It was widely reported last week that the Garmin women's team was facing a budget shortfall. The lack of available funds in the team's budget is so severe that the team may be forced to shut down altogether.
The French company, BigMat, was due to be the America team's co-sponsor going into the 2012 season and beyond. However, BigMat pulled out at the last moment and and chose to enter into a sponsorship deal with French cycling team FDJ. Speaking to Cyclingnews.com, Jonathan Vaughters said;
“We signed a binding letter of intent for BigMat to be the co-title sponsor of our team for next year. So we filed with the UCI under Garmin-BigMat but at that point in time, literally right as we were filing, BigMat told us that they were not going to make good on the agreement.”
Of course given such a shortfall in operating capital - rumoured to be anything between $3.5 - 5 million - it is only logical to assume that Jonathan Vaughters would be forced to make financial cuts to the whole sqaud and Slipstream itself. The team were forced to re-submit their paperwork to the UCI for inclusion in the 2012 season
"We spent 14 months aggressively searching for an independent sponsor for the women's team but we were unsuccessful in that mission. So, when we entered into a binding letter of intent with a potential sponsor, we made the decision to fund the women's team out of the WorldTour team*. That potential sponsor withdrew from the deal. As a result, we are being forced to evaluate our women's program.
"We are hopeful to find another solution and are back aggressively looking for a sponsor, but if we are unable to secure one, we will have to continue to make budget cuts. We are committed to doing everything we can for our athletes and staff during this time and they remain our priority."
* emphasis mine
Speaking to Cyclingnews.com, Jonathan Vaughters went on:
"At this point we're having to consider budget cuts. This 50 percent rumour has not been determined. At the end of the day it's our intention to make sure that the value on their contracts is honoured and we need to find a solution to keep the team on the road."
Vaughters also said that he would not stand in the way of any members of the women's team moving to another squad and that he would cover any financial discrepancy in contracts. "If one of them wanted to go to another team I would never prevent that from happening."
It is indeed a sorry state of affairs and not one that anyone would wish to see. But should it be happening at all?
Immediately following the collapse of the BigMat deal, it was revealed that the "estimated 3.5-5 million USD in sponsorship, ... will now be covered by capital from Slipstream’s backer Doug Ellis*, who has financed the team since its inception. His capital will be used to help fill the hole left by BigMat and also help the team build on its current success."
Which must surely beg the question; Is Doug Ellis covering the budget shortfall caused by the collapse of the BigMat sponsorship deal or not?
There are only two possible answers to this question. The first is yes, he is, in which case the women's team - which, if you recall was to be funded out of the WorldTour team - should have no problems in continuing for the 2012 season. As we've already seen, this is clearly not the case.
The second answer is more disturbing. If Doug Ellis is only partially covering the budgetary shortfall, then it would seem that Jonathan Vaughters is throwing the Garmin women's squad to the wolves as a belt-tightening concession to his sugar-daddy backer.
Velocast asked Jonathan for an interview to discuss the women's team and the wider issues of team financing. Mr. Vaughters declined this request.