The organisers of the major tours have given their backing to the ethical code drawn up by the ProToPICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Tour de France boss Jean-Marie Leblanc has given his approval of the ethical code that has been drawn up by for next season's ProTour. "The draft I have read seemed satisfactory to me," said Leblanc in Switzerland, where a series of meetings have been taking place to work through differences over the format for the ProTour between the International Cycling Union and the organisers of the major tours. The lack of an ethical code of conduct had been one of the principal reasons for discussion. However, Leblanc also indicated that differences still exist and that these must be cleared up before the end of next season. "In 2005 there will be two different ways of organising a ProTour event: there will be a licence for some races, but there will only be a renewable annual agreement for the major tours, unless the working group investigating the problems that still divide us can come up with a solution to these points," Leblanc told L'Equipe. Leblanc added: "We are not in the ProTour, but we are on the ProTour calendar. For the general public there won't appear to be much difference between these two points of view. We have accepted the sporting, technical and financial requirements of the ProTour. In fact, we have accepted the minimum demanded of us." With the ethical question apparently resolved to the satisfaction of all sides, the two remaining issues to be cleared up are the demand by the major race organisers for the introduction of a system of promotion and relegation to the ProTour circuit and legal clarification as to the image and other rights held by the races. UCI president Hein Verbruggen has stated that he was not expecting his organisation to remove the right now held by race organisers to exploit image, merchandising and other rights. However, the latest indications from the major tours are that they want the exact nature of their rights set out in a legal framework. Next season could well see some element of promotion and relegation because the ProTour was envisaged to have 20 teams and is starting with just 19, and because the licence given to Fassa Bortolo is only until the end of next season. However, the race organisers would like to see a formal framework developed here as well. Although there are doubts about how well the ethical code will function when potentially put to the test by the legal systems of many different countries, Verbruggen believes that the ProTour teams will to some extent police each other. "An element of self-control will govern the process. The teams understand that they are all in this together and if one team does not respect the code then the others are going to hold it to account," said Verbruggen. Also speaking in Switzerland, the UCI president expanded on his long-term vision for cycling. "From the media coverage point of view, our sport is enormous, but from the financial point of view it is not that big," said Verbruggen, who compared pro cycling's approximate value of 300 million euros with the 850 pulled in by Formula 1 and the 950 by Champions' League football. "They offer a unique product that the consumer can follow right through the season. But the cycling season has lacked clarity." Verbruggen's hope is that the ProTour will change this.