Sahara Withdraws Ownership of IPL Team Pune Warriors Following Dispute with BCCI

February 5, 2012

Sahara India Parivar has withdrawn its sponsorship of the Indian team and ownership of the Pune Warriors IPL franchise following its decision to cut its ties with the BCCI, the controlling cricket body in India.

The decision was announced on Saturday morning, an hour before the IPL 2012 auction – which went ahead without any representation from Pune Warriors.

In its formal statement, Sahara referred to several points of dispute with the BCCI, dating back to its first sponsorship deal in 2001 but largely relating to the IPL. It said it would “continue paying the sponsorship money” to the BCCI for a period of “2-4 months” it would take to find a new sponsor. The group had won the bid for the Indian team sponsorship most recently in May 2010.

In its initial response, IPL governing council chairman Rajeev Shukla said that the BCCI had yet to receive anything in writing from Sahara about the withdrawal of sponsorship.

The group, which has sponsored the Indian team for 11 years, had cited several reasons for its sudden pull-out, its most recent differences with the BCCI concerning its involvement in the IPL.

The latest dispute arises around a request by Sahara to be allowed to add Yuvraj Singh’s price into its auction purse for the February 4 auction after it was learnt that Yuvraj could not take part in the IPL as he is undergoing medical treatment for a tumour in his lung. When the request was refused, Sahara said it was “yet again” a case of the BCCI denying them “natural justice.”

The differences between Sahara and the IPL began in 2008 when Sahara’s bid for one of the first eight IPL franchises was “thwarted” following disqualification on what it calls, “a small technicality on the whims and fancies of BCCI.” In March 2010, the group had successfully bid $370m for the Pune franchise when the IPL had opened up the league to two new teams.

Sahara had asked for a refund of what it called its “extra bid money” stating that its bid price had been calculated on the basis of 94 matches to be played in the IPL’s fourth season. It said it had been denied, “on the basis of strict rules.” Other requests, like opening up the auction to all players once again in order to to achieve a “level playing field” or allowing one extra foreign player for the two new teams were also turned down.

“We are withdrawing from all cricket under BCCI,” the group stated. “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 sudden turn of events took the Indian cricket fraternity by surprise. It appears even players of the franchise were not aware of the developments, with several tweets expressing surprise.