Some are in fashion, some are out of fashion, but some are out of fashion forever. And this something is the conflict between Johannes Klebo and the national ski federation. This off-season, the Norwegian began a veritable seven-month war with the country’s ski bosses. As the conflict progressed, the five-time Olympic champion left the team and announced that he would not compete in the World Cup.
But in the end he made peace with everyone and joined the national team for the KM stage in Ruka. Is Johannes already tired of this annual circus?
In recent years, the ski off-season can be considered incomplete if during it Klebo did not fall out with the national federation. The first conflict between Johannes and the ski bosses in Norway occurred in 2019. Then the athlete did not want to sign the contract because he did not understand in which cases he represented the team and in which cases he represented himself personally. This influenced agreements with sponsors to a greater extent and, to a lesser extent, Klebo’s ability to make statements in the media or on his social networks. There were long negotiations between Johannes and the Norwegian Ski Federation, but in the end the parties reached a consensus: the athlete was allowed to compete with stripes from personal and federation sponsors on his uniform.
In the 2020/2021 season, Klebo once again came into conflict with the ski bosses. At the Ruka World Cup, Johannes refused to race with the logo of the federation’s new sponsor, the Viaplay streaming service. The athlete stated that cooperation with a company of this type only brings harm. At first it seemed that the skier’s position was unbreakable, but after a couple of days he “changed his shoes” and agreed to place the Viaplay logo on his suit. It is still unclear whether the federation put pressure on the skier or managed to reach an agreement with him.
Klebo wanted to leave the national team last year:
Klebo runs the risk of not being part of the Norwegian team. This is a conflict over a new contract.
Last offseason was not without drama between Klebo and the Norwegian Ski Federation. In April 2022, Johannes again refused to sign a contract with the national federation. Apparently, the athlete was once again dissatisfied with his personal economic conditions, as well as with his interaction with advertisers and sponsors. But in the end the parties reached an agreement again and Klebo signed the contract without problems.
“I’m not going to participate in any race”
This time the conflict between Klebo and the federation seemed much more serious. In April, Johannes announced that he was leaving the Norwegian national team. The situation became especially spicy thanks to the rule according to which skiers who do not train with the Norwegian team cannot compete in the World Cup.
Klebo hoped there would still be a loophole, but there wasn’t. Johannes needed approval from the Norwegian Ski Federation, which did not want to give it to him without a contract. And the athlete refused to sign the agreement until he fulfilled its terms. The federation offered the five-time Olympic champion different options, but Klebo’s team rejected them and continued to insist on their own.
Klebo made really harsh statements:
“I will not participate in the World Cup.” Klebo entered into open conflict with the Norwegian team
Everything came to the point that in September Johannes announced his refusal to compete in the World Cup. Instead, the skier planned to race in the Ski Classics series.
“I will not participate in any World Cup race unless my demands are met. Enough, it’s time to make a decision. The main thing is how you treat people. The Norwegian Federation does not have a value system based on mutual respect. They didn’t listen to me when I made it clear under what conditions I was willing to continue working together. My coach Frode Pedersen talked about what was happening in the team. This is a good reason to resolve the accumulated problems.”
On October 11, Johannes, along with his grandfather and father, called a press conference, where the family said that they and the federation were far from resolving the conflict. Klebo insisted that the federation give the five-time Olympic champion several days off from the national team after the Tour de Ski stage race and during the Norwegian Championships.
Photo: Getty Images
“I wanted to go to the World Cup”
However, two days later, Johannes and the federation quietly signed a new agreement and under conditions that did not particularly suit Klebo.
“This is something out of the ordinary,” said national team head coach Espen Bjervig. “Today we worked on a long-term solution, but for Johannes it was important to complete it today, so we finalized with a standard agreement. We are happy to be able to focus on the winter.
This is a completely standard solution, a representation agreement that everyone who goes to the World Cup signs. Under this agreement, the athlete must wear our clothing, comply with our terms of business and the rights respected by other team members. But they don’t have the option of having a personal logo on the suit.”
How did Klebo make peace with the Norwegian Federation?
No more “Santa Barbara” around Klebo. Johannes agreed to play for the Norwegian national team
Interestingly, the federation offered to sign an agreement with such conditions in May, but then Klebo’s team refused. Apparently, the skier was “pressured” by the near start of the World Cup, and the following strong statements turned out to be just empty words.
“The conclusion of the agreement was a surprise, although in the spring that option was possible. I have wanted to go to the World Cup from the beginning and I hope that with this it can become a reality.
The worst part of the negotiation process was all the accusations of greed and that it was about money. And also statements that I spoke against the community. Because this is completely wrong. I didn’t like that lies were spread about this process,” Klebo explained.
On November 20, Norway announced in Ruka the composition of the national team for the first phase of the World Cup. Naturally, among the participants was Klebo, who had recently recovered from Covid. Once again, the dramatic conflict ended with a happy ending. And if at first the disputes between Johannes and the federation really caused alarm, now they are more and more like a circus, because the result is already clear to everyone.