“The effects of the financial crisis are still being felt throughout the world, and the professional sports business isn't immune,” Tinkoff-Saxo CEO Stafano Feltrin said in a statement released by the team. “However, Tinkoff-Saxo is as solid as ever, and we look forward to the start of the 2015 season thanks to the strong support of all ours sponsors, partners and suppliers.”
Tinkov made his comments during an interview with Bloomberg TV in early December, but video of the interview gained traction on the internet over the weekend.
“If the sanctions will deteriorate the Russian economy and share prices decline even more – there is no room to decline, but let's assume there is – and then the Tinkoff bank starts to suffer, then I will stop my sponsorship,” Tinkov said during the interview. “I don't know as owner of the team if I will be able to find a substitution sponsor in Europe. Most likely I will not, and I will have to shut down to the team.”
The value of the Russian rouble has drastically declined in recent months due to sanctions imposed on the country after the annexation of Crimea. Financial institutions such as Tinkov's Tinkoff bank have felt the squeeze, and the team owner spoke out against the sanctions.
“If I were the Americans, I would be more concerned about China than Russia, but they are trying to push Russia. It is their choice,” Tinkov said. “If you push us [Russians], eventually 80 people in Europe will lose their job because of the sanctions. These days, I don't know what they are doing … we are all connected now.”
Tinkov's comments quickly circulated through he cycling community, and the team – in the form of a thank you letter to sponsors – sought to reassure everyone that Tinkoff-Saxo's 2015 season would not be affected.
“Every single member of Tinkoff-Saxo is ready and eager for the 2015 season,” Feltrin said in Monday''s statement. “On January 9, most of our riders will embark on their second training camp of the season, while 10 days later, Michael Rogers will spearhead our seven-strong squad in Adelaide for the Santos Tour Down Under. With the addition of big-name riders in our roster, I'm sure the following years will be exciting for Tinkoff-Saxo and the sport of cycling.”