Paris (AFP) – The Tour de France is not only a French monument, but also the economic pace of professional cycling itself and analysts fear serious consequences if the coronavirus crisis forces its cancellation.
An announcement is expected this week about a postponement or outright cancellation of the 21-day extravagance that is currently scheduled to begin in Nice on June 27.
The “Grande Boucle”, as the Tour is known in France, is the central economic pillar that supports the 22 professional teams registered on the list for 2020.
“Cancellation opens the door to a possible economic collapse of the cycling sector,” said Jean-François Mignot, of the National Center for Scientific Research., Author of the book “A history of the Tour de France”.
Maintaining the original dates seems unlikely, France having been blocked since March 17. More than 14,000 people have died from coronaviruses in France.
Usually, up to 12 million fans line the roads while the Tour crosses the countryside and French cities for three weeks each summer.
” It’s as simple as that. If the Tour does not take place, the teams could disappear, the runners and the staff would find themselves unemployed, “explained Marc Madiot, the head of the high French team Groupama-FDJ.
Its team budget is estimated at 20 million euros ($ 21.8 million) per year and is funded by the state lottery and an insurance company.
– The tour rolls on advertising revenue –
The organizers of the Tour de France Amaury Sport Organization (ASO) paid a total of 2.3 million euros for the 2019 edition, won by Colombian Ineos runner Egan Bernal who picked up a check for 500,000 euros.
The Tour is making money, but the giant cost of organizing the event, with logistics as spectacular as any mountainside showdown on two wheels, is eating away at the margins of all road races.
Sponsors pay cash for daily television coverage lasting several hours, and even the smallest teams can get involved in a breakaway and therefore order screen time.
There are ceremonies every day on the Tour de France for all kinds of prizes – sprint, climbing, attack, young riders – where the names of the sponsors are prominently displayed.
“Most of the sponsors are in cycling for this reason alone, everything is centered on the Tour de France,” said Mignot.
“If these sponsors are investing money, it’s because viewers recognize the team’s jerseys, it’s the only cycling race watched by such a large audience. “
“There are very few other sports with as much horse riding on the same event,” said Bruno Bianzina, managing director of Sport Market.
Mignot estimated that turnover from the ASO tour has grown from five million euros in the mid-1980s to 50 million today.
Another group, Sporsora, has estimated turnover for the 2019 Tour de France at 130 million euros.
Around 40 to 50% comes from sponsors, television rights represent around half and the host regions of the race also contribute around 5%.
This would represent more than half of the turnover declared by ASO in 2018, which according to Infogreffe.fr amounted to 233.5 million euros.
ASO did not respond to questions from the AFP.
– “Props up cycling” –
“The Tour de France supports all cycling, but the Tour also needs the rest of the cycling calendar,” said Madiot, double winner of the one-day Paris-Roubaix race.
Even the smallest sponsor pays 250,000 euros to ASO when it is estimated that the sponsor of the yellow jersey, LCL bank, will pay 10 million euros.
“But it goes much further than that because the Tour de France is also a huge advertisement for France and French tourism,” explains Bianzina.