Chennai: Soon after the BCCI clarified that it would not make an exception for the Sahara Group to end its stand-off with the long-time Team India sponsors, the Subrata Roy-led Sahara hit back at the Indian cricket board, accusing them of breach of trust.
In a statement released shortly after the BCCI's press conference, Sahara said the BCCI had flouted an agreement to make a joint statement, prompting the corporate giants to issue a media release on the discussion points with the BCCI.
Top BCCI officials and members of the Sahara Group - which had last Saturday abruptly pulled the plug on its contract as the official sponsor of the Indian cricket team as well as pulled out of the Indian Premier League - had met in Mumbai on Sunday to discuss the content_cnious issues. However, a resolution was not forthcoming and the "outstanding issues" between the two parties were discussed at the board's Working Committee meeting in Chennai on Monday.
Sahara has now revealed that they had demanded that Pune Warriors - the IPL team owned by them - be allowed one extra overseas player in the playing XI for the fifth season, to compensate for the absence of Yuvraj Singh. Yuvraj was the skipper of the Pune side last season and is currently undergoing treatment for lung cancer in the United States.
Sahara also asked for a 27% reduction in the franchise fee, considering the reduced number of matches that actually took place during IPL-4 as against the earlier representation of the BCCI before tendering for the new franchise.
It was also felt that the BCCI's demand for a bank guarantee was discriminatory, with Sahara stating that none of the earlier eight teams which entered IPL in 2008 deposited any bank guarantee against franchise fee. Sahara claims that out of the remaining nine teams in the league, only they were required to deposit the bank guarantee.
Sahara, sponsors of the Indian team for over 11 years, decided to part ways with the BCCI on February 4, complaining that the board did not give due consideration to its genuine grievances with regards to players and number of matches in the IPL. The decision to severe all ties with the BCCI was taken just hours before the IPL auction got underway in Bangalore.
Sahara had signed a renewed sponsorship agreement with the BCCI on July 1, 2010 till December 31, 2013 and was paying Rs 3.34 crore per Test match, one-day international and Twenty20 International under the new terms. The deal is said to be worth Rs 532 crore.
Earlier on Monday, the BCCI put the ball in Sahara's court, saying it has conveyed its decision on the week-long stalemate between the two parties to Sahara and was hoping for a positive response, while reiterating that no exception would be made for them.
However, BCCI president N Srinivasan did say that Sahara would be allowed to seek a replacement for Yuvraj within the rules.
Srinivasan told the media after the Working Committee meeting in Chennai, that "the issues raised by Sahara were placed before the Working Committee today and we have communicated our response to Sahara. We hope that their response will be favourable. It is now up to them and we'll wait to see what their reaction is."
Without revealing the details of what the BCCI had agreed to - claiming it was a private matter to be discussed with Sahara alone - Srinivasan said rules could not be changed for the benefit a particular franchise owner.
"The BCCI has responded positively within the framework of its rules but it is not possible to create an exception because observance of the regulations is important for the integrity of the league."
"As per the rules, Sahara can have a replacement for Yuvraj," Srinivasan pointed out, adding that the BCCI would not prevent Sahara from bringing a partner on board to run Pune Warriors.
"We are open to address the issues raised by Sahara in the sponsorship deal. The BCCI will not have any objection to any strategic partner to Sahara also."
As of now, the week-long stalemate between the Indian cricket board and Sahara looks set to continue.