ICC pulls up Indian cricketers for Samsung ads

NEW DELHI: A new controversy threatens to rock the ongoing World Cup, the Indian cricket team especially, with the ICC (International Cricket Council) issuing notices to some Indian cricketers on alleged ads of Samsung featuring them continuing to appear in media.

Though, the company concerned today denied playing truant and maintained that one of the global sponsors, LG, is flouting the reworked norms by using images of Indian cricketers those who have been contracted with Samsung.

"We are completely flummoxed by recent developments and are unable to understand what is the basis of ICC's notices to some Indian cricketers," a senior executive of Samsung India told indiantelevision today morning, 

pointing out that the company is honouring the players' wish by withdrawing all ads featuring them, if at all they were been put out.

ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed has been quoted in the media reports as saying: "There is clearly documented evidence that Samsung is deliberately 

and blatantly flouting the contractual agreements that exist with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). This is a premeditated campaign designed to infringe and devalue the rights secured by the ICC's commercial partners."

In a related development, SET MAX, in a pre-match programme, today morning quoted commentator Tony Greig as saying that the top brass of Sahara group, 

sponsors of the Indian cricket team, have expressed surprise at seeing Virgin Airlines ads, featuring South African player H Gibbs, in South Africa.

One hopes that ICC would take note of this development and haul up Virgin Airlines (owned by the flamboyant businessman Richard Branson), Greig said.

Coming back to ICC's latest missive to Indian cricketers, it is learnt from corporate sources that Samsung India did receive communications from the Indians that are contracted to appear in Samsung ads as part of Team 

Samsung campaign last Saturday.

"In deference to the players' wish and our continued stand to support the players' cause, we stopped from Sunday onwards airing any ads that would amount to flouting any ICC norms, if at all any move of ours amounted to that. We, anyway, have stopped featuring the cricketers in our media campaign," the Samsung executive said.

But then, asks an official sponsor, what about occasional ads in a national newsmagazines and some Samsung billboards that could be spotted till some days back on the outskirts of Delhi (in Delhi billboards are banned by the government)?

Samsung India laughed off the allegation by maintaining some ads, that could be still seen as objectionable by the ICC, may have shown up due to prior commitments --- those pledged to the media before the communication to the company from the Indian cricketers.

"Moreover, ICC cannot stop us from airing ads with the line Team Samsung as it is owned by us," the Samsung 

executive explained, pointing out even LG India does not have any right to use images of Indian cricketers signed up by Samsung in its media campaign.

Some newspapers today have carried an ad of LG India featuring Virender Sehwag who, along with the likes of Rahul Dravid, Mohd. Kaif, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, have been signed up by Samsung India.

When contacted, LG India's market head, Ganesh Mahalingam, told, "I don't know what others are talking about, but all official sponsors of ICC, including us, have the right till 2007 to use the 

images of any cricketer during any ICC-sponsored tournament. These rights have been agreed upon by cricketers only as part of an ICC guideline."

Though Mahalingam refused to be drawn further into the issue, there is a school of thought in India that feels that these continuing shadow boxing being indulged in by corporates is putting unnecessary external pressure on 

the Indian team that may start telling on the team's performance that is, anyway, nothing much to talk about till today.

AFP in report from Johannesburg yesterday stated that the ICC on Friday cracked the whip against Indian players whose personal sponsors continued to advertise in violation of World Cup rules.

The Indians had signed ICC contracts which prohibited them from advertising for non-official sponsors for the the duration of the World Cup from 8 February to 23 March.

But the ICC said electronics giants Samsung, who 

have six Indian players including vice-captain Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag on their payrolls, have continued to issue advertisements in newspapers.

"The ICC today expressed its deep concern that it has been forced to disturb the World Cup preparations of the Indian team because of the ambush marketing activities carried out by electronics company Samsung," the 

sport's world governing body said in a statement.

"It cannot and will not be tolerated," Speed said.

The ICC said that advertising campaigns featuring images of Indian players sponsored by Samsung are appearing in India and "infringements have also 

been identified in South Africa."

The ICC lawyers delivered letters to the Indian management and players on Thursday in an attempt to secure their support in curtailing Samsung's activities, the statement said. "If no resolution is reached immediately, the matter is likely to be referred to the ICC Technical Committee for further action." Indian team official Amrit Mathur confirmed the letters from the ICC had been received by the team.

"The players concerned have been told of this and they have advised Samsung to stop the advertisements," he said. The Indian players, who enjoy lucrative personal endorsements, had earlier refused to sign the contracts 

that prohibited ambush marketing for 30 days before, during and after the World Cup.

The ICC backed down and did away with the period before and after the tournament, but insisted ambush marketing will not be allowed during the tournament. The ICC action against Samsung came a day after Indian cricket chief Jagmohan Dalmiya slammed the governing body for favouring England in the row over playing in Zimbabwe.

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