Christophe Gouyon, here you are at VCP Loudéac after many experiences as a sports director throughout France (Aubervilliers, Argenteuil, Nogent, Brest, Marseille…). Isn’t it difficult to change clubs so often?
It’s hard, but that’s the problem with amateur sports and cycling in particular. It’s a fragile ecosystem with a bad business model. Structures don’t last. Going through the history of the ones I’ve been through, many have disappeared because they only worked with one sponsor or only grants. This is not viable in the long run.
What would be the solution?
Jérôme Pineau (general manager of the B&B Hotels p/b KTM team) has an interesting idea: to have your own sources of income and not depend on a single sponsor. A clothing brand to finance salaries, campaigns in schools to preserve jobs… The associative system as we know it is doomed to disappear. All structures die. We have fewer races and runners, the subsidies continue to fall… We really need to support the structures so that they become financially independent. The other disciplines are doing well. Why not us? The problem is that we don’t charge anything and do nothing to make money as a club. We pay a tennis instructor, we pay a riding instructor. A young person who learns to ride a bicycle simply pays his contribution.
Isn’t this related to the popular vocation of cycling?
This must change because our sport is on the brink of death. In 20 years I have seen the difference. Before I came here, I was in the south. Everything has disappeared there. And yet there are cyclists everywhere, but few license or participate in events. Still, cycling outside of clubs has never been better. When I had my own business, I made more money than working with the clubs. The bike works. But the clubs don’t realize that.
However, the Federation can count on great events…
That’s true, but does it help clubs raise money, recruit businesses, set up events, support employees?
Do you feel like she’s not doing her job?
It already does a lot, but we can go even further. And the clubs are not necessarily aware of the problem. Too bad because we see many organizing committees disappear. And yet there are many young practitioners. But they’re not going to join a club. In my day, when we started cycling, we necessarily signed with a club. There were leaders to advise us. Now there are many individuals on the internet asking these new practitioners for advice.
Is it almost a cry of alarm that you let go?
I am convinced that we are not on the right track. A coherent entrepreneur cannot think that a cycling club is interesting. There are only losses and no gains. Here, in Loudéac, we are fortunate to have a great sponsor. But if we take Marseille, it is 100% subsidies. Too many structures live under perfusion. I think many business leaders today want more than sponsorship or patronage.
Brittany is still a cycling country…
Only here you will find so many enthusiasts, so many races on every street corner. Brittany is THE country for cycling. There are more practitioners in Île-de-France, but there is less passion and enthusiasm surrounding the competition. The enthusiasm is unmeasurable here.