Monday, July 02, 2007

Tour de France Boss Has a Lot of Gaul (sic)

The Unibet.com pro cycling team has had a hard time this year. Although the team was accepted into the top level Pro Tour by the UCI (cycling's international governing body), the laws in certain countries along with turf wars between the UCI and race organizers have made their season a bust.

In France, online gambling is illegal, as is advertising for a site like Unibet.com. Early in the season, the team wore special jerseys in France that didn't mention their main sponsor. The second problem is more complicated and without such an easy solution. Race organizers contend that the UCI made the Pro Tour too big. The UCI requires races to allow every Pro Tour team to enter, but race organizers say there are so many Pro Tour teams that they don't get to invite enough wildcards (wildcards are usually inferior but local teams). Consequently, they have chosen to exclude Unibet.com from their races.

All of this amounts to a conspiracy against the Unibet.com team. The sponsor has put up a lot of money for a Pro Tour license and yet has been denied the promised advertising exposure. The riders have been shut out of many of the biggest races, including the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France. The team has only been allowed in half of the Pro Tour races, and yet they are ranked 19th, ahead of a team that has done every race. I'd say they have done well considering the circumstances.

Now Christian Prudhomme, the director of the Tour de France, says Unibet.com can't race in the Tour because they haven't produced good results. But there's a problem with his reasoning -- he and his organization have been directly responsible for locking Unibet.com out of many Pro Tour races, eliminating their opportunities to get those results.

That's like not inviting someone to your wedding and then trying to blame them for not attending.

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