Vice President of the Kazakh Federation Nikolai Proskurin announced in a press conference yesterday that Team Astana faces serious financial difficulties. According to Proskurin, the team will need a new sponsor to continue. In his statement he explained, "The team has been facing serious financial problems over the last two months, and we do not rule out the arrival of a new sponsor: In that case, the team would have to change its name, and would race under a different banner."
So far, only Air Astana, the Kazakh airline, has officially withdrawn its support, but Proskurin confirmed that the team may not prove able to honor its contract obligations without a fresh infusion of cash. The team's problems derive from the widespread problems currently gripping the world economy. Said Proskurin, "Kazakhstan is not in any case among the nations most responsible for the crisis and we have a moral obligation to do everything possible so that the strongest team in the world can continue to ride in our colors."
The statement implies that the team needs not just a sponsor, but a new title sponsor. With the contract burden the team carries, it will need a sponsor with very deep pockets indeed. Riders like Alberto Contador do not come cheap. So far, the team has not issued any statement on the issue. Certainly, it adds a further twist to already convoluted Astana story.
Update: According to the Associated Press, the team has not paid salaries "for around a month." Proskurin announced on Thursday that the management had received payment from sponsors and would forward the money to the team. The sponsors reportedly were late in paying their share of the team budget. Samruk-Kazyna, who provides the bulk of the team's funding, has also pledged to continue its support. — Source, AP, via USA Today.