While maintaining the planned dates (June 27-July 19) seems de facto impossible with the ban announced Monday by President Emmanuel Macron of “events with a large audience” in France “at least until mid-July next “, a postponement to August is under consideration.
Thriving showcase of Amaury Sport Organization (ASO), the Tour de France represents a French monument but also the economic lung of professional cycling. If its postponement appears inevitable, its cancellation due to the Covid-19 would have serious consequences, according to all the experts interviewed by theAFP. Can the world’s largest cycling race be postponed to August? The black hypothesis of outright cancellation would not only deprive millions of afternoon viewers who stretch to contemplate breathtaking landscapes of France, punctuated by epic battles in the mountains. Because the Great Loop is above all a pillar for the budget of the teams involved, 22 in number for the 2020 edition. And if the centenary test does not take place, “this opens the possibility of an economic collapse of the sector” , warns Jean-François Mignot, researcher at CNRS and author of a “History of the Tour de France” (ed. La Découverte). “It’s very simple. If the Tour does not take place, teams could disappear, riders and management members would find themselves without work “, predicts Marc Madiot, the manager of the Groupama-FDJ team, whose budget is estimated at around 20 million euros.
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The threat is not due to the premiums paid to the teams by ASO, around 2.3 million euros in the 2019 edition, according to the Sporsora association, which brings together players in the sport economy. But quite simply, explains Jean-François Mignot, because for “many team sponsors, the only reason to be in cycling rather than elsewhere rests on the Tour de France. If the sponsors agree to invest, it is so that viewers can see their mark on the riders’ jerseys during the Tour, because it is the only cycling event that is so massively watched “.
A thriving business
“There are quite a few sporting disciplines that are based so much on an event, which is more owned by a private sector” and not a Federation, underlines Bruno Bianzina, director general of the agency Sport Market. It is thanks to the revenues TV rights and sponsors that racing has become such a thriving business for ASO from the mid-1980s, its turnover then increased tenfold over the following two decades (from 5 to 50 million euros), according to estimates contained in the work of Jean-François Mignot.ASO, also owner of Vuelta, Paris-Nice and Dauphiné, as well as great classics like Paris-Roubaix, is known for not giving figures but according to Sporsora, the turnover for the 2019 edition amounts to around 130 million euros, 40% to 50% of which comes from sponsors, 50% to 55% of TV rights and between 5% to 10% of communities which invest to welcome a stage start or finish. This would represent more than half of the turnover declared in 2018 by the company of the Amaury group (233.5 million euros according to infogreffe.fr).
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For all observers, a summer without a Tour would be a blow for ASO, which did not respond to AFP. “Le Tour is their cash cow,” says the boss of Sport Market. “This is what keeps everything else”, adds an actor in cycling. Understand, less profitable trials. Because if “everyone needs the Tour, the Tour needs the rest of the calendar,” says Marc Madiot, also president of the National Cycling League.
10 to 12 million spectators on the roads
Event sponsors would also lose a lot. Because the Tour de France is a unique opportunity to reach the general public, via broadcasting on screens, but also on site, with the famous Tour caravan, a veritable rolling advertising circus (31 brands and institutions in 2019) which comes before peloton. ASO claims 10 to 12 million spectators on the roads. According to Sporsora, it is necessary to pay around 250,000 to 300,000 euros for the smallest partner of the Tour. According to unconfirmed sector estimates, it would cost the LCL bank, partner of the yellow jersey since 1987, more than 10 million euros. But the shortfall does not stop at the sports sector. “It goes well beyond. The Tour is also the best + spot + advertising for French tourism”, notes Bruno Bianzina. “The territorial network of the event means that the consequences of a cancellation would be increased tenfold,” also notes Magali Tézenas du Montcel, general delegate of Sporsora, stressing the losses for the communities hosting the race.