Brexit and crisis in Catalonia among factors that ‘made it difficult for us’
The An Post Chainreaction Sean Kelly team will not compete in 2018 as it hasn’t been able to secure a sponsor in time for the season:
The An Post Chainreaction Seán Kelly team’s search for a new title sponsor shifted focus yesterday, with the Irish team accepting it was too late to secure backing for the 2018 season. The squad had been supported by An Post since 2008 but, following an announcement in May that the company was ending its backing for financial reasons, team founders Seán Kelly and Kurt Bogaerts began searching elsewhere.
The duo told The Irish Times in recent weeks that they were negotiating with Irish and Spanish companies. While those talks continue, time has run out for 2018. The registration deadline with cycling’s governing body, the UCI, is looming and, equally importantly, riders and current equipment sponsors need to be told if the team will continue or not. Delaying any longer would affect their chances of being part of the peloton next season.
“Brexit was the biggest problem,” said Kelly, speaking about factors that complicated the search. “Nobody knows what is happening. ‘We are not sure where it is going’ – that was the quote from a lot of people. That didn’t help our situation at all.”
The team was also in talks with a company in Barcelona; Kelly said the political situation there also made things difficult. “The Catalan thing blew up as well and that definitely caused problems too. In between Brexit and Catalonia, it really made it difficult for us.”
In a statement Kelly and Bogaerts said: “It has been our pleasure to work with talented riders and to see them succeed and develop. We created an environment which nurtured honest hard work combined with determination. This facilitated the progression of Irish riders like Sam Bennett, Ryan Mullen, Conor Dunne and Matt Brammeier, each of whom made the transition to the top levels of our sport.”
The squad had four Irish riders this year, namely Conor Hennebry, Seán McKenna, Damien Shaw and Matthew Teggart. The latter won a stage in the An Post Rás, as did foreign riders Przemek Kasperkiewicz and Regan Gough.
Bogaerts and Kelly both told The Irish Times that chasing a sponsorship deal over the coming months is now the new focus. “I want to continue conversations with both companies,” said Bogaerts, referring to those the team had been speaking to in Ireland and Barcelona.
He said returning at a higher Pro Continental status is the priority, a step which would see the team at the same level as the Irish Aqua Blue Sport team. That has long been a goal and now, with more time to work on sealing a deal, the team’s year out might have some positives.
Sean Kelly: “Brexit was the biggest problem. Nobody knows what’s happening”