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    Sahara pulls out of IPL; won't be Indian cricket team sponsor from January 2014

    New Delhi: Sahara India, the owner of Pune Warriors India, has pulled out of the Indian Premier League, having failed to pay the full franchise fee for the current year which resulted in BCCI encashing the bank guarantee on Tuesday.

    Sahara bought Pune franchise for a record Rs 1702 crore for 10 years. But they had a dispute regarding the reduction of the franchise fee as initially there were 94 matches which was later reduced to 74 matches.

    Coming down heavily on the BCCI, Sahara said it was "disgusted" by the board's attitude towards it and would 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.

    The group, however, assured its players and stakeholders that their fees and other rights will be protected. "Sahara assures its players and stakeholders that their Fees and other rightfully due payments will be protected and under no circumstances will they suffer," the group said in a statement.

    "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."

    The group 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."

    BCCI's decision to go ahead and encash the bank guarantee raised a question-mark whether the franchise would be a part of the seventh edition of Indian Premier League next year.

    "In January this year, Sahara paid around 20 percent of the year franchisee fee which is approximately Rs 170 crore. The BCCI was told that they will pay the remaining amount by May 19 but they failed. The IPL governing council then decided to encash the bank guarantee," a senior BCCI official was quoted as saying by the PTI.

    "It is too early to say what will happen next year but yes things are indeed looking ominous," another senior BCCI had official informed.

    That was not the first time that BCCI had encashed bank guarantees after franchises failed to cough up the fees. Kochi Tuskers Kerala and Deccan Chargers were disbanded from IPL after they failed to pay the required fees.

    Pune Warriors performance has not been good in the three seasons of IPL that they have taken part as they remained in the bottom rung.

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