Following the unraveling of a financial agreement with Cycling Ireland, the owners of Ireland’s only male UCI-registered road cycling team have appealed to the cycling community to help save the EvoPro Racing setup. On Tuesday co-owner Morgan Fox launched a GoFundMe campaign to try to raise €150,000, money which he says is needed ‘to keep our hopes of the Evo Pro development program alive.’
The continental-level team began racing in 2019 and has sought a title sponsor since then. It has played an important role in filling the gap left by the end of the An Post Sean Kelly Team, with former professional rider Fox and past Cycling Ireland president PJ Nolan aiming to provide a pathway for young Irish riders to graduate to the pro ranks.
The team had anticipated announcing a new sponsor in 2021 but that deal unraveled, leaving the squad exposed. Fox and Nolan then negotiated a financial agreement months ago with Cycling Ireland to collaborate in their racing programs but, amid turmoil within the federation, that will not happen now.
“The infrastructure we have built would give aspiring cyclists, typically from 14 to 20+ years of age, safe and very strictly supervised access to the world of cycling and an introduction to top class Continental racing,” Fox wrote in the GoFundMe appeal. “We want to work with the stakeholders in every contact at club, provincial, and national level to improve the pathway for Irish cyclists.
“With this in mind we signed an agreement with the national governing body for Cycling in Ireland that would allow us to achieve this goal. They informed us last week that they are not going ahead with the project with just a week to go to the start of our season
“This is devastating news to us and leaves both the project and our team in a potentially terminal situation.”
Fox states that it will cost €250,000 to run the project for the remainder of 2022. The cycling website Stickybottle.com reported recently that the original agreement between Cycling Ireland and EvoPro Racing would have seen the governing body invest approximately €300,000, with €100,000 of this being for bikes and equipment that would be retained by Cycling Ireland.
Fox and Nolan signed the deal in December, as did CI’s chief executive Matt McKerrow and the-then CI president Liam Collins. However early in 2022 disquiet arose within CI, including over a lack of information shared internally prior to the announcement, as well as in relation to the selection criteria and other terms. It is also understood that the participation of former FA Chief Executive John Delaney at a meeting between the team and a potential backer had raised concerns, as well as a deficit relating to a company owned by Fox.
In a statement, EvoPro Racing said that the company in question is a sponsor and ‘doesn’t have any significant real debt.’ It said that Delaney ‘has not received any funds from EvoPro and has no role with EvoPro. However if he secured a commercial partnership it would be remiss of us to ignore that or if anyone else in sports funding came forward. We are here to serve Irish cycling and that is our only agenda.”
CI asked chartered accountants BDO to review the agreement between it and EvoPro Racing and while the results of that have not yet been announced, the agreement is not now proceeding.
Fox and Nolan are now seeking public backing in order to ensure EvoPro Racing survives.
“The support of the cycling community in Ireland, on hearing this news, has been incredible,” wrote Fox. “Irish cycling wants to see the team succeed and for us to be able to give the team and the young cyclists of Ireland a pathway to the very top of international cycling.
“We have riders in our team who have the potential to be world class and given the chance we can create a talent route for all who do not have the existing support network or the opportunity to showcase their potential.”
He pointed out that the team has clocked up nine UCI victories since its foundation and has enabled its riders to compete shoulder to shoulder with the biggest names in cycling.
“We have had a lot of Irish riders who have raced with us, and who have raced against the very best riders in the world, against Olympic and world champions and have proven that given the opportunity, they can compete at this level.”
A total of over 7,000 out of the €150,000 target has been pledged in the past 24 hours.
“We at EvoPro will put every euro back into our project and we will operate an open book accounts policy,” Fox pledged.
“This project can be transformational for Irish cyclists and these young boys and girls can benefit from an experience that has been unavailable up to now. Please give us a chance to let them explore their dreams.”
The team began its season last Sunday at the GP Jean-Pierre Monseré in Belgium. It is scheduled to compete in events in the Netherlands and France over the next ten days.
The GoFundMe appeal can be accessed here.