To complete one of the biggest injustices of the decade, Unibet.com the erstwhile Protour team officially pulls the plug on its sponsorship of cycling.
Over the last year, Unibet.com became pawn in the ongoing battle between the Grand Tours and the UCI. Led by the ASO, the Grand tours followed ASO’s lead as the organizer of top races on the ProTour calendar, including the Tour de France, hid behind a dubious French law prohibiting advertisement of gambling operations. While many holes appeared in this argument, such as the inclusion of the Belgian team Lotto, ASO held its ground. When Giro organizer RCS Sport also excluded Unibet.com, we knew the moral high ground was a thinly veiled ruse. The reason is Unibet has a license in Italy and is permitted to advertise.
Finally Unipublic, officially excluded Unibet.com from the Vuelta even when the spot vacated by Astana provided the opening Unipublic could have used to grant entry to Unibet.com. You have to feel for the riders, soigneurs, mechanics, etc. They put their faith in the UCI license process. Now they need to scramble to find new employment in a difficult environment.
I also don’t understand the UCI and Grand Tours. Do you really think they are willing to kill the sport in order to prove a point? Unibet was a sponsor willing to invest in cycling. It’s not like sponsors are lining up to spend US$10 million to sponsor a team. We already have three sponsors leaving the sport. I don’t see three sponsors vying up to replace Astana, Discovery, and Unibet.com.