Scottish Cycling: Review & Renew (Part1)

Following the recent ‘Strategic & Governance Review’ of Scottish Cycling by ‘Renaissance & Company’, a strategic management consultancy, we finally have some idea what exactly is going on inside SC, along with some much-needed answers. In this blog & the following parts of ‘Scottish Cycling: Review & Renew’, I’ll be tackling the tricky questions that arise & look at some ideas of how things can be moved forward. In some of my previous posts, you’ll have seen that sometimes I’m echoing the widespread frustration in the sport with regards to SC (historically SCU), this review now shows some light at the end of the tunnel. If Scottish Cycling do not take on board what has been said, act on it in an open manner & listen to the membership, they will cease to exist in the not too distant future. Our sport needs a strong governing body in what could be potentially a massive growth period, across all cycling, not just the traditional road & track scene, we need solutions looking into the future. I’d like to commend Scottish Cycling on implementing the review & making it available for public consumption (although it’s not exactly easy to find on the website, an initial worry about transparency is brought about by this, although I can see why they wouldn’t want every visitor to read it).

Before continuing, I’d advise you read or skim through the review, keep it open on another browser tab & refer to it if needed.


Who Wrote The Review?

I don’t know exactly where the pressure to commission this came from, perhaps Sport Scotland who fund the majority of SC’s activities, but the management consultancy chosen, Renaissance & Company, are an ideal choice having dealt with many sports governing bodies in the past. They specialise in helping sports bodies, HERE & HERE are some links to sporting bodies they have worked with previously. We can have faith that what has been said by them is credible, they’ve seen plenty other sporting governing bodies & they know how they work, or should work.

What the Review Said?

It’s probably beneficial to read it yourself, but the findings are quite scathing, possibly to those who’ve dealt with SC regularly, there are no surprises whatsoever. I’ll not dwell too much on these, looking more towards the future, we all know there have been mistakes & issues, some will feel vindicated, so a short paragraph resume of some of these is valid, here we go..

The report recognises that cycling is complex, supporting various disciplines. SC displays plenty of logo’s of other organisations they have a relationship with, but it says these relationships do not actually exist (British Cycling, Cycling Scotland etc). Middle aged men interested in road racing dominate the membership, the membership don’t know what SC does. It’s an unhappy place to work, they lack effective leadership & there is no master plan!

Please read the report linked further up the page if you want the full story, it’s quite grim regarding what they found.


The report flags up a number of solutions, they start on page 9, under section 3, if you’re following the review, skip to that part now.

The first area they look at is ‘Reforming the Business of Scottish Cycling‘, with the following key areas:

  • Strong Participation
  • Excellent Competitions & Events
  • Scotland Winning
  • Excellent Communities of Cycle Sport
  • Effective Leadership, Service & Governance
  • Working in Real Partnership

For increasing participation, we’re seeing that a plan is recommended (we’ll be seeing a lot of this, there currently are no plans), along with an executive in charge of this area. It seems that currently there is no strategy aimed at this, the membership demographics need a serious overhaul, if it continues as a middle-aged man’s domain, then the progress we require in order to develop cycling will not transpire. It will stay as the same old, same old, with an ever ageing emphasis on veteran racing & APR’s, this isn’t the future & whether you like it or not (I assume if you’re reading this, the chances are that you are a middle-aged man, based on the review findings) things are going to change, dramatically.

So how do we change the demographic? There isn’t going to be any kind of exodus of middle-aged men, the Mamils will stay, only we’ll add everybody else into the mix. The report states that SC has only 7000 official members, of the estimated 200,000 regular cyclist in Scotland, the reason that they are not members is likely that they believe SC does nothing for them, or they have no idea that SC exists. Basically SC do not currently provide the service they should in the modern world, they are outdated & stuck in the past, it needs to change, some won’t like it, but cycling is changing & if we (you, your club, your governing body) don’t change, you won’t have a governing body left to cling onto. What everybody outside of the progressive areas of our sport in Scotland (youth development & coaching etc) is that change is inevitable, cycling has got much bigger, we need a strong governing body to look after it and guide it, this review sets out a plan to achieve that.

I’m slightly uneasy with the review comments about events, the calendar stuff is great, but it appears to suggest that it’s OK for SC to organise events. This has gone very badly for the UCI, putting them in direct competition with established race organisers & seemingly using UCI anti-doping funding from pro teams rumoured to fund events in China, these events run by a company funded by the UCI but run by their controversial figurehead, Pat McQuaid & family. Governing bodies shouldn’t be running events other than their championships, it creates competition between the governing body & others, in Scotland’s case, between SC & clubs. There have been moves by groups of clubs to run a track league at Glasgow, but this was stopped for some reason. It’s hard to work out how clubs could raise the funds to block book expensive track time, while its common knowledge that SC are still negotiating their hourly track rate & haven’t actually paid for any yet. We’re not going to get any progressive race organisers getting a look in with that kind of set up.

The calendar does need to be completely demolished & rebuilt, as the report says, it’s got far too clogged up with ‘traditional dates’, if we want a modern sport this needs categorised, with championship events given priority & the other events slotted in around them. I can see some conflict with clubs & organisers over this, but if the clubs have valid reasons for when their event should be on they need to put that across, “it’s always been on that date” isn’t a valid reason, everybody has to accept change.

There’s plenty of solutions involving ‘regions‘, this would involve a complete rethink regarding the ‘centres‘. For some information on how out of balance these are, I wrote a blog on a potential regional road race league system a while ago, ‘Out of Our League‘. The old ‘centres’ simply don’t work as they should, finding ‘less-mature’ club representatives to go along to these would help, but many of the people who actually have any spare time to travel to these meetings still think 6 speed down tube friction levers are state-of-the-art. The regions need to be split evenly into areas with a similar amount of clubs, with a similar projected growth & the meetings need to be modernised. We are in the bizarre situation that some regions cover such a vast area that it’s impossible to get everybody to turn up. Why would somebody from Shetland travel to Aberdeenshire for a ‘centre meeting’, or somebody from Oban visit Glasgow, it’s just not practical. There’s really very little need to actually meet in person, if big business can carry out meetings by Skype, it’s absurd that you can’t decide who’s running your regional ’10’ champs by the same manner, it’s not exactly tricky, you can all sit at home and have a meeting, even on the train, time to move things forward, if you’re shy just do voice meeting rather than video. That’s the only way you can have effective meetings over the geographic distance of the 4 to 6 regions the review advises. The harsh reality of this, is that if you don’t have a computer, you’re not going to be a productive part of a sport trying to modernise & rebuild, you’re also not reading this, so I’ve not offended anybody!

What’s in Part 2?

So that’s the Part 1 basic overview on where we’re going with this over the first part of the review, we need a new SC, a modern sporting governing body with progressive clubs & a strong regional structure, a completely rebuilt calendar.That’s probably enough for Part 1, in Part 2 we’ll start getting into the nitty gritty, looking in depth at where the growth is coming from & there are also some problems with lobbing all the disciplines together where you ‘get a bit muddy’, those are where the real participation growth is coming from, so they need a little more individual attention than that. SC have to be very careful that they don’t change winning formats that are actually attracting their new target demographics.

I can see this drifting into 4 or 5 blogs, we’ve still got to look at how to grow each discipline, bmx, road, sportives, track, cross country mtb, downhill mtb & cross! We’ve only just scraped the surface, I’ll let you read the review yourself before I release Part 2.

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