The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sahara pulls out as team sponsor
- Company decides to pay players, threatens legal action

Calcutta, Sept.14: Faced with the International Cricket Council’s (ICC’s) inexplicable intransigence on the logo issue, Sahara India Pariwar has withdrawn its sponsorship of the Indian team.

Sahara got pushed into a corner when the ICC — which is contract-bound to “protect” its own sponsors/commercial partners — neither approved the original logo nor any variation. Even a change in name wasn’t good enough — all because South African Airways (SAA) is one of six sponsors in the ongoing Champions Trophy.

With the ICC consistently saying “no,” the Indians took the field today (against Zimbabwe) without the team sponsor’s logo. The pullout came soon after.

Predictably, Sahara has talked about initiating “appropriate legal action” against all concerned. After all, the (purely domestic) airline business is only part of its portfolio. Moreover, how does Sahara compete with SAA'

The decision, formally announced this evening, ends Sahara’s 14-month association with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The tie-up, which began with India’s tour of Sri Lanka last year, should have continued till July 2004.

Clearly, this isn’t an ordinary withdrawal and the corporate sector will be wary as long as the ICC continues with its absurd policy on official sponsorship.

According to The Telegraph’s sources, Sahara boss Subrata Roy called BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya before the company made a public announcement. Dalmiya declined to comment straightaway, not least because of the “legal ramifications,” but the Sahara controversy will surely be raised at the BCCI’s September 19-20 AGM in the city.

Sahara has graciously decided to make good the amount —around Rs 2 lakh in every match -— each player stands to lose by way of logo money in the Champions Trophy, but the BCCI must quickly find a new sponsor if players are not to be deprived of a huge percentage of earnings.

While the match fee for every Test is Rs 40,000, the logo money alone amounts to about Rs 2.10 lakh. The break-up in the ODIs is Rs 25,000 and around Rs 2 lakh. The players get 60 per cent of the logo money, with the balance going exclusively to the BCCI.

It could be okay for the Sachin Tendulkars and Sourav Gangulys, who have multiple endorsement deals, but the less high-profile players are bound to feel the pinch if the team sponsor’s space on the shirt remains vacant for long.

Also, it’s to be seen what Sahara does with personal sponsorships. Sourav, for instance, is a brand ambassador and will have problems not just during an ICC event, but also before and after.

[Incidentally, though Sourav had a black band on his right arm while batting, it had nothing to do with the logo issue. “He wore that owing to some pain… It’s a coincidence the colour was black,” explained manager Ramprasad, when contacted in Colombo. A top TV commentator had repeatedly conveyed a totally different impression.]

This is the second time that Sahara has burnt its fingers over cricket --- instance No.1 being the (India versus Pakistan) Sahara Cup in Toronto. Planned for five years, from 1996, the event was scrapped after only three editions as (post-Kargil) New Delhi refused permission for one-to-one engagements with Pakistan.

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