ProTour team Astana has given assurances to the International Cycling Union (UCI) of its financial stability for 2010. The team had been close to losing its ProTour licence earlier this year after the non-payment of rider salaries, but its Kazakh sponsors have told UCI President Pat McQuaid that it is a situation that will not be repeated.
"There will be protection put in place. I visited Kazakhstan two weeks ago and had a discussion with the minister for tourism and sport," McQuaid told Cyclingnews on Wednesday. "He assured me that they had put in place financial measures that would ensure that the same problems didn't occur this year."
All UCI ProTour teams are subject to an annual review in order to ensure their licence for the following year. While McQuaid did not detail the measures that Astana has put in place, his comments indicate that stability has returned to the team after a period of uncertainty in the first half of this year.
Astana had looked to be hanging by a thread in May and June after salary payments to riders were delayed and a bank guarantee required for ProTour membership was withdrawn. However, an eleventh-hour reprieve came after the Kazakh government – owners of the Astana ProTour licence – were able to provide $9 million to ensure the future of the team through 2009.
Astana still holds its four-year ProTour licence, which will be up for renewal at the end of 2010. Although the team is not one of eight whose applications are currently being considered by the ProTour licence commission, McQuaid said Astana had been closely scrutinised by the commission this year.
"The licence commission had quite a lot of things to deal with last year with Astana because of all the problems," said McQuaid. "There were times when their [ProTour] licence was close to being withdrawn, but each time they came up with money at the last minute and sorted it out. The UCI and I have been assured that this won't be the case again in 2010."
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