Rabobank extends with Dutch cycling but also voices reservations
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Monday, June 25, 2012

Rabobank extends with Dutch cycling but also voices reservations

by Shane Stokes at 8:27 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Doping rumbles from 2007 could have prompted a withdrawal

RabobankThe Dutch national federation KNWU has received a boost of a renewed sponsorship agreement with Rabobank, its current sponsor, but it has emerged that there was a danger that backer could have pulled out.

The bank has said that it deliberated for some time about whether or not it would have stayed on board, and ultimately did so because of public support for the sport.

According to CEO Bert Bruggink, the four-year renewal was by no means guaranteed due to the revelations that doping was tolerated by the pro team’s management until 2007 and also because of the on-going Michael Rasmussen situation. The former rider is currently suing the pro team over its decision to remove him from the 2007 Tour while wearing the yellow jersey and looking almost certain to win.

Rasmussen previously won a judgement of 715,000 euros in 2008, but was not satisfied with that. He is pursuing €5.8 million now, and last week a court decided that the Rabobank team now needs to prove that it didn’t know he was in Italy when he told the UCI he was in Mexico. Rasmussen claims the team was fully aware that he had misinformed the UCI and that it had no right to eject him from the Tour.

According to AD Sportwereld, Bruggink said that the negative media attention these two issues have brought led to a real discussion in the top ranks of the company about whether or not it should continue to back the KNWU. "If sponsorship only yields negative publicity, you need to serious consider if you want to go there,” he said. However surveys carried out with Dutch people showed that they still had an affection for the sport. "Public support remains strong and that’s what we do it all for," he said.

Rabobank had previously committed to sponsoring the pro team until 2016, and so the KNWU agreement brings the national federation backing in line with that. The bank will give a million euro a year to the national federation, but has also agreed to make room for additional sponsors on the jersey.

"The amount we connect with the National Federation remains the same, or even increased slightly,” Bruggink said. “But we also give the union the opportunity to seek more financial resources.

“We are proud of our seventeen years of cycling sponsorship. We stand for long-term vision, a vision towards the future.” He said that because of that, the bank was keen to support riders at all levels rather than just focus on the elite.

The KNWU will hope that things move forward in a positive way and that the negative headlines dating back to 2007 fade over time. It will recognise that the sport builds its own future, and that ethical behaviour is crucial for ongoing sponsor support.

Its chairman Marcel Wintels made clear that he is aware how crucial the backing is. “It is unique that a party such as Rabobank is connected to the sport for so long. For this they deserve praise,” he said.

The Rabobank pro team is heading towards the Tour targeting the general classification. Robert Gesink, Bauke Mollema and Steven Kruijswijk will lead the team there.

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