Sponsor blow for Williams

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LONDON, February 26 – Williams Formula One team on Wednesday suffered a huge financial blow when one of its major backers pulled the plug on a deal believed to be worth around 10 million pounds (11.2m euros) a year

WILLIAMS_F1The ailing Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), which on Thursday is expected to report a staggering loss of around 28 billion pounds, said the decision was sparked by the global economic downturn.

Team principal Sir Frank Williams, whose group has been a permanent fixture on the grid for 30 years, said they would battle on.

"RBS has been a great partner for this team and we are grateful for the way that they have handled this difficult situation," he said.

"We are in a strong position to ride out the inevitable challenges of the next two years."

The partnership between Williams and RBS, which began in 2005, will now conclude when the current contract finishes at the end of the 2010 season.

The move is part of RBS proposals to cut its funding of British sport by half by 2010.

"We recognise that we are now operating in a very different economic environment and have been reviewing all of our activities since October," Dr Andrew McLaughlin, RBS group director, said.

"It is imperative that we respond to the reality of the situation we face and that we do so in an orderly way that respects the commercial agreements we have in place and the implications for our partners and the jobs they support.

"Throughout our relationship, Williams have shown great understanding and innovation in driving the programme forwards. They have been very supportive in finding ways to reduce costs over the remainder of our contract. This early announcement allows Sir Frank Williams and his team to plan ahead financially."

Williams title sponsor is telecommunications firm AT and T.

Last month, the RBS said it would extend its sponsorship of the Six Nations rugby union championship for a further four years in a deal worth a 20 million pounds.

Williams has won seven drivers titles in its history, but the last was delivered by Jacques Villeneuve in 1997.

In 2008, the team celebrated its 500th Grand Prix, but finished in eighth place in the championship.

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