One of Britain’s elite cycling teams, which has won an impressive eight Grand Tours, has just announced that its new sponsor will be the UK’s richest man, petrochemical and fracking boss, Sir Jim Ratcliffe.
The cyclists, currently known as Team Sky, will be renamed Team Ineos, after Ratcliffe’s chemical and fracking company.
This is greenwashing at its best, which is made more ironic that until recently Team Sky wore images of orca whales on their sleeves to protest against plastic pollution, with the hashtag: #passonplastic.
It is also beyond ironic that Ineos is trying to use sport to clean up its image, having been criticised for being one of the main companies pushing a dirty shale revolution in the UK, leading to climate change and potentially threatening water supplies.
Ineos has also been trying to impose a draconian injunction against anti-fracking protesters, which would have a draconian impact on the right to protest in the UK, which thankfully is being challenged in the High Court by Joe Corré, businessman and son of fashion icon, Vivienne Westwood.
“We’re in this kind of war against an industry that knows it’s on its way out, but is clinging on as long as it can,” says Corré, who also runs the anti-fracking group, Talk Fracking.
Earlier this month, Talk Fracking won a significant victory against the British Government and its fracking policy, when in another legal action, a high court judge ruled that the current guidance from the Government on shale gas is “unlawful”. This is because the Government has failed to take climate change into consideration in their pro-shale polices.
In a statement Sky’s team principal, Dave Brailsford, said: “Today’s announcement is great news for the team, for cycling fans, and for the sport more widely … In Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Ineos, I know that we have found the right partner whose vision, passion and pioneering spirit can lead us to even greater success on and off the bike. It heralds the start of a hugely exciting new chapter for us all as Team Ineos.”
Leading cyclists also reacted to the announcement with enthusiasm. Former Tour de France winner and former Team Sky member, Bradley Wiggins, said the match between the team and Ratcliffe would be “ideal”.
Ratcliffe himself stated: “Cycling continues to mushroom for the general public as it is seen to be good for fitness and health, together with easing congestion and pollution in city environments.”
Obviously the irony of a fracking and petrochemicals company which causes pollution, sponsoring something that is eases pollution, was lost on Ratcliffe.
In contrast, according the Guardian, “The company’s move into professional cycling is equally likely to ruffle feathers, both due to its wealth and within a sport that is becoming increasingly aware of its environmental impact.”
Indeed, commentators on Twitter were critical when the news leaked out late yesterday. Ex-Green Party Leader in the UK, Natalie Bennett:
Extreme mismatch: A low-carbon, energy-efficient method of transport in #cycling, & proponent of #fracking, #plasticpollution and #climateinaction in @INEOS. Although given both's reputational issues, maybe inevitable https://t.co/M3Z67Yw5tz
— Natalie Bennett (@natalieben) March 18, 2019
Head of Friends of the Earth UK, Craig Bennett, added
This is such a bad decision
They really haven't thought this through, have they?!https://t.co/Xz4yaf7OUc
— Craig Bennett (@CraigBennett3) March 18, 2019
Others were equally critical:
Oh the irony ????? We have (less than) 12 years to turn around carbon emissions or face climate devastation. Does @TeamSky not know this? Or do they know, but don’t care enough to act?#fracking #Ineos #itsallaboutthemoney #climatechange #optics https://t.co/hhpmBYRu6T
— Katy Cooper (@healthkaty) March 19, 2019
It is also ironic that the announcement comes just days after 1.4 million young people marched for the climate across the globe.
This shows that British cycling is totally out of step with the young. And that can only be bad news for cycling in the long-term, no matter how Team Ineos try and spin it.