An odd dispute over the colour and case of a word on the Euskaltel team jersey could lead to the squad losing a significant amount of financial backing from the Basque government. The row has blown up over the word 'Euskadi', which has long featured in green upper and lower case lettering below the name of principal sponsor Euskaltel.
This green-lettered logo belongs to the Euskadi Foundation that set up the team 20 years ago and still runs it. However, the Basque government's Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, which is providing the team with €400,000 this season, is insisting that the logo be substituted with their own version in white and upper case lettering. The ministry's logo is used to promote tourism within the Basque Country.
According to reports in the Spanish press, the ministry made a request in January for the logo to be changed in April to coincide with the running of the Tour of the Basque Country. The ministry stated: "In the case of this not happening, the contract will be terminated without the right to any compensation."
The ministry has also asked for the words 'Pays Basque', which appear on the jersey when the team races in France, to be clarified by the addition of the word 'Espagne' in order to prevent unwitting promotion of the French Basque Country.
Similarly, the ministry wants the team's jersey to bear the words 'Paese Baschi Spagna' when it is racing in Italy, 'Baskenland Spanien' when in Germany and 'Basque Country Spain' when in other countries.
However, the requests came after the team's 2012 kit had already been branded. Consequently, Euskaltel team boss and Euskadi Foundation president Miguel Madariaga has said that he won't change make the change. "It's not that we don't want to, it's simply down to the fact that they asked us to do this in January when everything had already been manufactured and we couldn't change the clothing," he told El País. "It would require a significant investment because we would also have to repaint 15 vehicles, including cars, buses, camper vans and trucks. If they pay for the cost of this, we will do it."
Madariaga estimates it will take "€90-100,000" to cover the work. However, he added that even if the money were to be made available, he would still be reluctant to make the change because a number of other provincial bodies within the Basque Country that have long provided significant financial backing identify with the existing Euskadi logo.
Madariaga is due to meet with the representatives from the ministry on March 22. Asked about the ministry's threat to pull all backing this year and next, amounting to €900,000 in total, he pointed out that he doesn't even know yet whether the team will continue next season as discussions with key backers are still ongoing.
This debate provides Madariaga with another headache as he attempts to prolong his squad's life. He has already admitted that he is contemplating relaxing the rule on hiring only Basque or Basque-schooled riders in order to strengthen the line-up and open up new avenues of sponsorship.