British Cycling: Interview with Brian Facer, Chief Executive
Brian Facer reflects on his start as CEO, the launch of the #EveryoneWins campaign and how cycling can contribute to the broader health and wellness agenda.
Six months into your new role as CEO British Cycling, what have you achieved so far and more importantly what are the key objectives for the next 12 months?
Firstly, it’s important to acknowledge that I came into an organisation which has operated at a high level for a number of years, and so my priority was taking my time to get fully up to speed with all aspects and all areas and having no-holds-barred conversations where individuals could express their feelings about what had gone well in the past and what could be improved.
Already I have instigated a number of positive changes, such as weekly full team meetings which have included a variety of contributors, and a realignment of reporting lines and working structures to bring more relevant areas closer together, such as delivery, business support and commercial, who had been previously split across multiple directorates and are now within their own working groups.
The remit of a national governing body can sometimes be too broad, especially if there are other deliverers in certain areas who would be better as partners than competitors. So our drive for the next 12 months is in setting out clearer purpose for ourselves and how we can work more effectively with a cross-section of partners to grow cycling as a pastime and keep driving cyclesport as an athlete’s preferred means of competition.
#EveryoneWins is your new campaign focusing on all aspects of the sport. How did this concept evolve and what are you hoping to achieve?
Everyone Wins is about encouraging more people to take their first steps into a competitive environment. Cycling has expanded massively and quickly as a pastime, but the next level up – local competitions, events and races – has gone the other way over a number of years.
We need to break that trend, and that means getting more competitors, organisers and volunteers involved. To do that we want to tell the stories of the people who take part, regardless of how long they have been part of the cyclesport family or where they actually finish in an event.
Ultimately, if more people see an Everyone Wins campaign and want to take part, then enjoy it, come back and actively seek to improve their performance, then who knows where their limit will eventually be?
The Covid pandemic has naturally brought a greater focus on personal wellness and importance of physical activity – what can British Cycling do to support this hugely important agenda and drive participation across all levels and ages?
We need to be breaking down the barriers of participation, which sometimes means not even looking at cycling purely as a sport in itself, but as that means to get more people active.
The team and I have already been growing the key strategic partnerships to achieve this aim – governmental (UK, devolved and local), Sport England/Scotland/Wales, non-profit stakeholders, and so on – because it is only by working together, and by breaking out from the sporting bubble that we can achieve this aim. One example is connecting with the departments of Transport and Health, not just DCMS, because cycling has a rare ability to be able to contribute effectively across a number of governmental priorities.
With strong medal performances in the last two Olympic Games, what are the expectations for Tokyo?
We believe that the Great Britain Cycling Team is in a good place going into the Tokyo Games. British riders are winning races across a variety of disciplines, and training has been very positive.
We have not had as much opportunity to test ourselves in international Track events as we would have liked due to the Covid-related travel and quarantine restrictions, but our Academy is so strong that the elite riders have been pushed all the way in our race simulation events in Manchester.
So I am quietly confident that we will be adding to our record of bringing home Olympic medals to make the nation proud.
On a personal level, you have a strong interest in Cycling, who is your idol within the sport and why?
This is very difficult to choose, and ‘idol’ is such a big word.
In the 1990’s it was Jason McRoy, who had a promising BMX career ended with a serious knee injury. But he battled back to become one of the country’s most promising Mountain Bike Downhill racers, only for a wrist injury to curtail this, too. Then he took to the Track, initially for fitness, but was so good that he was shortlisted as a possible rider for the Atlanta Games. So it was tragic that he was killed in a road traffic accident in 1995, when his motorbike was in collision with a lorry.
John Tomac also had style in abundance. He competed in multiple disciplines in Road Racing and Mountain Biking during a career which spanned 20 years. He’s a legend of the sport and rightly in the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame.
And of course there’s our own Chris Boardman, whose gold in the 1992 Olympics arguably heralded the new era of cycling for Great Britain. His Lotus bike was an engineering masterpiece, and he has remained involved both with the Great Britain Cycling Team and as a passionate advocate for our sport and pastime.
Brian Facer has been British Cycling CEO since January 2021, joining the organisation from London Irish rugby union club, where he was also CEO. Prior to that he fulfilled the role of commercial director at Northampton Saints rugby union club, and he also has experience as a non-executive director across a number of national organisations.
Brian is a member of Daventry CC and a keen cyclist, who has previously enjoyed mountain biking across the Alps and completing a number of Etapes du Tour.