Indian national cricket hit for six as Sahara pull sponsorship after 11 years

2012-02-09 00:00

SPONSORSHIP deals are the lifeblood of professional cricket, but in the current tough economic climate it’s getting harder to keep sponsors and to attract new ones.

Political divisions in international cricket boards are not helping matters either.

Tensions between the Board of Cricket for Control in India (BCCI) and its sponsor, Sahara, continue to plague Indian cricket and to raise questions regarding the sustainability of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Sahara, who have been sponsors for the past 11 years, dealt Indian cricket a surprising double blow on Saturday.

In a statement issued just hours before the start of the million-dollar IPL player auction in Bangalore, Sahara confirmed they were withdrawing their sponsorship of the Indian national team and their ownership of the IPL franchise team, the Pune Warriors, with immediate effect.

Sahara indicated that their withdrawal was on the grounds of several disputes they have had with the BCCI relating to the IPL.

Problems between the BCCI and Sahara began in 2008 when the Indian computer giant’s bid for one of the eight franchises was disqualified due to a small technicality.

The most recent fallout between Sahara and the BCCI has been over Yuvraj Singh, who is undergoing treatment for a lung tumour. The BCCI’s refusal to allow Sahara to add Singh’s price to the Pune Warrior’s IPL auction purse appears to have been the final straw.

Understandably players from the Pune Warriors have been shocked by the turn of events and are concerned about the future of their franchise. South African paceman Wayne Parnell and Protea’s bowling coach Allan Donald are among them.

On Monday it was reported that the BCCI had extended an olive branch to Sahara and have asked to meet their chairperson, Subrata Roy, on February 12.

Sahara have agreed to continue their sponsorship of Indian cricket for the next two to four months. Roy believes this will be long enough for the BCCI to find a new sponsor and that this will not be difficult for the BCCI.

He indicated that Sahara have chosen to invest their sponsorship money in social projects in India. Since dropping the bombshell, Roy has expressed his desire to see the Pune Warriors taking part in this season’s IPL. He has also asked that home games be played in Pune where Sahara have signed a deal for naming rights of the Maharashtra Cricket Association Ground.

As things stand the Pune Warriors will feature in the 2012 IPL, which begins in April, but due to Sahara pulling out ahead of the auction they will be a few star players short.

The Proteas have had their own sponsorship issues.

Sunfoil have proved to be sponsorship saviours for the Proteas who went into the one-day series against Australia last year in the ignominious position of having no series sponsor.

The Proteas also survived Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s call for a ban on alcohol sponsorship, which would have signalled the end of Castle Lager’s long-standing association with the Proteas.

Fortunately this proved to be a storm in a teacup and SAB will remain the major sponsor of the South African Test and ODI teams for the next five years.

Cricket South Africa’s sponsorship challenges are set to continue, however, with the recent resignation of their commercial manager Richard Glover and as yet no sponsor for the domestic T20 series which gets under way next week.

With the recession biting hard globally, sponsors are not exactly beating down the door. Valuing the companies who are willing to part with their cash and to invest in cricket is therefore vital.

Political wranglings evident in the BCCI and Cricket South Africa are jeopardising these relationships.

Divisions are also scaring off potential sponsorship partners and are compromising the future of the game and the livelihood of professional cricketers.


Neil Johnson is a former Zimbabwean, Western Province and Dolphins cricketer turned commentator who resides in the Midlands.

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