What a holiday season it’s been for the upstart Australian-based Pegasus cycling team, now thrown into turmoil following the UCI’s decision this week to deny it a professional continental license for the 2011 season.
A day after the UCI set out a blistering communiqué, which characterized Pegasus Sports’ effort to obtain a ProTour and then a Pro Continental license as “unprofessional,” team management countered Friday by claiming that it met all of the UCI requirements.
In what’s turning out to be a war of press releases, the Pegasus cycling team stated Friday in a detailed, three-page communiqué of its own that it met the UCI requirements despite being thrown a curveball by the late-hour exit of a major financial backer just days before the final deadline.
“We were taken aback and extremely disappointed by the urgency and unprecedented action of the UCI to issue a press release that severely tarnished the image of Pegasus Sports without first giving us the courtesy of an explanation,” wrote team manager Chris White. “We maintain that all requirements of the UCI Pro Continental application process were adhered to.”
White claims that the team filed a budget, a letter of credit to meet the required bank guarantees, all appropriate contracts as well insurance for its riders for the 2011 season in time to meet an extension granted by the UCI licensing commission.
White, who did not return calls to VeloNews for comment on this developing story, seemed exasperated by the entire process, saying that the UCI has still not directly told them the reasoning for their decision.
“The UCI and the UCI License Commission are yet to communicate directly with the team regarding the reasons for non-issuance of the Pro Continental license,” White wrote. “All information in this regard has only been communicated through a public forum.”
According to UCI rules, riders have been free of contractual obligations to Pegasus Sports since a deadline was missed in October. A handful of riders have since left the team in the wake of the recent setbacks, including Svein Tuft and Dominique Cornu. Robbie McEwen and Robbie Hunter both signed with RadioShack Thursday.
Here is the full transcription of the Pegasus Sports communiqué:
PEGASUS SPORTS 2011 UCI LICENSING
Statement from Chris White, Pegasus Sports
Based on the UCI’s press release of 23 December, we feel it is now imperative to share the facts around the Pegasus Sports licensing process. Our goal is to be transparent and honest… We don’t want to get into a boxing match or a mudslinging contest. However, we will protect our name and integrity so we can move on to creating a viable racing program.
Pegasus Sports was formed to apply for and hold a UCI PRO Tour license in 2011. The structure is registered in Australia and was a joint North American – Australian backed project.
Pegasus Sports’ financing was underpinned by an ‘equity’ guarantee supplied by its major shareholder. The initial strategy of Pegasus Sports in lieu of commercial sponsorship acquisition was to use an equity funded business model in the same way as Team Garmin commenced as Team Slipstream Sports.
Due to a number of factors external to Pegasus Sports the afore mentioned backing was retracted and this retraction was advised to Pegasus Sports on 7 December, 3 days prior to the conclusion of the PRO Conti license application process.
With just days left prior to the 10 December license issue date, Pegasus Sports was left with two options; either walk away from the 2011 PRO Conti license process or to fight on by repositioning the Team and re-submitting the license application. We chose to fight on and were grateful to the UCI for allowing the Team five additional days in which to complete the process.
Pegasus Sports met the extended time frame and lodged the following documents on 15 December;
Financial budget (balanced in accordance with the guidelines provided)
Letter of credit/Bank guarantee (still held by UCI)
Contracts (sponsor & employment)
We maintain that all requirements of the UCI PRO Continental application process were adhered to.
We were taken aback and extremely disappointed by the urgency and unprecedented action of the UCI to issue a press release that severely tarnished the image of Pegasus Sports without first giving us the courtesy of an explanation.
In essence, we want to look forward to simply racing bikes in a sport that we love. The events of the past 3 weeks have been traumatic for dozens of people who have been involved in Pegasus Sports.
To assist with providing transparency in respect to the relevant issues surrounding our licensing process we offer the following information (see below).
Among other documents lodged with the UCI and their auditor was the original bank guarantee. I confirm that the UCI’s auditor in their initial report confirmed the existence and veracity of this bank guarantee.
Due to a misunderstanding, there was an ‘essential’ document (a financial underwriting document) missing from our 1 October submission. The UCI auditor in the ‘Initial Report’ highlighted this and, as a result, Pegasus Sports was not listed as an initial PRO Tour applicant.
By 7 October this document was lodged and in place with the UCI.
As the UCI pointed out in its most recent press release, Pegasus Sports were ranked 23rd and as a result PRO Tour qualification for 2011 was not possible.
The UCI in line with regulation 2.15.056 requested immaterial amendments to two sponsorship contracts and as such Pegasus Sports was referred to the UCI License Commission.
Based on independent legal advice sought in Australia, Pegasus Sports resubmitted amended sponsorship contracts to conform to regulation 2.15.056. The License Commission was not satisfied with the sponsorship contracts as re-submitted and did not agree with the advice that Pegasus Sports had been provided with. The License Commission requested further edits to the said sponsorship contracts to be completed prior to 10 December. The requested edits were completed and subsequently submitted.
Notification from the majority shareholder of Pegasus Sports was received, stating that they were retracting their support from the program.
Additionally, there was some confusion over whether the original bank guarantee lodged and approved as valid on 1 October had been released. This led Pegasus Sports to request on 8 December an extension of time to complete the PRO Continental licensing process. The UCI licensing commission denied this initial request for an extension of time.
With the events of 7 December materially impacting Pegasus Sports existing license application, Pegasus Sports sought the UCI President’s support to allow further time to deal with the catastrophic effects of the retraction of our major financial backing. The President recommended an extension of time be granted. In a great display of compassion for the human impact, the UCI License Commission granted Pegasus Sports an additional 5 days.
11 – 15 DECEMBER
The entire organization was involved in a drive to reposition the Team’s cost base to assist in ensuring financial stability. Within the Team there was unanimous support for these tough actions and a strong willingness to see out the tough times together.
Pegasus Sports worked closely with its’ bankers to put in place a second bank guarantee in the form of a Letter of Credit. (This Letter of Credit still remains in place with the UCI as the beneficiary.)
Coupled with this approach was engagement with our existing sponsorship base to help us to close the remaining funding gap.
Pegasus Sports lodged within the time frame the required documents, specifically;
Balanced budget (in surplus)
Bank guarantee/letter of credit (Still held by UCI)
Contracts (employment and sponsor)
I confirm that the budget as at 15 December for 2011 was in surplus.
In response to the UCI auditor’s report (dated 16 December) advising that there was no bank guarantee in place Pegasus Sports provided evidence to the UCI from it’s bankers (National Australia Bank) that the Letter of Credit was funded and in place with the UCI’s bank account (UBS SA).
Pegasus Sports has been advised by the UCI that the Letter of Credit is in place. Subsequent to the non-issuance of the PRO Conti license Pegasus Sports have requested that the UCI release the Letter of Credit and to this date the UCI has refused to release same.
Based on feedback received directly from the UCI’s auditor, there were concerns raised in relation to the quantum of some revenue items. These items — along with a new sponsorship contract that was concluded post 15 December — were added to the Team’s financial position and an updated budget was sent to the Licensing Commission on the morning of 20 December.
The effect of these adjustments and adding the additional contract was that the Team’s budget was in a surplus position of greater than $500,000.
The UCI and the UCI License Commission are yet to communicate directly with the Team regarding the reasons for non-issuance of the PRO Continental license.
All information in this regard has only been communicated through a public forum.