Reigning World Cup slalom champion Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway signed his team agreement with the Norwegian federation earlier this week after holding out since mid-June over a dispute regarding a sponsor.
“Henrik has signed the national agreement,” said Espen Graff, head of communications for the Norwegian Ski Federation. “This means that he is part of the national team like all the other athletes and he profiles the national team sponsors on an equal footing with the other athletes.”
The young superstar is currently a Red Bull-sponsored athlete, but he is not permitted to represent the company logo on his helmet or other headwear because of the federation’s current contract with telecommunications giant Telenor. Many other national ski federations allow athletes to secure personal head sponsorships for additional income so long as there are no conflicts with other team sponsors, but Norway is unique. The federation’s current contract requires that all athletes display the Telenor logo on their headgear at official team events. Kristoffersen hoped to be granted an exception like the one his compatriot Aksel Lund Svindal received several years ago so that he, too, could sport the Red Bull logo on his helmet for the coming season.
Svindal was granted permission to use the Red Bull logo on his headgear because, according to the Norwegian news outlet NRK, his agreement with Red Bull was negotiated prior to the date when the federation’s current contract with Telenor went into effect.
The federation didn’t budge on its position, however, and Kristoffersen ultimately agreed to a one-year contract to compete for the Norwegian team.
The Norwegian federation is not entirely on its own with such a strict agreement with a sponsor, as its Scandinavian neighbor Sweden has a similar contract with the energy company Vattenfall.
Norwegian cross-country star Petter Northug engaged in a similar dispute with the federation the previous year over his personal sponsor, Coop, which he was permitted to promote in the offseason but not during the period from November to April. After failing to sign the athlete agreement, he was dropped from the Norwegian national team and threatened to ski as an independent. As the season approached and he faced the challenge of not being able to enter any World Cup competitions without the support of his national federation, he eventually signed a three-year athlete agreement on the original proposed terms.
Rumors swirled in June that Kristoffersen was threatening to not compete for the federation and could possibly become an independent athlete this coming season if his requests were not met, claims that were dismissed by Kristoffersen’s father and manager, Lars.
“There has never been any doubt that Henrik wants to be a part of the Norwegian national team,” he said.