European Commission responds to Unibet gambling advertising situation
The ProTour battle heated up this week with two court rulings in Belgium. While one said that the March 5 deal between the UCI and the Grand Tour organisers was not legally binding, another case examined in Liège concluded that ASO was acting contrary to European law in blocking the Unibet team from its races. In a bid to find out more about the legal standpoint, Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes spoke with the European Commission office responsible for such matters.
The Unibet.com cycling team have been refused access to ASO's races this year on the grounds that gambling and betting advertising is restricted in France, but the European Commission has made a strong statement that this reason should not be used.
"We want to make it absolutely clear that what is happening is not legal," said Oliver Drewes, EU Commission Spokesman for Internal Market and Services, on Thursday. Speaking to Cyclingnews, he stated that his office has been in contact with both the UCI and Green Cycle Associates AB, the holders of Unibet.com's ProTour licence, on the matter, and that it was concerned about the situation.
The Unibet.com team made an important step forward this week when it won a judgement in Liège against ASO. According to the court ruling, the team is entitled under European law to race in Belgium, and also to use their regular Unibet.com team kit rather than its alternative jersey, which does not mention the main sponsor.
If ASO was to refuse the riders, it would have to pay the team a penalty of €5 million per day missed. However, when the management tried to gain accreditation on Tuesday evening, they were denied and the riders were unable to start the race the following morning. It remains to be seen if they will be able to ride Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday.
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Cyclingnews' recent coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split
October 4, 2008 - New ASO chief to maintain values
September 26, 2008 - UCI declares peace, appoints new VP
August 30, 2008 - UCI re-signs five ProTour races
August 22, 2008 - ProTour: Bouncing back or lame duck?
August 19, 2008 - Stapleton analyses 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - Feedback on 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - UCI announces 'world calendar'