before international UCI events get back on schedule, so there exists at least the possibility that NRS events could be the scene that Mitchelton-Scott riders get back into competition.
“It’s not on the table at the moment, not because it’s a no,” said Kirby, “but because it’s well down the line at the moment. What we will see is more e-racing aligned with UCI races, like we saw in Flanders. Those will come into discussion before we see riders competing in the NRS. We have quite a few riders in Australia at the moment, but obviously a lot more in Europe.”
As the coronavirus crisis continues to evolve, more concrete answers may emerge to these unanswered questions, but the consistent theme from the Australian team is that they are here for the long-term, even if that requires immediate sacrifices.
By Jamie Finch-Penninger