With the immense popularity of the Tour De France worldwide, are riders receiving their fair share of the prize money?

Recently, the NBC Sports Group inked a ten year deal for expanded coverage of the Tour De France. For the first time in US history, coverage of the Tour De France was shown on national television. Coverage was also seen on the all-new NBC Sports Network . The deal is geared toward advancing the popularity of cycling in the United States. The agreement also includes coverage of lesser known cycling races such as the Paris-Nice race. The Paris-Nice race takes place annually in the month of March.

NBC Sports Group finalized this group with the Tour De France’s owners: The Amaury Sports Organization. Owned by the same family since 1947, the Amaury Sports Organization possess a great deal of wealth. However, the owners of this organization have taken a significant public relations beatdown from the cycling universe for being as cheap as a pack of bubble gum. The cycling race teams want a bigger piece of the pie, and they want it now.

The following statistics will show that these cyclists have a compelling argument.

While the overall financial terms of NBC’s deal remain undisclosed, it is known that French television paid 24,000,000 euros to show the Tour De France annually. Some of NBC’s sponsors for the Tour De France include McDonalds, Nissan, Radio Shack and Anheuser-Busch. Overall, it has been said that the Amaury Sports Organization makes as much as 30,000,000 euros a year from television deals. Furthermore, it has been estimated that the Tour De France is worth as much as 1 billion dollars. Ratings are not an issue. Two years ago, the Tour De France was the 12th most watched broadcast in the world.

However, the overall winner of the Tour De France receives a paltry grand prize of just 450,000 euros. The second and third place winners receive 200,000 euros and 100,000 euros respectively. A rider that finishes first place during a stage receives 8,000 euros. Any rider that has the God-given endurance to finish this grueling race at all receives a whopping 400 euros.

It is tradition for the winner of the Tour De France distributes his 450,000 euro grand prize equivalently among the eight members of his racing team. Thus, each team member would receive 56,250 euros each from the overall grand prize. The team prizes are especially appalling. The overall winning team receives a grand prize of just 50,000 euros, or 6,250 euros per teammate.

Bradley Wiggins won the 2012 Tour De France, but are participants getting their fair share of the prize money?

Overall, the overall prize money distributed for all participants of the Tour De France is just over 3,000,000 euros in total. This is 1/8th of the overall money that the ASO receives from French television and 10% of what Amaury Sports Organization makes annually from their television deals. Considering that ASO had an average net income of 30,000,000 euros for six years, it is clear that one description comes to mind when it comes to the ASO: stinginess.

In sports, it is almost cliché for the vast wealth from a major sporting event to trickle down to the teams and participants in a significant manner. The UEFA is very gracious with their awards to the participants of the Champions League. The UEFA pays each football club 2,100,000 euros just for making the tournament. In addition, UEFA shells out 3,900,000 euros for making the group stage plus 550,000 euros for every match played in the group stage. If a team makes it past the group stage into the round of 16, they receive 3,000,000 euros. As the team advances further in the Champions League, the payout increases . The overall UEFA Champions League Winner receives 9,000,000 euros while the loser receives 5,600,000. FC Barcelona received over 30,000,000 euros in prize money when they won the tournament in 2011 .

The Barclays Premier League makes doubly sure that all of their teams are compensated abundantly. Each team receives nearly 65 million dollars in TV revenue and prize money. The Premier League winner receives over 32 million dollars more in prize money.

Of course, this discussion would not be complete without mentioning the huge payouts that college teams receive for making the BCS Bowl games. Teams that make the BCS National Championship game or the Rose Bowl receive eighteen million dollars each. On the other hand, Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowl participants receive seventeen million dollars.

Many teams are contending in order to be considered the best team in the Tour De France . Teams such as Garmin and RadioShack can be considered contenders . However, they have had enough of getting the short end of the stick from the International Cycling Union (UCI). It is notable that a couple of teams shut down completely after sponsors removed their funding. Thus, the major cycling teams are attempting to break away from the vice grip that the UCI and the ASO have on their finances. These teams are in the midst of establishing a league of their own.

The league is called World Series Cycling. The groundwork for the league was laid out in the early stages of 2011. It is expected to launch in 2014. World Series Cycling would consist of the fourteen top racing squads in the world. The fourteen teams would join forces with the following companies: Rothschild & Sons LTD and Gifted Group Ltd. It has been proposed that World Series Cycling would consist of ten four-day events and that it would be established under a points system similar to Formula 1 and NASCAR auto racing. To date, eight cycling teams have joined World Series Cycling. One of those teams included Lance Armstrong’s former team: RadioShack Nissan.

Most importantly, it appears that World Series Cycling would achieve the desired outcome of a better payout for race cycling teams. In its initial pitch to investors, Gifted Group LTD predicted that each racing team would make a yearly profit of nearly two million euros three years after the projected launch of World Series Cycling. In addition, all fourteen teams would combine to own sixty-four percent of the World Series Cycling entity.

Not surprisingly, this idea has drawn the criticism of the International Cycling Union. One of the biggest critics is UCI president Pat McQuaid.

McQuaid has been the UCI’s head honcho for seven years. He has drawn the ire of the Amaury Sports Organization and the race cycling teams for his opinionated ways . At one point, the relationship between McQuaid and the ASO became so heated that the Tour De France and Paris-Nice races were run without the authority of the UCI.

ASO has recently denied the UCI’s request to invest in their new promotion entity, Global Cycling Promotion. Thus, it is clear that the ASO has a great deal of financial leverage over the UCI. Considering that UCI’s 2010 annual report listed financial reserves and financial stability as flaws, UCI may be in a very vulnerable position.

Thus, it may be no surprise that Pat McQuaid described the World Series Cycling as “unworkable” and “unrealistic” in November 2011. In an interview with Bloomberg on January 25th, Mcquaid claimed that the team managers already made large sums of money and that they did not trickle the payout down to the riders adequately. He made a plea to the teams to concentrate on improving the credibility of cycling. He claims that they will be rewarded with more money in four or five years.

Talk about being out of touch with reality.

Pat McQuaid needs to understand that World Series Cycling is UCI’s perfect opportunity to increase leverage against the ASO. The leverage would stem from the fact that World Series Cycling would be backed primarily by private equity. The ten proposed four-day races would not interfere with the major races on the UCI WorldTour. Since the teams would own a majority stake in World Series Cycling, there would be no conflict between the teams and the UCI in terms of money. Hopefully, ASO would recognize that they are not the only players in town and ultimately embrace World Series Cycling. World Series Cycling is not only a great alternative, it may be cycling’s saving grace.

UCI President Pat McQuaid

Cycling is one of the most strenuous sports in the world. There is no reason why the participants aren’t properly compensated for the blood, sweat and tears that they have sacrificed. There is no way that Pat McQuaid should stick to an antiquated system that is primarily reliant on a greedy race organizer such as the ASO. Major sports organizations such as the NFL and Barclays Premier League make sure that their teams and players are compensated. Once the players receive a great payout, one can be doubly sure that the fans are in store for a great product.

The UCI’s governing body needs to realize that a sizable chunk of cycling’s future depends on the morale of the cyclists. The cycling teams want greater wages now.

Not five years from now.

(Photos Courtesy of telegraph.co.uk and http://www.acmwriting.com)