In Depth

Sky to end Team Sky backing in 2019: success, scandal and the end of a cycling era

Since launching in 2010, the cycling powerhouse has scored 322 all-time wins including six Tour de France victories

The future of one of cycling’s most successful outfits has been cast in doubt after Sky announced today that its backing of Team Sky will finish in just over a year’s time, on 31 December 2019.

After a decade in professional cycling, the broadcaster will end its ownership and sponsorship of Team Sky. But if a new backer is secured, the team could continue from 2020 and race under a different name.  

Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford said in a statement: “While Sky will be moving on at the end of next year, the team is open minded about the future and the potential of working with a new partner, should the right opportunity present itself.

“We aren’t finished yet by any means. There is another exciting year of racing ahead of us and we will be doing everything we can to deliver more Team Sky success in 2019.”

The BBC reports that Sky’s decision has been “partly influenced” by Comcast’s £30bn takeover of the broadcaster. The Daily Telegraph added: “There was never any guarantee that the new owners would be as committed to handing over £30m-plus every year.”

Sky’s group chief executive Jeremy Darroch said: “The end of 2019 is the right time for us to move on as we open a new chapter in Sky’s story and turn our focus to different initiatives including our Sky Ocean Rescue campaign.”

Decision before the Tour de France

In an open letter to their fans, Team Sky said: “This news will no doubt come as a surprise to many people but... there has been a lot of change at Sky recently. It is the start of a new chapter for the company and sometimes it is inevitable that change brings further change with it.

“This news has only just been announced; we can’t predict what will happen from 2020 and there are no guarantees. Whatever happens, we will make sure there is clarity one way or the other about the future of the team before the Tour de France next July.”

Success and scandal

After launching in 2010, Team Sky has achieved 322 all-time wins, including eight Grand Tours, 52 other stage races and 25 one-day races.

Highlights include six Tour de France victories for British cyclists: one for Bradley Wiggins (2012), four for Chris Froome (2013, 2015, 2016, 2017) and one for Geraint Thomas (2018).

Despite their tour wins and domination, Team Sky have also had their controversies, says the Telegraph. These include the “mystery Jiffy bag” scandal and “historic use of Therapeutic Use Exemptions”.

The BBC’s sports editor Dan Roan says Sky’s decision marks the beginning of the end of an era of “success and scandal”. Roan added: “As well as being arguably the most successful current professional team in British sport, they are also the most controversial. Maybe Sky had simply had enough of the bad headlines, despite so many wins.”

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