Sahara hopeful of compromise formula on cricket team logo issue at Champions

NEW DELHI: The Subroto Roy-promoted Sahara India group is still hopeful that a compromise formula may be worked out wherein it continues to remain the sponsor for the Indian cricket team. The ICC has objected to Sahara remaining as the team sponsor on the ground that the interest of one of the global sponsors of the up and coming Champions Trophy, South African Airways, may clash with that of Sahara.

"Are we really out? May be not. Options are being looked into," Abhijeet Sarkar, the Lucknow-based communications head of Sahara India group, told today over the phone.

When asked to specify the nature of the options, Sarkar refused to divulge any details, saying, "Wait for some more days. If you are in such a hurry then get in touch with the BCCI (Board of Cricket Control in India) and Jagmohan Dalmiya (BCCI chief)."

However, sources in Sahara indicated that though Sahara is more known for its business activities in the airlines sector - Sahara Airlines is one of India's private domestic carriers - the group has diversified business interests ranging from real estate, to financing to media and the cricket team sponsorship deal may be shifted to another group company where the interests will not clash with those of the global partners of ICC.

Asked how hopeful the company was to adorn the cricket gear of the Indian cricketers, Sarkar maintained that he was "optimistic" and the issue would be resolved over the next few days to everybody's satisfaction.

When queried whether Sahara has taken note of the latest ad campaign of Samsung, featuring seven cricketers, where the commercial mentions `Team Samsung', Sarkar dismissed it as a non-issue.

"The (Samsung) ad cannot overshadow the mileage that Sahara has got after the stupendous outcome of the NatWest series and that of the series being played in England. We are always there to support the country and the team," Sarkar added.

Sahara India has signed a 10-year deal with the BCCI to be the team sponsor for the Indian team after pipping a few like a Tata company to the post.

The Indian team in the past has been sponsored by the likes of Wills which had to opt out midway because of the company's primary business activity in the field of tobacco, a product which is being increasingly shunned by sports authorities the world over where sponsorships are concerned. Australia, for instance, has a law that no tobacco company can sponsor a cricketer or a cricket match or a team and this rule applies to visiting cricket teams also.

To recap, the ICC executive board held meetings over two days in Dubai and announced the following decisions yesterday in an official release:

1. BCCI-Sahara proposal rejected: The BCCI proposal for Sahara to sponsor the Indian team. After hearing submissions from both the BCCI and from the ICC's commercial partner, Global Cricket Corporation (now a News Corp company), it said in its official statement on the issue: "However, it is also recognised the Sahara is a large conglomerate with interests in a wide range of businesses. It may be the BCCI and Sahara wish to provide an alternate proposal to the ICC that does not have the same potential for conflict. "The merits and impact of any such proposal would be considered should it be received."

This opens the door for some other Sahara group company being used in team sponsorship ads.

2. BCCI provided with more time to negotiate with Indian players: The ICC agreed to a request from the BCCI for more time in which to reach an agreement with its players.

As things stand, 11 of the 12 Boards (India is the only exception) have indicated that an agreement had been reached or was imminent with their players.

3. Full Members agree to consultation process: The 10 ICC full member countries have agreed to a consultation process with players or their representatives concerning new ICC events outside the current agreement for ICC Champions Trophy and ICC Cricket World Cups up until 2007 as sought by some countries. The agreement clears the way for some Boards, including the Australian Cricket Board and the England and Wales Cricket Board to complete their agreements with their players.

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