New Delhi: Sahara India Pariwar pulled out its franchise Pune Warriors India from the already scandal-hit Indian Premier League (IPL) Tuesday besides announcing that the group will not sponsor the Indian cricket team after the present contract expires in December 2013.
Peeved with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for its refusal to bring down the franchise fee for the IPL, the Sahara Group said it also wanted to withdraw its sponsorship of the Indian cricket team "from today itself" but deferred the decision in the interest of the players.
The BCCI's reaction to the Sahara decisions was not immediately available.
Sahara failed to pay the BCCI the full fee of the Pune Warriors for the current year, leading the board to encash the group's bank guarantee Monday. A day later, the Pune-based franchise announced its pull-out from the IPL.
"It is firm and final decision of Sahara to withdraw from IPL," said the Sahara statement.
The group also said it was tempted to withdraw the contract on sponsoring the Indian cricket team with immediate effect but refrained in the interest of the players.
"There is a very strong urge in us to withdraw from the Indian team sponsorship from today only. But the interest of the players will suffer if we do so. We don't want the players who serve the country to get harmed financially due to unsporting attitude of BCCI. 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," read the statement.
This is the second time that Sahara have pulled the plug on both the Warriors and the Indian cricket team. The first time it happened was in 2012 when Sahara's demand for reducing the franchise fee was not met by the BCCI. The differences between the two were, however, bridged and the Pune franchise returned to the IPL fold.
About the Warriors players, Sahara said: "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 bought the franchise for Rs.1,702 crore in 2010 for 10 years, making Pune Warriors the costliest IPL team.
The Subrata Roy-led Sahara India Pariwar Tuesday claimed that the BCCI did not pay heed to its request for revising the franchise fee.
"The BCCI approached us for a solution and requested us to not withdraw (the last time). After a series of discussions with the top most BCCI officials, a joint statement was issued by Sahara and BCCI in February 2012. The statement specifically mentioned the agreement to start arbitration proceedings through immediate appointment of an Arbitrator," Sahara said.
Sahara alleged that BCCI did not consider the case through arbitration, adding the group paid "full franchise fee of Rs.170.20 crore annually" hoping the issue will be resolved soon. "But unfortunately, it was not done."
Sahara is now firm it will not return to IPL "even if the entire fee is waived".
"We now request BCCI to not approach us this time for any discussion as they have done in February 2012."
The firm said it wanted to withdraw at the start of IPL-6 but did not do so as it would have been unsportsmanlike.
"We in utter sportsmanship spirit went ahead with the season so that the IPL season does not get affected whereas BCCI has shown its unsportsmanship and no consideration towards the sport which we have been supporting for more than a decade," the statement said, referring to Sahara's association with the Indian team.
Pune Warriors finished eighth in this season of IPL, winning four of the 16 matches. They finished last in 2012 and second last in 2011, their first season in the tournament.