Bangalore: The Indian cricket board suffered a body blow Saturday as Sahara India pulled the plug from its multi-million dollar sponsorship and also walked out of the Pune franchise of the Indian Premier League (IPL), citing they have been denied natural justice yet again.
Sahara's decision comes just hours before the IPL 2012 auction, when 144 players went under the hammer here. Pune Warriors did not take part in the auction.
In a statement, Sahara said they would "continue paying the sponsorship money" to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for a period of "2-4 months" before the board gets a new contract.
"Sahara to dissociate with BCCI/IPL and reinvest in setting up of 20 sports promotion centres, with an international standard sports academy. It was an emotional decision for us to start this sponsorship but our emotions were never appreciated and many genuine situations, were not given due consideration at all," Sushanto Roy, Managing Director, Sahara Adventure Sports Limited, said in a statement.
Sahara had won the bid to continue as the Indian team sponsor in May 2010. Sahara's sponsorship deal with the BCCI is worth at USD 719,000 per match and will end December 31, 2013. Sahara bid $370 million to become owners of the IPL Pune franchise in 2010.
Sahara cited several reasons while ending its 11-year-old association with the BCCI, the latest being its request in the IPL auction being turned down.
Sahara had requested the IPL to add Yuvraj Singh's price into its auction purse after the southpaw was ruled out of the tournament with a lung tumour.
"We requested the BCCI on the basis of the fact that we have only one Indian marquee player, that we be allowed to add price of Yuvraj Singh in our auction purse, during the February 4 auction because we had later taken Sourav Ganguly at USD 400,000. Again, we have been denied on the basis of the rule book. Yet again, a case of being denied natural justice.
"We think this peculiar situation of Yuvraj Singh is silent in the rule book because it probably talks only about players who are temporarily injured. Incidentally, once during the Champion's League tournament, one of the Indian IPL teams had a lot of injured players so they were rightly, out of natural justice, allowed to break the rules and take one extra foreign player. We appreciated this natural justice," the statement said.
Sahara said it would pay Yuvraj his full fee.
"Yuvraj, who is truly like one of our family members, is, quite unfortunately, passing through a bad phase health wise, undergoing treatment for critical illness, overseas. Our duty is to take care of him, so Sahara has decided to pay him his full fee this year with condition as a guardian that his priority should be health care and he should not play till he has fully recovered," he said.
Sahara sad its one-sided emotional relationship with the BCCI cannot be dragged any further.
"We are withdrawing from all cricket under BCCI. However, we don't want to give any problem to the BCCI and we also feel that the players should not suffer. BCCI will definitely take 2-4 months to get a new sponsor and we will continue paying the sponsorship money till then. All other IPL team players, coaches and other such associates will definitely get their due this year, in case they do not get a chance to play," the statement 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 on the whims and fancies of BCCI."
"Our first entry into IPL was thwarted in 2008 when we were disqualified, owing to a small technicality on the whims and fancies of BCCI. Yet our bid was not opened. Last year, Sahara entered the IPL on the basis of information in the media and everywhere else that 94 matches will be played among 10 teams. The bid price was accordingly calculated, but only 74 matches were played. 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," the statement said.