Northug wasn’t dumped after all

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Conflicts were far from over after Norway’s national skiing federation announced it finally had come to terms with skier Petter Northug during the weekend. State broadcaster NRK’s expert commentator claimed Northug pretty much got his way in the end, giving him arguably preferential treatment so he’ll ski for Norway, while a few nagging issues still haven’t been entirely resolved.

An exhausted Petter Northug found the strength to hold up his four gold medals from this year's Nordic World Ski Championships in Falun, Sweden. Norwegian athletes dominated the competition that ended on Sunday. PHOTO: Nordic Focus/FIS Photo Pool

Skier Petter Northug claims he’ll now be able to win more gold medals like these, after securing a special agreement with the national skiing federation that allows him to maintain his own private sponsors. He’ll have to wear this “Bjørn Dæhlie” brand skiwear during the racing season though, instead of the competing Swix brand that sponsors him privately. PHOTO: Nordic Focus/FIS Photo Pool

The agreement struck between the skiing federation (Norges Skiforbund) and Northug over his private sponsorship deal was announced on Sunday, after nearly two years of arguments. At issue is whether Northug, who left the national ski team to train on his own, should be allowed to have his own private sponsorships when skiing for Norway during the competitive season.

Northug’s biggest sponsor, Coop, wanted the skier to sport its logos all year long, but a compromise deal allowed Northug to ski for Norway last year wearing only or otherwise using the national team’s sponsored products during the actual skiing season. He could only brandish Coop logos during the off-season, from early spring until the end of November.

That arrangement has pretty much been carried over in the new agreement, which now runs for three years. The length of the deal means Northug will still ski for Norway in World Cup competition all the way through the Winter Olympics in 2018.

Northug claimed in a press release Sunday that he was glad the ski federation had listened to his arguments and that he secured a longer-term contract. He said it would give him “the sporting freedom I need to win more ski races and take more gold medals for Norway.”

Not all the quarreling is over. Newspaper Aftenposten reported that the ski federation doesn’t want Northug to wear his trademark Swix clothing, because it’s in direct competition with the federation’ own clothing supplier, Bjørn Dæhlie. Stein Opsal, secretary general of the ski federation, said that if Northug wants a clothing sponsor, it will have to be with the federation’s own supplier. “He’ll have to give up his deal with Swix,” Opsal told Aftenposten. “That was an important point in going from a one-year to a three-year agreement.

Northug’s manager, Are Sørum Langås, had a different interpretation, that the ban on Swix clothing would also only apply during the racing season. “That’s what the agreement says,” Langås told Aftenposten. “We will abide by the agreement.”

Commentator Fredrik Aukland of NRK, a skiing coach and brother of long-distance skiing champions Anders and Jørgen Aukland, said the federation otherwise “had discovered that the most important thing was that Petter Northug will actually be at the starting gate (for Norway), and I’m very, very glad about that. The sport, both nationally and internationally, needs Petter Northug.”

He contended, however, that Northug hadn’t sacrificed anything in securing the deal and seemed to have won on most all counts. “It’s Petter Northug who is emerging victorious from all this,” Aukland said. “He got a long-term deal and a better deal than what he’s ever had before.” Others have complained that Northug got special treatment and that the federation, which had all but dumped Northug earlier this fall, had backed down on demanding full respect for the national team’s commercial rights, which secure the team’s operations and financing of Norwegian skiing.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund