Friday 19 October 2012

An open letter to Rabobank

Lense Koopmans is the supervisory director of Rabobank's Supervisory Board, a body that "supervises the policy of the Executive Board of Rabobank Nederland and the general conduct affairs at Rabobank Group and its affiliated entities. In addition, the Supervisory Board advises the Executive Board and is responsible for the appointment and remuneration of the members of the Executive Board." 

I have emailed a copy to Rabobank - if you agree that the Rabobank women's team should not suffer from the possible withdrawal of Rabobank's sponsorship due to doping in men's cycling, please feel free to copy the letter and send it under your own name. One email won't make much of a difference, but if enough women's cycling fans ask Rabobank to make the right decision we might be able to help ensure their future support.

Dear Mr. Koopmans,

First off, please allow me to apologise for contacting you in this manner - I have no doubt that, as the supervisory director of Rabobank, you are a very busy man. However, I am writing to you in order to share some thoughts on a matter involving your company and which is of very great importance to myself and to an ever-increasing number of people around the world, and reading this letter will take only a few moments of your time. I hope you will spare me those few moments.

You've probably already guessed that I'm talking about Rabobank's recent decision to withdraw from professional cycling sponsorship. I fully understand the reasons for this decision: like all cycling fans, I had hoped that doping was finally coming to an end in the sport and I am deeply upset at the recent USADA revelations that show it has remained a far greater problem than we thought. If I was the director of a company such as yours, I too would feel reluctant to continue associating my company with cycling now that doping is in the spotlight once again. I'd like to add at this point that the decision to honour contracts, now that it would be too late for the riders to find new teams, is admirable proof that Rabobank has a heart, rather than being simply another inhuman, uncaring giant corporation. Proficiat for that!

One of the reasons I admire Rabobank (the company and the cycling team) is your fantastic support of women's cycling. While I'm sure that part of the company's decision to become involved in women's cycling is that there were and still are very few "big name" sponsors, allowing Rabobank to gain greater public awareness from it than would be possible in men's cycling which benefits from numerous very famous sponsors, I've always believed there was something more to it, something related to the altruistic ideals upon which Rabobank was first established: a desire to help female cyclists get the recognition and equality that they deserve. The salaries you pay to those riders and the money you've put into promoting them is a shining example of fairness in a sport where many receive no salary at all and compete for prizes that are a tiny fraction of those on offer to the men. I like to think also that Rabobank was the first company to realise that the women's sport is not a less exciting version of cycle racing and that the riders are not weaker and less interesting than their male counterparts; that in actual fact women's racing is always every bit as interesting and competitive as men's and, sometimes, more so.

Women's cycling has never suffered from the same image problems caused by doping that men's cycling has experienced; yet the riders are subject to the same tests with the same regularity. The only conclusion, therefore, is that doping is far less prevalent in women's cycling. Imagine how women's cycling would benefit if Rabobank were to decide that the support it had given in the past would continue and that the reason was because so few female riders resort to cheating. Men's cycling will take a knock from the current scandal, then continue just as it did after Tom Simpson died and in the wake of the Festina Affair and Operacion Puerto - it might even benefit from the scar left by the withdrawal of Rabobank, which would serve as a reminder that when riders dope everybody loses. But if Rabobank stayed with women's cycling, the benefits would be enormous - it would be seen by the media to be the far cleaner, fairer form of cycling that evidence suggests it really is. With women's cycling currently more popular than ever before in the wake of the Olympics and Marianne Vos' superb victory at the World Championships, the news that Rabobank had decided to remain a part of it could do more good than all the money you've provided and then some.

I also understand that a final decision has not yet been made on the future of the Rabobank women's team (and I'm pleased to hear that you will continue sponsoring Vos, who is a hero to so many of us). I hope, therefore, that the points above will be considered - Rabobank has an opportunity to do women's cycling an enormous favour, and the increased exposure for the sport and the riders would surely make financial sense.

Many thanks for your time.

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