Double blow for BCCI, Sahara walks out of sponsorship deal, Pune Warriors

Bangalore/Mumbai, Feb 4 (IANS) Indian cricket suffered a twin blow Saturday when Sahara India snapped its multi-million-dollar sponsorship deal with the country's apex body of the sport and also pulled out of Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Pune Warriors, claiming they have been 'denied natural justice yet again'.

Sahara's decision came hours before the IPL 2012 auction in Bangalore and there was no one from Pune Warriors team at the bidding.

Sahara had won the bid to continue as the Indian team sponsor in May 2010 and its sponsorship deal with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is worth at least $719,000 per match and was to last till Dec 31, 2013. Sahara bid $370 million to own the Pune franchise in 2010.

Trouble was brewing between the two parties since 2008 and Sahara says the last straw was the form of BCCI's denial to add Yuvraj Singh's price to Pune Warriors auction purse after the southpaw was ruled out of the tournament with a lung tumour.

Sahara India chief Subroto Roy told the media in Mumbai that the board's 'one-sided and arbitrary attitude' drove the corporate to end all their cricket activities in despair.

Defending Sahara's decision to end its 11-year-old relationship with the BCCI, Roy said: 'Our decision was not bad at all, we had enough of it. Any relationship does not break on one single issue. In a long relationship, it will always be over many issues and they have happened continuously.'

Roy said Sahara's problems with the BCCI started in 2008 when their bid for one of the first eight IPL franchises was disqualified 'owing to a small technicality'.

'There were so many genuine things we had but it (BCCI) did not give a heed to even a small thing like opening the bid. They did not open the bid (when Sahara had submitted for the first time). Rules were broken for other teams, but we were not given natural justice,' said Roy.

Roy also said that Sahara even requested the BCCI to settle all the issues through arbitration and had also proposed the name of an eminent lawyer as an arbitrator, but the board didn't respond.

Roy also said Sahara India paid 25 percent extra when it bought the Pune franchise in 2010 for $370 million. When the two new franchises were up for sale, they were promised 94 matches but the 2011 edition had only 74 matches.

Roy said Sahara has asked the BCCI to look for a new buyer for Pune Warriors at the earliest.

The Sahara chief also said his group would continue sponsoring the cricket team for two-four months till a new sponsor was found.

BCCI secretary Sanjay Jagdale said the board would meet Sahara officials soon to clarify its stand on the issues the corporate raised.

'We understand that Sahara Adventure Sports Limited has issued a statement in which it indicates an intention to withdraw from its involvement in Indian cricket, including as regards the Indian Premier League (IPL). We intend to contact Sahara Adventure Sports Limited as soon as practicable to clarify its intentions,' Jagdale said in a statement.

On the confusion surrounding Yuvraj, Jagdale said: 'During the last few days, Sahara Adventure Sports Limited has requested that IPL vary its Player Regulations by allowing it to increase its Auction Purse from $1.6 million to $3.4 million in the light of Yuvraj's unfortunate illness.'

'Whilst all within the IPL and BCCI have a huge amount of sympathy for Yuvraj Singh and wish him all the best for a speedy recovery, it is unable to vary the Player Regulations,' Jagdale said.

IPL chairman and commissioner Rajeev Shukla, also a senior member of the BCCI, said it was extremely unfortunate that Sahara decided to snap its ties with the board on the day of the IPL auction.

'It's unfortunate but we have not received any formal notice. But the show will go on. The marketing committee will take a decision. Dialogue will always continue,' Shukla told reporters during the break after the first phase of auction in Bangalore.

IPL chief executive Sundar Raman said Sahara wanted flexibility in the rules, which the league management could not accept.

'It would have been unfair on our part to accept their demands. It would be unfair to other franchises if we bend rules for one team,' he said.

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