Road

Bigla-Katusha to tap bank guarantee, initiate crowd-funding to try to save team

Women's pro team Bigla-Katusha is recoiling from recent developments threatening its financial future.

Bigla-Katusha is moving fast to try to keep the team alive despite a sudden loss of sponsorship funding.

Management for the 13-rider Swiss-registered team confirmed Tuesday it will tap its UCI bank guarantee as well as initiate a crowd-funding effort to keep the squad afloat.

“We aim to remain in full operation in 2020 to facilitate our riders’ preparation for the world championships and [Tokyo] Olympic Games,” said co-owner Priska Doppmann Campana. “[We] also [hope] to become a WorldTour team next year. We are now, therefore, actively pursuing new sponsorship opportunities, and believe that with our existing and new partners, we can successfully realize these goals.”

Last week, the team’s two title sponsors revealed they could not meet their respective financial commitments due to sudden disruptions to their businesses in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Shortly after the announcement, riders from the team responded with an open letter, imploring the sponsors to reconsider.

“We are fully committed to this team, partners, and one another. We hope our title partners will look back after this pandemic has passed with pride and be able to say they did everything they could to honor their commitments,” read the letter.

Campana said the team is working to secure payments for riders and staff for April, and have asked the UCI to release the team’s bank guarantee. UCI-registered teams must maintain an emergency fund equal to 20 percent of the squad’s annual payroll. So far, men’s WorldTour teams have urged the UCI to resist efforts to tap into the bank guarantees to cover shortfalls among those teams.

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Katusha said it would donate profits from online sales from its Bigla-Katusha collection, as well as 10 percent of additional sales to the team. Photo: courtesy Katusha Sports

A half-dozen elite teams in the WorldTour have reduced salaries, laid off staffers, or deferred payments due to the coronavirus crisis. So far, Bigla-Katusha is the first women’s-only team that has been hit.

Team officials also said they would create a crowd-funding program in the coming weeks to allow fans and others to help the team whether the shortfall.

Also Tuesday, co-sponsor Katusha said it would donate profits from online sales from its Bigla-Katusha collection, as well as 10 percent of additional sales, using the discount code B4TBK on its website.