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Riders and staff at the defunct Qhubeka-NextHash WorldTour squad have not been paid since October 2021, with the final two installments of their wages still unaccounted for.
VeloNews has learned that the UCI has been informed of the situation and that the sport’s governing body is working alongside the team’s management in order to help those affected. The hope is that the team’s UCI bank guarantee will help ensure that riders and staff can be paid in the coming weeks.
The WorldTour squad folded at the end of last season after they failed to secure a new title sponsor but during 2021 they were beset with financial problems, with wages stalling during the summer and riders told in the autumn that they were free to pursue other options, even if they had a contract with Qhubeka-NextHash for 2022.
The news of the team’s recent financial struggles comes just a day after they confirmed plans around the continuation of their development team.
VeloNews has also learned that some riders have the option of keeping their race bikes from last season, with those costs knocked off the salaries they are owed.
In an email sent to VeloNews the UCI confirmed the situation.
“The UCI is aware of the situation of the riders, and more generally of the team. The UCI is in contact with all the protagonists to help resolve any outstanding issues in a timely manner. It shall be determined shortly if the bank guarantee is used and to what extent,” a spokesperson for the UCI wrote.
The UCI bank guarantee is put in place at the start of each year in order to ensure that should any team hit a financial crisis wages and expenses can still be covered for a set period.
In an email seen by VeloNews, the management at Qhubeka NextHash has presented the riders with several options with regards to their missing finances.
The email reads: “Due to the unforeseen circumstances that we have lived through in 2021, we have resolved to use the team bank guarantee, held with the UCI, to pay all outstanding monies. In order to regularise the payment of salary arrears for the last months of 2021, below is the procedure that is jointly proposed by the team and the UCI in accordance with the UCI Regulations.”
“The team has set up a bank guarantee intended to settle any debts that the team may have contracted during the 2021 registration year, among others, vis-à-vis the team members (cf. articles 2.15.092 and following of the UCI Regulations). It must represent at least 3 months of gross contractual benefits for all the members of the team (riders and staff or also referred to below as creditors) for the 2021 season.”
Riders and staff have just under a week to file their respective paperwork and they need to choose between various payment options but one option that is currently open to them – but was not mentioned directly in the email – involves keeping their race bikes from 2021 with those costs off-set against the fees that they are still owed.
VeloNews contacted team manager Doug Ryder, with the South African confirming that riders were able to keep equipment rather than collect the full salaries owed to them.
“The bank guarantee is there to support the riders. It’s for three months of salary, so that the riders will get paid. Bank guarantees have been used in the past, not by us, and if the riders want to buy bikes that’s fine. Of course, that’s offset. It’s a transaction and that’s their choice. We’re making good on all the commitments that we made to the team. We’ve been transparent with the UCI, with everyone and we’re doing everything that we can to honor our agreement. That’s a positive thing, we’ve not run away, we’ve not closed the company. We’ve continued with our development team and we’re in it for cycling,” Ryder said.
Ryder would not disclose the background details on where the financial problems stemmed from but he did confirm that up to three partners had not paid their full commitment in 2021. The most prominent of those was NextHash, with CyclingTips’ Iain Treloar writing this excellent piece into the team’s failed relationship with the sponsor in 2021.
NextHash had been unveiled as a title sponsor on the eve of the 2021 Tour de France, and while the deal was reported to have a five-year term it was only a matter of months before financial issues set in.
There were delays with payments in August – just a month after Assos had been bumped off the jersey as the title sponsor – and several secondary sponsors were asked to cough up their final installments months earlier than planned. During that period all the high-profile riders were forced to look for new teams but despite a degree of transparency and openness from the squad towards their riders a number of the team are still without contracts or have been forced into early retirement.