Subway withdraws sponsorship of team

GREG FORD
Last updated 05:00 04/09/2012
Subway team
ROBYN EDIE
Subway team in action.

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Christchurch-based professional cycling Team Subway is on the brink of collapse.

The main funder of the team run by Canterbury's Hayden Godfrey has pulled the pin leaving New Zealand cycling in a precarious position - without a domestic based professional team - unless it can find a new main sponsor.

Not all is lost yet. Yesterday Godfrey, a former world track omnium champion originally from Hokitika, was optimistic a new backer could be found by the end of the year when the fast food franchise officially ends it eight-year relationship with the team.

"But the sponsorship market in New Zealand is tight," Godfrey acknowledged.

"New Zealand cycling is in a really good place at the moment, in a results sense, but things are more difficult behind the scenes and it would be really sad for New Zealand cycling if we could not have a fully funded professional bike team based in this country.

Subway has been responsible for the development of some of the country's best cyclists."

Subway has gainfully employed the likes of Gordon McCauley, Hayden Roulston, Jesse Sergeant, Sam Bewley and Greg Henderson over the last decade.

It's current crop of 12 riders have been told their employment with the team will cease in late December if Godfrey's search for a white knight fails.

They include Olympic bronze medallist Westley Gough and under-19 rising star Dylan Kennett who won three silver medals and a bronze medal at last week's world junior track championships in Invercargill, riding for New Zealand.

Unlike when New Zealand's other professional team Pure Black dramatically and suddenly folded earlier this year they have been given plenty of notice.

But the professional road race branch of the sport now faces an uncertain future in this country.

Umbrella organisation Bike NZ has been informed of the development and Godfrey said they were concerned and supportive.

"Most of our guys will pick up rides elsewhere in New Zealand or overseas,” Godfrey said.

"But the concern is they won't get the level of service or support we were able to provide. We are New Zealand's only professional team.

"There are other teams but none were able to reach our standards."

Subway New Zealand head of marketing David Herrick said the decision not to continue sponsoring the team was difficult and the chain would continue to back multisport and Coast to Coast winners Richard and Elina Ussher.

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Godfrey said the split was amicable and that cycling was no longer a fringe sport, had a strong participation rate among corporate executives, and: “cycling has proven a very good vehicle for lifting brand profiles and we are excited by the prospect of working with a new major sponsor."

Subway's last official event will be the Armstrong Motor Group Festival of Cycling in Christchurch on December 1 and 2.

- Canterbury

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