New Delhi: The domestic T20 league, Indian sport's billion-dollar dream, is fast losing its fizz in the wake of a massive spot-fixing scandal that has engulfed team owners, players, umpires and bookies alike.
And now it has emerged that the sponsors, who have committed hundreds of crores of rupees to the league, are the most anxious and may want out.
Cola major PepsiCo had won the title sponsorship rights for an eye-popping Rs. 396 crore for five years starting 2013, nearly double of what previous rights holder DLF had paid in 2008.
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The deal, which many experts had then dubbed as over-valued, comes bundled with a force majeure clause that allows termination of contract because of unanticipated circumstances.
Sources pointed out that several conditions appear to have been violated, which can allow all major sponsors, not just the title sponsor, to call for termination of contracts.
PepsiCo didn't confirm or deny if it was considering invoking the clause to look at a possible exit from its title sponsorship, given the turn of events that has sullied the tournament's reputation.
"The questions are speculative in nature and as company policy, we don't comment on speculation," a PepsiCo spokesperson told HT in an emailed response.
A top official with the Indian cricket board, in turn, said: "We have not heard of any such thing."
"The league has again been reduced to eight teams after Sahara's withdrawal from Pune Warriors. There is uncertainty over whether bids will be held for the two additional teams," said an executive of a company that has a T20 sponsorship deal with the BCCI.
Media buyers, who advise and invest on behalf of clients, said the sole saving grace was that the allegations have come in the later part of the tournament.
"Clients are not reacting much at this point as it all happened very late," said Navin Khemka, media buyer at ZenithOptimedia, which buys media for Karbonn, Nestle, Olx and Honda.