Nimbus loses BCCI telecast rights, puts off hockey league

New Delhi, Dec 12 (IANS) It was a double whammy for Nimbus Sports Monday. The Indian cricket board terminated its telecast rights contract for defaulting on paymentments and it was also forced to put off its much-touted World Series Hockey (WSH) till after the Olympic qualifiers in February.

There was speculation for quite some time that Nimbus would not only lose the TV rights but also may not be able to fund the WSH. It may be a setback for Nimbus as far as telecast rights are concerned, but the postponement of the league must have come as a big relief at this juncture when it has to sink in a huge amount to run it.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), contrary to expectations that it would give Nimbus a little more time to make the payments, chose to scrap the deal and look for a new contract. Nimbus' contract, which was renewed in 2009, was to run till 2014.

Nimbus, which has first signed a four-year deal in 2005-06 and renewed it after being offered first right of refusal, said it would react only after hearing officially from the BCCI.

'They have defaulted, they have not made the 50 percent advance payment for both the England and the West Indies series and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had no choice but to terminate the deal,' said Rajiv Shukla, chairman of the Indian Premier League.

Another member stated that Nimbus paid Rs.24 crore Monday morning, but still owed Rs.85 crore to Rs.88 crore and the BCCI did not want to continue with a defaulter. The immediate offshoot of the decision is that there will be no telecast of domestic tournaments. A big casualty is the next round of Ranji Trophy matches which will not be telecast.

With no international cricket matches scheduled in India for the next eight months, the board has apparently felt it was the right time to terminate the contract and enter into a fresh deal.

Unlike the cricket imbroglio, Nimbus will get breathing space to reschedule the WSH league.

The league, a joint venture of Nimbus and the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF), was to kick off on December 17 here, but with almost all the India players deciding to join the Dec 11-Jan 15 national camp in Bangalore for the Olympic qualifiers, the organisers had no choice but to postpone the highly hyped Rs 10 crore proffessional league to February 29-April 1. The Olympic qualifiers will be held February 16-25.

IANS had reported the WSH would be postponed in view of an appeal by India captain Bharat Chettri that the players would prefer the league to be played after the qualifiers. Both the organisers as well as the Union sports ministry took the line of least resistance by putting it off.

Both the IHF bosses and a source in the sports ministry told IANS that it took some hard bargaining and persuasion with the broadcasters, franchises and sponsors to get the the league put off as it involved huge sponsorship money and logistical problems.

The IHF and sports ministry officials met Monday to carry forward their discussions with Sports Minister Ajay Maken last week and it was strongly felt that nothing should be done that could effect India's chances of qualifying for the London olympics, more so after the uproar in the wake of their failing to make it to the Beijing Games.

The ministry is likely to take up the organisers' fears that the Hockey India (HI) might put hurdles in releasing the national players even after the qualifiers.

An HI source refused to react saying it would be no position to hazard guess what would happen once India qualify for the Olympics. 'It is too premature to make any commitment now.'

IHF president R.K. Shetty told IANS that the organisers did not want to put any pressure on the players when they were preparing for such an important international event and hoped HI would reciprocate in the right spirit.

'We are in touch with the players and they all want to play in WSH. But we know how HI has gone about things. We do not want to put the players under any pressure before an important event like Olympics qualifiers. We hope HI also acts in a similar spirit,' he said.

Shetty pointed out that it was huge decision, considering that international players, coaches and officials of the eight city-based franchisees have started arriving.

Shetty said they will soon take a decision on whether to keep these people here for a camp or not.

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