In Depth

Team Ineos: Tour de Yorkshire cycling event to be hit by anti-fracking protests

Team Sky takeover has caused concern among environmentalists and rival cycling teams

Anti-fracking protestors are threatening to disrupt the Tour de Yorkshire cycling event in May amid anger over Ineos’s takeover of Team Sky.

The chemicals firm announced on Tuesday that it has bought Team Sky and that as of 1 May it will be known as Team Ineos. The relaunch will take place at the Tour de Yorkshire, starting on 2 May.

The man behind the acquisition, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, has rights to frack in sites in Yorkshire - making him a target for anti-fracking campaigners, the BBC reports.

“No doubt there will be protests around the Tour de Yorkshire and the World Championships to be held in Yorkshire later this year,” said Steve Mason of Free Frack United.

“I for one will not be letting my kids watch cycling anymore with Team Ineos taking part and I won’t be alone.”

Frack off

One of the world’s biggest manufacturers of chemicals and plastics, Ineos plans to explore for shale gas at sites in Cheshire, Yorkshire and the Midlands.

According to the BBC, Ineos “has yet to start because of planning disputes, with Ratcliffe criticising the government’s fracking rules last month”.

The firm refused to comment when contacted by the broadcaster, but a Welcome to Yorkshire spokesperson commented: “We understand the complex issues around fracking and remain in close contact with the National Park Authorities and local authorities.

“As a tourism body, we organise the Tour de Yorkshire to promote the county to a worldwide audience.”

Friend or foe of the earth?

It’s not the first time that Ratcliffe, reputedly Britain’s richest man, has fallen foul of environmental campaigners over his patronage of sports.

Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace called for Ineos to be banned from sponsoring Sir Ben Ainslie’s 2021 America’s Cup bid when the £110m investment was announced last year, accusing the company of contributing to ocean pollution.

Four-time Olympic champion Ainslie rejected the charge, saying of Ineos: “They understand the problem better than anyone else and they can really make a difference. And I know they are doing everything they can to tackle this.”

Greenwashing

Friends of the Earth fossil free campaigner Tony Bosworth has accused Ineos of “greenwashing”, and appealed to the team’s star cyclists to take a stand.  

Bosworth said: “Taking over Team Sky is the latest blatant attempt at greenwashing by Ineos. It’s a harsh change of tone that may see Sky’s Ocean Rescue campaign to clear plastic pollution from our oceans ditched from the team jersey in favour of Ineos - one of the biggest plastic producers in Europe.

“This is also a company that wants to frack large swathes of northern England and the east Midlands. Ineos has also been lobbying hard for the government to relax safety rules so fracking companies can trigger larger earthquakes before having to down tools.

“Cycling is one of the UK’s most successful and popular sports, but do the likes of Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome really want to be associated with a planet-wrecking company like Ineos?”

Wall of money

Meanwhile, The Daily Telegraph says that Ineos’s takeover of Team Sky is also causing disquiet among rival cycling teams.

Jonathan Vaughters, who runs EF Education First Pro Cycling, believes the buyout is a game changer that should lead to the introduction of a budget cap in the sport.

“You’re looking at an almost impenetrable wall of money,” said Vaughters. “You can basically go buy all the best riders. The question for the sport is if they are all on one team, is it fun for spectators to watch?

“I think a financial fairness rule would be helpful. In the NFL there are hard caps, so every team operates off the exact same budget.”

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