Sahara Pune Warriors withdraws from IPL

Last Updated 21 May 2013, 13:59 IST

The scandal-hit Indian Premier League today suffered another blow with the Sahara Group-owned Pune Warriors Indians withdrawing from the event due to the BCCI's lackadaisical arbitration proceedings to lower the franchise fee and it's decision to encash the team's bank guarantee.

Sahara, which bought the franchise for Rs 1700 crore in 2010, said it was "disgusted" by the BCCI's attitude towards it and will not rejoin the league even if the entire franchise fee was waved off.

"...we would not keep the IPL franchisee even if the entire franchisee fee is waved off. It is firm and final decision of Sahara to withdraw from IPL," the Sahara Group said in a detailed statement.

"In 2010, Sahara had bid 1700 crore for IPL franchise on the basis of revenue calculation on 94 matches. It was tricky on part of BCCI to put the number in media as 94 matches for getting bigger amount. But we got 64 matches only," it added.

Sahara claimed that the BCCI turned a deaf ear to its pleadings for arbitration and reducing the franchise fee.

"We and Kochi Team immediately protested and requested BCCI to reduce the bid price proportionately for viable IPL proposition. Nothing was heard. We waited with confidence that such a sports body should have sportsmanship spirit," it said.

"We continuously requested BCCI for Arbitration from June 2011. But BCCI is only concerned about money and not about the genuine interests of the franchisee. Thus, (when) we could not penetrate BCCI's deaf ears, we announced our withdrawal in February 2012," it added.

Sahara Group said it was tempted to withdraw from the Indian cricket team's sponsorship also but refrained from doing so in the interest of the players.

"There is a very strong urge in us to withdraw from the Indian Cricket Team Sponsorship from today only. But, interest of the players will suffer if we do so.

"We share an excellent relationship with the players and will not want such dedicated and good human beings who serve the country so committed to get harmed financially due to unsporting attitude of BCCI," the Group said.

"So we have given time to BCCI to get the new sponsorship in place from January 2014, as we will continue the national team's sponsorship only up to December 2013 that's the expiry date of the present agreement."

Recollecting the 2012 withdrawals and the subsequent return, the Group said the BCCI did not keep its word with regards to arbitration.

"The BCCI approached us for a solution and requested us to not withdraw. After a series of discussions with the topmost BCCI officials including the BCCI President at Mumbai, a Joint Statement was issued by Sahara and BCCI in Feb 2012. The Joint Statement, amongst many other things, specifically mentioned the agreement to start Arbitration proceedings through immediate appointment of an Arbitrator," it said.

"...Sahara suggested the name of a Retired Hon'ble Chief Justice of India on the 5th March 2012 to be appointed as the Arbitrator. There was no response from BCCI for four months and after repeated prodding, finally on the 9th of July Sahara's advocates received a letter from BCCI rejecting the name proposed by Sahara without mentioning any reason and also without suggesting any alternatives," it added.

The company said the Board rejected all other names suggested by it for arbitration.
"...despite our repeated efforts to have the Arbitration initiated, we sent other suggestion of names which too were turned down and instead meaningless communication was created to stall finalisation," it said.

"In the meanwhile, Sahara kept on paying the full Franchise Fee of Rs 170.20 crore annually, without prejudice to its rights and contentions, in the hope that this will be resolved soon. But unfortunately, it was not done," it added.

Sahara said its Chairman Subroto Roy met BCCI President on numerous occasions but the matter remained unresolved.

"Fed up with this stalemate our Hon'ble Chairman Saharasri ji had written to the BCCI president that the arbitration for downward revision of the fees has not progressed in 3 years time, hence, has requested for a proper meeting to personally discuss the way forward and explicitly said that if a downward revision is not possible then we would want to surrender the franchisee. This fell on deaf ear," the company claimed.

Sahara said it wanted to exit IPL at the start of this season itself and had requested the BCCI not to touch the bank guarantee.

"...this time we requested Hon'ble Shri Rajeev Shukla ji, (IPL Chairman) that if BCCI cannot accept Arbitration, we then want to amicably exit IPL. Our Chairman in clear words was told again by Hon'ble Shri Rajeev Shukla ji that Bank guarantee will not be touched, not be revoked since the expiry date of bank guarantee was 2nd May 2013," it said.

"Had we followed the legal advise of withdrawing at the start of the IPL season, this would have resulted in tremendous pressure on BCCI for resolving the issue whereas BCCI has shown no consideration towards the sport which we have been supporting for more than a decade," it added.

The Sahara group claimed that the BCCI threatened to take concerned bank to court if the guarantee was not paid immediately.

"We still tried to contact for amicable settlement, but could not get anybody on phone in time.  But our bank people informed that even at 8 in the evening, the BCCI representative was still present in the Bank and threatened the bank that if money is not paid today to BCCI, they shall enter court to blacklist Bank.

"One should ask BCCI why they did not approach bank for revocation of our bank guarantee from 2nd May to 19th May. It is important to state that Sahara has never, ever defaulted in any of its due payment in last 13 years of team sponsorship etc," it said.

"We put on record that there is not a single rupee outstanding towards the sponsorship of Indian Cricket Team and BCCI is even secured by a bank guarantee against the sponsorship.

"Rather during ICC Champions Trophy 2002, Sahara had paid full sponsorship amount even without Sahara branding on the player's Jersey...We now request BCCI to not to approach us this time for any discussion as they have done in February 2012."

The group, however, assured the players and the stakeholders that their dues would be cleared in time.

"Sahara assures its players and stakeholders that their Fees and other rightfully due payments will be protected and under no circumstances will they suffer.

"Sahara also assures its sponsors and other supporters who have shown faith in us that their obligations have and will be fulfilled and there will be no compromise on their status or rights," it said.

"Besides, we are in the process of building a Sports Foundation...there will be a Central National Sports Academy with numerous regional sports academies affiliated to it."

(Published 21 May 2013, 13:30 IST)

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