Tour de France Teams Desire TV Rights Income Share

July 19, 2011

Tour de France teams are pressuring the Amaury family that owns the 108-year-old cycling race to share television-rights income for the first time.

Garmin-Cervelo, whose rider Thor Hushovd wore the leader’s yellow jersey for the first week of this year’s race, and HTC- Highroad showed their discontent by barring broadcasters from their vehicles during some Tour stages.

They’re normally obliged to open up team cars and buses to TV rights holders.

Most European competitors support lobbying for some of the TV income from the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), although French squads are wary of confronting organizers because they risk having their invitation to ride withdrawn, said Jonathan Vaughters, manager of the Garmin team.

Vaughters added that ASO may get as much as US$200 million from TV rights, while the 22 Tour de France teams typically have an annual budget of US$10 million each derived from sponsorships.

Vaughters said that “the athletes and equipment are our property — why should we give access” to cameras if teams don’t get a share of the television rights.

The Amaury family has controlled the Tour de France since the 1940s, and manages it through its closely held Amaury Sport Organisation. Paris-based ASO runs additional sports events, including the Dakar rally and the Paris marathon. The family shared in US$192 million of dividends from ASO between 2004 and 2008

Jean-Etienne Amaury is president of ASO, and his mother, Marie-Odile, is on the board of the company. Vaughters said he spoke with Marie-Odile before April’s Paris-Roubaix race, and she said she wouldn’t consider sharing income.

“She said she was confident they could put on a race with amateur riders from France if necessary,” Vaughters said.

Race director Christian Prudhomme said he was unable to speak on the issue and couldn’t immediately make the Amaury family available for comment.

The Tour de France, broadcast in more than 180 countries, gets about 60 percent of its income from TV rights, ASO marketing director Laurent Lachaux has said, without giving financial details. The rest of the race income comes from sponsorship and the fees it charges towns to host stages.

According to Simon Chadwick, a professor of sports business strategy at the U.K.’s Coventry University and a member of iSportconnect, the Tour differs from other competitions, such as USA’s National Football League and soccer’s Champions League, because organisers don’t give teams a share of TV money.

He said: “It’s very, very unusual that the Tour de France doesn’t share its revenue with the constituent parts of its brand. They’re adhering to a model that was first introduced about a century ago.”