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Sahara withdrawal: Cricket’s loss, sports’ gain

06-February-2012
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Sahara withdrawal: Cricket’s loss, sports’ gain

After the drubbing received at the hands of England and Australia, the India cricket team was in for a shocker when in a surprise move Sahara India Parivar withdrew sponsorship of the team and also the ownership of their Pune Warriors IPL franchise. The announcement was made on February 4, 2012, throwing the cricket world in a tizzy amid the auction of players for Indian Premier League 5.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) went ahead with the IPL auctions as planned. At a press conference, BCCI Chairman Rajeev Shukla said, “We haven’t got any legal notification from Sahara India Parivar on these developments.”

At a press conference called by Sahara India Parivar on February 4, Sahara Group Chief Subroto Roy cited several reasons for this surprise move. He said, “There were so many genuine things we had, but BCCI did not notice such a small thing like opening the bid. They did not open the bid on a technicality for the first time in 2008, when Sahara had submitted. Rules were broken for other teams, but we were not given natural justice.” He maintained that this move had nothing to do with the Indian team not performing in the last two tours. “They have fared badly only in Test cricket and not in other formats. In fact, in the last 11 years, the Indian team has gone through such rough phases several times,” he added.

When pointed out that BCCI was not aware of these developments, Roy said, “We have been in talks with the BCCI officials for the last one month. In fact, last night, too, I had spoken to the BCCI President and told him that unless they heed to our request to increase the purse during players’ auction in Bangalore to make up for the non-availability of sick Yuvraj Singh, we will have to part ways. I waited till today morning before announcing the decision. It’s not Yuvraj alone, but a sequence of events that made us take this decision.”

Unfair treatment
Roy criticised the decision of not going for an open auction for IPL last year, after the sale of two more franchise outfits – Pune Warriors and the now suspended Kochi Tuskers Kerala.

“It should have been done last year. Two top players in each team had been retained and thus, 16 top players were unavailable at the auction. We didn’t get the good 16 players. It was not a level playing field. One or two weak teams will affect the quality of the tournament. We wanted one extra foreign player, but it was not allowed. When one of the franchises faced a problem with injuries, they were allowed to field one extra foreign player. I applauded that ruling. It should have been that way for us too,” he continued.

Roy further said, “We had approached the BCCI to settle the issues through arbitration, but they were not interested. Things should be done in sportsmen’s spirit and not legally or taking it to the court room.”

Cheated in the number of matches?

Roy added, “It was a calculation for 94 matches to be played among 10 teams. The bid price was accordingly calculated, but only 74 matches were played. We have paid 25 per cent more in bid money. We are still pursuing continuously with the BCCI to refund the extra bid money proportionately. It has been denied on the basis of strict rules.”

He, meanwhile, said that Sahara had not been approached by anyone to buy Pune Warriors. Roy divulged, “We had covered up to Rs 20 crore in the last year’s sponsorship.”

On loss amount due to not participating in this year’s IPL, Roy said, “I really don’t know what amount it would come to. We really haven’t counted what loss we would have by not participating.”

Roy also said that players would be paid the full amount for this season. “With that, we are also trying that our players get to play in this IPL as their future lies on these matches, so we are going to speak to BCCI regarding that,” he added.

Meanwhile, Sahara would be investing Rs 1,000 crore in Sahara Welfare Foundation. A sum of Rs 500 crore would be put immediately in Sahara Welfare Foundation, which will be run with the association of eminent persons of the country. The remaining amount would be pumped in over the next 1-2 years as per the need of all the programmes. Among the various programmes, Sahara would be setting up 20 rural/ semi urban sports promotional centers having international standards.

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