August 15, 2007

Swedish online gambling company Unibet will end its sponsorship of its professional cycling team which will disband at the end of the year, the team's general manager told Reuters on Wednesday.

"Today we have decided to disband the team at the end of the season. Our racers and staff can now seek new employment," Koen Terryn said.

"We had a contract for two more years and an option of another two but unfortunately, due to the problems we have endured this season, there was no way forward." was at the centre of a row which threatened the future of the sport this year after its team was barred from taking part in the Tour de France because organisers said online gambling was banned in the country.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Unibet Group released what it described as "unsatisfactory" results for the second quarter of the year, citing problems with its sponsorship of cycling.

"Amongst other things this has adversely affected the Unibet sponsored cycling team,," Unibet chief executive Petter Nylander said in a statement in which he referred to the bar on the team's participation in the Tour de France.

"I don't blame Unibet. If I was CEO of a company, I could not justify investing eight million euros every year in a team that is unsure whether it will even race in the big Tours," Terryn said.


The dispute involving Unibet dates back to January when the ASO, who organise the Tour de France, turned down the application of the Swedish team, a member of the Pro-Tour's elite.

The UCI, cycling's world governing body, threatened to withdraw its backing for the Tour and sanction teams which took part, though a temporary truce was agreed in March. But Unibet did not participate in either this year's Giro d'Italia or the Tour.

However, despite these problems and recent doping incidents which have plagued the sport, Unibet said after the Tour that it would continue its sponsorship.

Wednesday's move reversing this decision follows last week's announcement that the Discovery Channel team was also disbanding due to a lack of sponsorhip.

The U.S.-based team -- part owned by seven-times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong and home to the current Tour champion Alberto Contador -- said it could not find a new sponsor, blaming the numerous doping cases and bad publicity which have dogged the sport.

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