4TLOS while primarily a website celebrating women’s sport is also keen to promote achievements of women working in the usually male dominated sport world. We were lucky enough to catch up with Becky Frewing – General Manager of ONE Pro Cycling to find out a little more about her interesting and varied career.
Becky has graduated from working as a Sales Administrator for a premier league football side to orchestrating the creation of a 20 rider professional cycling team that, after just one year, has already earned its place in the 2nd tier of professional road racing. Breath-taking stuff in just a few years and shows what’s possible with the right drive and initiative.
Becky started out working as a Sales Administrator for Crystal Palace FC where she worked her way up until she was responsible for corporate events and for key sponsor accounts.
Given the opportunity to work with the Geoff Thomas Foundation, Becky moved into charity fund-raising helping to organise a major event in which cyclists could follow (2 days behind the professionals) the Tour de France route.
The switch to cycling was complete, and after working with several other cycling teams Becky got together with cricketer Matt Prior to create ONE Pro Cycling which last year became the first UK team to be granted a UCI Professional licence.
Becky pointed out that at the moment fans tend to support their favourite cyclists but with an increasing fan base they would like to change that to be the team that people support – it is easy to see that as the seasons’ progress and the team hopefully becomes even more successful, the One Pro brand will become more recognisable.
Establishing a team that has progressed so quickly in its first year is an amazing achievement and as soon as it’s a viable proposition ONE Pro Cycling also aim to establish a women’s team. We hope that we will be able to report on the progress of both teams here, and continue to follow Becky and her fascinating journey.
The full Q&A with Becky:
Did you set out to have a career in sport?
Not at all. I did a generic Leisure & Tourism course at college as I didn’t want to go to Uni and was keen on getting out to work as soon as possible. The sports avenue was a bit of a fluke to be honest
How did you find yourself working for a premier league football club and what was that like?
A friend of a friend was working at the club at the time and they had an opening for a Sales Administrator. My family had always had a connection with the team, my Dad played for them in his younger days. My Dad’s uncle was the Groundsmen so it was a nice job to have. The Football Club was quite a surreal working environment. Whilst it often didn’t feel like work you worked bloody hard! I worked my way up the department relatively quickly and in the end was responsible for key accounts sponsors and all the corporate events. You worked every home game without a day off during the week so you had to get on well and look after everyone as it was a way of life.
Was it friendly and inclusive?
Yes it definitely was. Football involves a lot of passion and our Chairman at the time always challenged us to be able to make the business side of things a success without being dependant on what the team did on the pitch but the reality of that was somewhat different. If the team did well then people wanted to be involved.
From there you worked with Geoff Thomas setting up a fundraising event in which riders take on the Tour de France two days behind the professionals. Then with Nigel Mansell setting up UK Youth. Two really exciting projects. How did you find the switch from commercialism to fund raising or is it not that different?
It wasn’t hugely different, ultimately both are businesses just a slightly different way of looking at it I suppose. The hardest thing for me going into Geoff Thomas Foundation was moving away from the busy office environment and working more on my own, being my own boss and having to motivate myself each day. Both hugely rewarding though.
Then from the charity projects to managing pro cycling teams another big jump or natural progression?
It ended up being quite a natural progression in the end. I got into cycling whilst working for Geoff Thomas. He took on the Tour de France as a charity fundraiser so that was my first taste of it. Up until then I’d never even seen a bike race let alone thought about it from a business point of view.
It must have been really exciting to be in from the beginning of One Pro Cycling – how did you come to be involved?
Very much so. I had been working for three other teams in recent years and always wanted to build a team that wasn’t solely reliant on corporate funding and could be sustainable longer than a sponsorship term.
I had met former England Cricketer, Matt Prior whilst working for another team. He was a massive cycling fan so would come along and do some PR at races and events. We kept in touch over the last few years and when he got injured playing cricket in 2014 I approached him about being involved in setting up a team and here we are!
I have to admit to not knowing much about pro cycling but assume it’s in tiers, is that correct and if so how does a team work its way up to the top level?
Yes there are different levels. So up until 2015 the teams I have worked for have always been on what’s known as a ‘UCI Continental’ team. This is the highest rank domestic level in the UK and allows you to race certain races in Europe and overseas.
ONE Pro Cycling have recently become the first ever UK team to be granted a ‘UCI Professional’ (pro conti) licence. This is the equivalent to the second tier in racing with the first tier being ‘World Tour.
Is there a limit on number of teams from each country being eligible to ride in a particular race (as with Formula 1)?
Yes there are. There can also be a limit in terms of the amount of pro conti teams applicable in some of the bigger races.
One Pro has stated its ambitions and has just completed a successful first season – have you been at all surprised by how successful the team has been?
Not really. A lot of work went into building the team both on and off the bike. Having Matt (Prior) involved has been huge. Being able to bring the knowledge he has from another professional sport has played a massive factor in our success.
As One Pro has grown no doubt your role has changed too – has that been a bit of a relief, or do you enjoy juggling several roles?
It has changed quite a lot as the team has grown. My experience previously had been very much hands on and being at races but we have such a good team covering that now that it has allowed me to concentrate more on the commercial side of the business which will be key to it’s further success.
Next year the team will move up to Pro-Continental level – which will presumably be even more travelling and organising. Will this take you and the team all across Europe or further afield?
Yes it will. We start our season at the end of January in New Zealand then move onto Australia and then our biggest race to date will be the Dubai Tour at the beginning of February, Malaysia late February and then back onto the European circuit in March.
How does the Founder Membership scheme work?
We introduced the Founder Membership scheme when the team was launched. People who joined will forever be a founder member of ONE Pro Cycling and their surname will be watermarked into our 2016 kit. We want to be able to give something back to the fans and this was a great way of launching this.
Cycling has grown fantastically in popularity over the last few years and I see that you are trying to close the gap between elite cycling and participation is that a difficult thing to do?
It’s getting a lot easier because of the success the UK has had in the sport. The likes of Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish have given people a reason to be interested. Cycling is a very traditional sport but it has come on leaps and bounds with the technology and products now available and that’s what makes it great. People can relate to it. Whether it’s going out with the family for a ride in the park, commuting to work or racing at the weekend, it has something for everyone but not many people follow a particular team, they tend to follow the individual. We want to be the team people support, follow and share in our success and feel part of.
What do you hope for in Season two for One Pro?
Obviously we are moving up a level, have a lot more riders, will race in bigger races and will have a lot more pressure on us but we don’t want to just make the numbers up, we are there to compete. Off the bike we want to make sure the team is successful with an increase in members across the globe.
Do you hope that there will be a women’s team in the next few years?
Definitely! It’s something we looked very seriously at for 2016 but just couldn’t make it work in the timeframe we had but it’s hugely on our radar for 2017.
I can imagine that you have little recreational time but when you do, do you enjoy cycling or do any other form of sport?
Unfortunately I haven’t really had time in the last 6-8 months to do anything! I haven’t come from a cycling background but I do enjoy it the odd time that I go out. At the moment anytime I have is spent catching up with friends and family and the odd gym session!
Do you follow any other professional sport – have a favourite team?
I still follow Crystal Palace and like to keep an eye on how they are getting on. Still know a lot of people at the club.
Finally, what is your ideal activity for a day off?
A nice lie in, followed by a bit of shopping with the girls, sushi lunch and an evening in the pub!
You can find out more about ONE Pro Cycling here