The chief executive of British Cycling has stepped down with immediate effect, weeks after the organisation faced backlash from campaigners and members for agreeing a sponsorship deal with oil company Shell.
British Cycling, the governing body for the sport in the UK, said on Monday that Brian Facer had left by mutual agreement with the board of directors. Danielle Every, the group’s cycling delivery director, has taken on the role on an interim basis while the search for a new chief executive gets under way.
Facer’s departure comes three weeks after British Cycling announced a long-term partnership with Shell, saying it would accelerate its path to net zero.
“This partnership with Shell UK brings powerful support for cycling, will help us to improve and will make more people consider cycling and cyclists”, Facer said at the time.
Oil companies have been increasingly active in sports sponsorships. Days after the Shell deal, Saudi Aramco agreed a partnership with cricket’s governing body to sponsor major events, including the men’s World Cup next year.
Shell’s deal with British Cycling was heavily criticised by climate change activists. Friends of the Earth said the tie-up was “deeply disappointing”, while Greenpeace compared the deal to beef farmers giving advice on going vegan.
“After being booted out of museums and other cultural institutions, Big Oil is looking at sports as the next frontier for their brazen greenwash,” Greenpeace said.
British Cycling also drew condemnation on social media, with members vowing to quit the group in protest.
The group sought to defend the decision at the time, saying: “This partnership makes a long-term commitment to cycling and will deliver real benefits across our sport. We understand there will be different opinions and are committed to answering any questions our members have.”
Despite Facer’s exit, British Cycling remains fully committed to the partnership with Shell, according to a person familiar with the board’s thinking.
Facer joined British Cycling in January 2021, having previously been chief executive of London Irish, the rugby union club.
Aside from the row over the Shell deal, Facer’s tenure was marked by a series of public relations missteps. Following the death of Queen Elizabeth, British Cycling advised people not to ride their bikes during the funeral. It swiftly revised its guidance to cyclists and apologised.
“We understand that the decision on whether to cycle during that time is one for individuals and clubs to take for themselves, and we’re sorry that we got it wrong on this occasion,” it said.
In April, British Cycling abruptly suspended its rules that had allowed transgender women to compete in elite female events. The group said the move was owing to differences between its own policies and those of the world governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale.