The Indian sports pages are currently full of issues when they should be full of tournament action and Sahara's acrimonious and non-negotiable withdrawal of the Pune Warriors franchise and its sponsorship of the Indian cricket team is the latest evidence of a rudderless ship.
Sahara's comprehensive statement is about as damaging as it could possibly be. You only have to look at some of the phrases to get the idea that a company that has been so positive in it's support for Indian cricket over 13 years, feels it has been badly let down by the current administration. As far as I'm concerned, the BCCI has been completely disrespectful to such a wonderful commercial partner.
These are just some of the phrases Sahara used in a statement you can read in full by clicking on the link at the end of this blog.
"..we could not penetrate BCCI's deaf ears."
"...BCCI is only concerned about money and not about the genuine interests of the franchisee."
"...BCCI has shown un-sportsmanship and no consideration towards the sports which we have been supporting for more than a decade."
"...we would not keep the IPL franchise even if the entire franchise fee is waived.."
Given what has been happening, it is incredible that Sahara have stayed around for as long as they have and even now, they have shown tremendous dignity by delaying their withdrawal of sponsorship for the Indian team until January to ensure that the players who represent their country are not harmed financially and also to allow the BCCI to find a new sponsor. It is an incredible gesture from a sponsor who feels it has been so badly treated and has provided the evidence to prove it.
The issue surrounds a cost of the Pune franchise they bought that was based on a total of 94 matches. That figure was subsequently reduced to 64 because of changes to the franchise structure. Fewer games obviously meant less exposure to potential revenue, but the BCCI refused to reduce the franchise fees.
Sahara wanted arbitration and made an initial announcement to withdraw in February when the BCCI refused to budge. Sahara were initially persuaded to change their minds on the basis that arbitration on the fee issue would be started. But guess what? When Sahara suggested the name of a neutral arbitrator, they didn't hear from the BCCI for FOUR MONTHS!
When they prodded and prodded, they were finally told the person they'd suggested was not suitable! No mention from the BCCI of why that was so and no mention of any potential alternatives. Further names were rejected too and according to the Sahara statement, the BCCI indulged "meaningless communication to stall finalisation."
What a way to treat a major supporter of Indian cricket!
There is no doubt that the BCCI is now deep in crisis. Those running it -people who seemingly want to run the world game too - need to get their own house in order. There should be a focus on solutions not a denial of the problems. There needs to be dialogue, there needs to transparency and there needs to be a communication policy that keeps the people informed. All this, because it should be obvious that the work they are doing, the tournaments they are running and the partnerships they are servicing are all for the good of the game of cricket in India. The fact they are not transparent poses questions and for me, Sahara's decision has answered many of them. The BCCI is short changing the sport and its public. The list of shortcomings is quickly becoming longer. These are just a few of them: