Team Ineos: Anti-fracking campaigners warn of protests at Tour de Yorkshire

Sir Jim Ratcliffe
Ineos founder and majority owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe is worth £21bn

Anti-fracking campaigners say there will be protests against chemicals firm Ineos' takeover of Team Sky at this year's Tour de Yorkshire.

Team Sky announced on Tuesday it will become Team Ineos from 1 May, with the new team's launch at the first stage of the Tour de Yorkshire on 2 May.

Ineos, owned by Britain's richest man Sir Jim Ratcliffe, has rights to frack in sites in Yorkshire.

"No doubt there will be protests," said Steve Mason of Free Frack United.

Ineos has rights to explore for shale gas in sites in Cheshire, Yorkshire and the Midlands, but has yet to start because of planning disputes, with Ratcliffe criticising the government's fracking rules last month.

The company is one of the world's largest manufacturers of chemicals and plastics, but is signed up to the plastic industry's Operation Clean Sweep, an international programme that aims to prevent the spread of plastic waste in the oceans.

Team Sky joined broadcaster Sky's Ocean Rescue campaign last year, pledging to remove all single-use plastics by 2020.

"The hypocrisy is astounding and the greenwashing of their image is scandalous," said campaign director Mason.

"I for one will not be letting my kids watch cycling anymore with Team Ineos taking part and I won't be alone.

"No doubt there will be protests around the Tour de Yorkshire and the World Championships to be held in Yorkshire later this year."

Trade teams will not compete at the 2019 Road World Championships, scheduled for 22-29 September, but many Team Ineos riders will be racing for their respective nations.

"We understand the complex issues around fracking and remain in close contact with the National Park Authorities and local authorities," a Welcome to Yorkshire spokesperson told BBC Sport.

"As a tourism body we organise the Tour de Yorkshire to promote the county to a worldwide audience.

"We look forward to welcoming the world's best riders between 2-5 May."

Ineos said it is not able to comment until taking over the team on 1 May.

Environment groups Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace called for Ineos to be banned from sponsoring Sir Ben Ainslie's 2021 America's Cup bid when its £110m investment was announced last year.

In response, four-time Olympic champion Ainslie said Ineos were committed to tackling ocean pollution.

"They understand the problem better than anyone else and they can really make a difference," he said.

"And I know they are doing everything they can to tackle this."

Other current World Tour cycling teams have faced criticism over their ownership.

Astana, Bahrain-Merida and Team UAE Emirates receive state backing from Kazakhstan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates respectively, with all three countries having been accused of human rights abuses.

Another petrochemical company, Total, is also reported to be taking over as title sponsor of the French Direct Energie team.

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