Sahara hits back after BCCI rejcts its demands

Chennai/New Delhi : ahara India Monday hit back at the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) saying no corporate was ready to shell out more than 50-60 percent of the current value of the sponsorship of the team even as board president N. Srinivasan said exceptions cannot be made by bending Indian Premier League (IPL) rules to favour the Pune Warriors franchise owner.

After a three-hour working committee meeting in Chennai, Srinivasan said the BCCI discussed the concerns raised by Sahara India, who earlier this month severed its multi-million-dollar sponsorship deal with the BCCI and also pulled out as the owners of Pune Warriors.

“Issues that had to be decided were placed before the committee and we have conveyed the response from the working committee to Sahara and we hope the response would be favourable,” Srinivasan told reporters after the meeting.

Srinivasan said sponsors are not deserting the BCCI.

“Sponsors are not going away. In any contractual arrangement, you will have to provide the scope for change. BCCI has not lost money. For the properties we have, we have adequate sponsors. We have problems with a sponsor, we have shown we will walk that extra mile to address them,” he said.

Sahara, however, in a prompt reply said that its chairman Subrata Roy sounded other corporates to see if anyone could fully or partially sponsor Team India. Sahara also accused the BCCI of backing out of a commitment to hold a joint news conference to explain their respective views on the issues.

“In the last 3-4 days, Subrata Roy and his team discussed the option of assigning full or partial sponsorship with some corporates. This was done because Sahara has committed to continue to support the team sponsorship for 2-4 months till a new sponsor is on board. We were very surprised to note that though they were interested in the opportunity, yet (they) were not willing to pay more than 50-60 percent of the current value,” Sahara said.

Srinivasan said the BCCI was ready to address the issues raised by Sahara as a sponsor and would not prevent Sahara from bringing a partner on board to run Pune Warriors.

“We are open to address the issues raised by Sahara in the sponsorship deal. We also don’t have objections if Sahara brings a commercial partner to join Pune Warriors as a co-owner,” he said.

Asked about the specific issued raised by Sahara, Srinivasan said: “It is a matter which should be discussed between Sahara and BCCI behind closed doors. These are not issues which can be discussed in public.”

Srinivasan said Pune Warriors could have a replacement for Yuvraj as per IPL rules. He, however, made it clear that the BCCI was against changing rules for the benefit a particular franchise owner.

“Sahara had raised several issues with regard to the number of matches played last year. Issues were also there surrounding the quantum of bank guarantee and also with their composition of team. The BCCI has responded positively within the framework of its rules and the BCCI has also said that it is not possible to create an exception because observance of the regulations strictly is important to the integrity of the league,” the board president said.

Sahara shot back to say that the rules were framed by the cricket authorities. The rules, the company said, had no statutory binding.

“Subrata Roy requested BCCI officials not to elaborate on the rules by saying that any disagreement in sports should be taken in perfect sporting spirit and should be resolved accordingly. He further requested the BCCI president and his team that there is no point in quoting the rule book and debating it word by word. After all, they were BCCI’s own rules and not some constitutional rules of the government,” the Sahara statement said.

When asked about the future of Sahara as Team India sponsor, Srinivasan said: “The position is what it was. We have responded to what Sahara has raised. We will wait to see what the reaction is.”

Sahara, which has been sponsoring the team for 11 years, had cited that it was denied natural justice and the last straw was the BCCI’s refusal to allow Yuvraj Singh’s price to be added to Pune Warriors’ auction purse after the southpaw was ruled out of the tournament with a lung tumour.

Sahara signed a fresh sponsorship contract with the BCCI July 1, 2010, and it runs till Dec 31, 2013. According to the Rs.532-crore contract, Sahara will pay Rs.3.34 crore per Test match, one-day international and Twenty20 international under the new terms.

Sahara bought the IPL franchise Pune Warriors for Rs.1,702 crore, making it the most expensive franchise in the Twenty20 league. In all, the BCCI stands to lose around Rs.2,234 crore.

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