LONDON: British Cycling is beginning the search for a new sponsor after confirming on Tuesday that HSBC is pulling out only four years into an eight-year, multimillion pound deal.
A source familiar with the matter told Reuters earlier on Tuesday that HSBC's deal will end after this year's Tokyo Olympics as the British seeks to cut costs.
The news is a blow to British Cycling, one of the country's most well-funded sporting federations, which has produced multiple Olympic champions Jason and Laura Kenny, both of whom are in action at this week's Berlin track world championships.
HSBC's sponsorship is reported to be worth around 10 million pounds every Olympic cycle and enables British Cycling to run an elite programme that is the envy of rival nations.
"As we look to 2021, we will be actively engaging the market to find a new partner to be part of the next stage of our exciting journey," Julie Harrington, chief executive of British Cycling, said in a statement.
While HSBC's backing has helped produce Olympic medal winners and world champions, it has also helped a surge in popularity of recreational cycling in the country.
"To get over two million people cycling regularly, British Cycling's partnership with HSBC UK has delivered lasting benefits for our sport and for communities up and down the country," Harrington said.
"We will part with HSBC UK as firm friends and, in the meantime, look forward to working with them to support our riders to achieve their best in Tokyo."
Olympic rider Callum Skinner said negative publicity around British Cycling, including an investigation into accusations of bullying and sexism, and an independent review of its governance, may have been a factor.
Former British Cycling and Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman is also the subject of a medical tribunal over deliveries of testosterone to the national velodrome in Manchester in 2011.
"This will obviously pose a major challenge and it will be gutting if valuable frontline work is cut as a result of this," Skinner said on Twitter.
"Weak leadership in dealing with historical and present-day issues could have cost the sport millions."
(Reporting by Lawrence White and Martyn Herman; Editing by Hugh Lawson)