Friday, October 12, 2007

Shirt Sponsors: Professional Arm-Twisters Edition

Gazprom, the biggest extractor of natural gas in the world, as well as German side Schalke 04's main sponsor, has quite an interesting history. Wholly owned by the Russian government, the policies of the company have been difficult to separate from the policies of Valdimir Putin's government. The excellent blog Culture of Soccer has an great primer on the subject.

The latest news on Gazprom shows, that currently, the intertwining of both the company and the Russian government is still alive and well. Gazprom officials were shocked (shocked I tell you) that anyone would accuse them of playing politics with natural gas. Just when Ukraine appears to have reelected a pro-Western coalition led by Yulia Tymoshenko, Gazprom suddenly warned that the country's $1.3B gas tab hadn't been payed. Ukraine, the company said, may find it's gas cut off if it doesn't cut a check. But it's just business, company officials say: "The problem is objective. It is not connected in any way with who wins or does not win in Ukraine. But it is connected to debts that have to be paid."

They might have added, "Who ya gonna believe? Me or your eyes?" But as one analyst put it to the Financial Times, "[T]his is sort of a way to send a signal to the next government that if Tymoshenko comes to power, expect things to get tougher."

If Ukraine doesn't pay up, how is Gazprom supposed to honor it's $35.5M-a-year deal with Schalke?

Gazprom’s Sponsorship of Schalke [Culture of Soccer]
Gazprom threatens Ukraine with gas cuts [Financial Times]


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