The Sourav Ganguly and Jay Shah-headed Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) was faced with its biggest challenge since taking over in October last year with Vivo, the title sponsor for the Indian Premier League, threatening to pull out in the face of backlash over Chinese sponsorship following the border skirmish.
None from the BCCI was available for confirmation with IPL governing council chairman Brijesh Patel reportedly telling a franchise representative that he didn’t have a clue on the issue.
Vivo India, the local arm of the Chinese cell phone company, has been in the eye of a storm after the IPL governing council at its meeting on Sunday decided to retain all its sponsors for the 13th edition that is set to begin in the UAE on September 19.
Paytm, Swiggy and Dream 11 are the other companies involved in the IPL with Chinese investments.
A spokesperson for Vivo India told The Telegraph that “talks with BCCI are still on”.
Though the government hasn’t spoken on the matter, RSS affiliate Swadeshi Jagaran Manch has accused the BCCI of showing “utter disrespect to the soldiers” and threatened a boycott call against this year’s edition.
Vivo is the second biggest smartphone brand in India after Chinese handset maker Xiaomi. The company has a manufacturing unit in Greater Noida.
Word spread on Tuesday afternoon that Vivo would no longer be associated with the IPL after a high-profile franchise executive informed his counterparts about it upon hearing from his owner, who is perceived to be close to the powers-that-be in the BCCI.
Frantic calls ensued between the franchises and Patel with most BCCI mandarins, who were on an evening conference call, refusing to answer.
“The delay in government permission has already upset our plans. If Vivo does exit, the BCCI will struggle to get a sponsor who can cough up a similar amount. Don’t forget it could have a ripple effect. We are already staring at a major revenue loss. What will be the fate of the League in such circumstances,” a franchise official told The Telegraph.
“Why isn’t the BCCI holding a meeting to highlight all such issues? Why do we have to learn everything from the media,” the official asked.
Two theories are doing the rounds. First, BCCI decided to terminate the contract for fear of a backlash arising out of public sentiment. Second, Vivo is unwilling to again pay the annual sum of Rs 440 crore within a span of five months —— the 2021 edition of the IPL is to be held in April-May.
“Given the market economics, it will be tough for any sponsor to pay such money. The IPL is expected to be held behind closed doors and overseas which affect market sentiment. Remember the world economy is badly hit,” said a source.
Vivo has a Rs 2,199-crore five-year deal with IPL since 2018. There’s talk that Vivo could take a break this year from their sponsorship commitments and then return again next year. They will, in that case, honour their commitments in 2021, 2022 and 2023.
The BCCI will accordingly float a tender for this year’s sponsorship. However, a recent survey conducted at the behest of the BCCI among corporates didn’t yield encouraging results.
But what if Vivo decides to come out of the deal altogether given the national sentiments doing the rounds? Does the BCCI have a Plan B in place? The BCCI has already been forced to scale down its bid amount — Rs 61 lakh per game from Rs 88 lakh besides the minimum guarantee amount — in its tender announced on Monday for kit sponsor and official merchandising partner rights of national teams.
However, there’s talk that an industrial powerhouse, with direct interests in the IPL, could bail the BCCI out of this crisis.