The team had been on rocky footing after announcing that their budget was suffering from a $7 million US shortfall. The subsequent push for funding included a crowd funding effort which raised over $1 million US, with the squad to keep that money and honour the commitments undertaken, merchandise, riding with the team being a few of the items on offer for supporting the cause.
The team will be named EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale for the 2018 season with the international education company based in Switzerland.
“We are honored to begin working alongside Slipstream Sports, Cannondale, Drapac, and all of the wonderful partners at Slipstream Sports to keep our cyclists riding into 2018 and for years to come,” said Edward Hult, CEO North America, EF Education First.
“We were inspired to step in and become the team’s title partner, and will become majority partner, after learning about the #SaveArgyle campaign and witnessing the incredible outpouring of support from fans around the world.
“We have been moved by the powerful way that cycling unites people of diverse backgrounds in a peaceful, fun, and friendly way to achieve extraordinary athletic feats,” Hult added. “It aligns perfectly with EF’s mission of opening the world through education and our commitment to bringing different cultures together.”
Slipstream Sports CEO Jonathan Vaughters describes EF Education First as “the perfect partner” alongside the “whole athlete” focus embraced by Australian Drapac Group owner and chairman Michael Drapac.
“Drapac’s focus is athlete education, athletes being healthy and whole, having options in life,” said Vaughters. “That’s what these guys at EF are all about. Education is what they do. They’re about breaking down cultural barriers and teaching people how to communicate. It’s a sponsor that feels socially relevant in this day as the world becomes increasingly global and communication among cultures becomes more critical. I think it also matches the ethos of Slipstream Sports. I couldn’t ask for a better fit.
With EF Education First becoming majority owners of Slipstream Sports, that deal extends beyond traditional sponsorship and naming rights and secures the team’s future for years to come.
“I’m proud of how the organisation held it together through all this – the riders, staff, sponsors, fans,” Vaughters added. “Every single minute I’ve worked on this was so worthwhile.”
Given the feedback we’ve received from our backers, we will be using this money in 2018. We’re exploring several different options as to where these funds can best be used to bolster our efforts next season, as well as funding post-career rider education, and we look forward to communicating this with everyone when decisions have been finalised."
The deal won't make the team one of the best funded in world cycling, the squad will still be one of the more modestly supported in the World Tour. There has been no announcement about the rider list for 2018, as the team had given leave for their riders to go out and look for contracts with other teams while the financial woes loomed overhead.
Tour de France runner-up Rigoberto Uran had signed an extension with the team and their other major star Sep Vanmarcke appears to be staying as well after tweeting that he was looking forward to riding around with Education First as a sponsor.
“The fundamental thing to understand about this is that [EF] are working towards becoming the majority partner in Slipstream Sports," said Vaughters. "It is not just a plain sponsorship deal, at all. It’s a much more involved partner. As far as rider recruitment and all of that, they will be an integral part of that decision making.”