Sahara has not told BCCI about pullout officially: Shukla

By Fakir Balaji, IANS,

Bangalore : The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) was Saturday awaiting an official letter from a defiant Sahara India on withdrawing its multi-million dollar sponsorship and pulling out of the Indian Premier League (IPL) T-20 tournament as Pune franchise, a senior official confirmed.

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“We have no official communication yet from Sahara on its decision to withdraw sponsorship or pulling out of IPL as a franchise. We are legally bound not to react unless we are informed officially,” a rattled IPL chairman and BCCI member Rajeev Shukla told IANS.

Asked if Sahara had no legal constraints in issuing a media statement or going public on its dramatic decision to snap its over a decade-long ties with the rich and powerful BCCI, Shukla said the board would be able to respond only after receiving in writing reasons for withdrawal as the contracts or agreements were legally signed under certain terms and conditions.

“How do you expect us to respond or react without receiving any communication to that effect in writing from Sahara on its decision? What if tomorrow they (Sahara) change view and say we did not intend to withdraw sponsorship or pull out of IPL? We will respond appropriately by studying their contentions or concerns,” Shukla said on the margins of the mini-auction for the fifth edition of IPL 2012.

Allaying fears of any negative impact of Sahara’s unilateral decision on not sponsoring Indian cricket or taking part in the ensuing IPL tournament, Shukla said it was an unfortunate development coming as it does when auctioning was taking place and during a peak season when the top cricketers were playing an away series (in Australia).

“It will not be proper on our part to react through the media on something we have not been officially informed. As the game is more important and stronger than the organisation, teams or tournaments, we will continue to focus on it. The show (IPL) will go on as evident from the smooth conduct of the auction,” Shukla told IANS.

Shukla, a minister in the central government, also declined to comment on the purported letter Sahara wrote to BCCI president N. Srinivasan recently on its grievances as he was not privy to its contents.

Asked if Sahara would have to pay compensation to BCCI for unilaterally terminating its sponsorship before its contract expired Dec 31, 2013, Shukla said it was for the board to take a call on it as he was not in the know of its terms and the deal did not fall in his purview as IPL chairman.

Sahara’s decision to pull the plug came hours before the auction began at a five-star hotel when 144 players went under the hammer here. Its Pune Warriors’ team did not take part in the auction.

In a statement later, a miffed Sahara Adventure Sports Ltd said it would “continue paying the sponsorship money” to the BCCI for “2-4 months” before the board gets a new contract.

Sahara had won the bid to continue as the Indian team sponsor in May 2010. Its sponsorship deal with the BCCI is worth $719,000 per match and set to end Dec 31, 2013.

Sahara also bid $370 million to become owners of the IPL Pune franchise in 2010.

It 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.

In a related development, BCCI secretary Sanjay Jagdale, however, said in Mumbai that the board would meet Sahara officials soon and clarify the issues raised by its main sponsor.

“Sahara will get a chance to recruit replacement players in the trading window that opens Monday,” Jagdale noted.