By Tim Maloney, European Editor
Incoming Astana General Manager Johan Bruyneel is aware of the financial issues from Team Astana's 2007 season. The Belgian explained to Cyclingnews that he is working with the Kazakh Cycling Federation and International Cycling Union (UCI) to correct matters.
"We are well aware of the payment issues with the Astana team from this season, and are working closely with the Kazakh Cycling Federation and the UCI to resolve these issues," said Bruyneel to Cyclingnews from his Belgian office Wednesday. The former Discovery Channel/US Postal chief was reacting to non-payment claims made by former Astana General Manager Marc Biver in Swiss newspaper Blick.
Bruyneel's company, Johan Bruyneel Sports (JBS), is poised to become the paying agent and administrator of the ProTour licence for the Team Astana in 2008, but Marc Biver's firm, Zeus, still has this responsibility until December 31, 2007. "We [JBS and the Kazakh Cycling Federation] are aware that Zeus has not been fulfilling its financial obligations to riders and team staff since September."
Bruyneel continued by explaining that "as I understand it, the confidence between Kazakh Cycling Federation [KCF] and Zeus is completely gone. At this point, I believe the KCF is looking to fulfil the financial obligations of Zeus directly with the riders and staff, and the UCI is aware of this." In particular, four Swiss riders have complained of unpaid salaries.
One crucial sticking point for the Kazakh Cycling Federation to release any payments to Zeus is a comprehensive financial accounting record of what funds may or may not be owed. Bruyneel explained to Cyclingnews that "I have not been a party to the documents or negotiations, but what I do know is that these financial issues with team riders and staff will be addressed. The KCF has every intention of taking its responsibility."
The Kazakh Cycling Federation will likely pay the team debts not through Biver and his sports marketing firm Zeus, but will work directly with team riders and staff to resolve the situation. The payments should help satisfy the UCI and allow a ProTour licence to be granted for the 2008 formation of Team Astana.