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Team Sky's new boss faces devil mask protest at Tour de Yorkshire

Joe Robinson
25 Apr 2019

Anti-fracking protesters label Ineos's purchase of Team Sky as an attempt to 'greenwash' cycling

Up to 10,000 face masks of Team Sky's new owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe depicted as the devil are set to be circulated at the Tour de Yorkshire next week as anti-fracking campaigners step up plans their planned protest against Britain's richest man.

As of 1st May, Team Sky will become Team Ineos as the multinational chemical and oil company begins its three-year sponsorship deal reported to be worth £120 million.

While the team's first official race as Ineos will be the Tour de Romandie, which begins next Tuesday, the four-day race in Yorkshire, which starts next Thursday in Doncaster, was scheduled as the team's big launch with the likes of Chris Froome set to debut the new kit.

However, environmentalists have declared their intention to spoil Ratcliffe's welcoming party by launching a series of protests across all four stages.

Ratcliffe, who's worth £21 billion and is the owner of Ineos, has routinely lobbied for relaxed measures on fracking in the UK and has been heavily criticised for attempting to greenwash the company's image through the sponsorship of a cycling team.

Not only is it one of the world's biggest producers of single-use plastics, Ineos holds the rights to frack for shale gas across the county of Yorkshire with many of the sites sitting close to this year's Tour de Yorkshire route.

It's this that has led the likes of Frack Free United to plan extensive protests across next week including the use of Ratcliffe devil masks.

Talking to The Guardian, Frack Free United member Steve Mason simply stated: 'I don’t think fossil fuels should be included in sport.

'There is particular irony with the Ineos sponsorship after Team Sky spent last summer riding around with whales on the back of their jerseys to raise awareness of plastics in the ocean.'

He added that not only will masks be handed out but 'land art' had been planned too.

Additionally, Frack Free Leeds are set to line the route of the race's final stage with signs saying 'Ineos, that's not welcome here' while Frack Free Allerton Bywater are planning a protest on a roundabout in the village of Kippax.

Friends of the Earth also expressed their disagreement with Ineos taking its place in professional cycling with Simon Bowens telling The Guardian it was simply an attempt to 'greenwash cycling'.

All prospective protesters have made it clear they have no intention of affecting the race with their actions, with all commending the Tour de Yorkshire for how it showcases the natural beauty of the county.

Team Sky provided a statement to The Guardian in reply to the planned protests which read: 'The team remains committed to reducing its use of single-use plastics and is proud of the awareness we have helped raise so far.

'We know this will continue to be a priority for Ineos given their own commitment to new technological solutions on plastics recycling and reuse.

'Ineos is committed to moving towards a circular economy where waste plastic is used as a raw material back into its process, not ending up in the sea.'