Sahara withdraws India team sponsorship

MUMBAI: Looks like the Sahara "Parivar" decided enough was enough. The Indian cricket team sponsor today withdrew its sponsorship and opens the possibility of the ongoing backroom maneuverings between the Indian cricket board BCCI and the ICC getting seriously messy.

Sahara's decision to withdraw its multi-million-dollar sponsorship came after the International Cricket Council objected to the "wings" graphic on its logo. Now it remains to be seen how the BCCI responds to this one-stroke wipeout of what at the time the deal was announced in June 2001 was called the largest of its kind worldwide. Industry speculation has put the deal as being worth Rs 1,000 million over five years. However, Sahara India promoter Subrata Roy has gone on record at a press conference in Lucknow in February this year that the actual value of the deal was much lower.

The Press Trust of India first put out the news that Sahara had withdrawn its sponsorship not too long after the Indian team took the field against Zimbabwe, in their Champions Trophy lung-opener in Colombo today without any logo on their jerseys.

Now all eyes (and ears) will be on BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya's next move. Dalmiya had been quoted as saying yesterday that said the board was looking into the matter and would be making a statement today.

The developments followed Thursday's refusal by the ICC to accept Sahara India's revised logo, which had "Subrata" (after its chairman Subrata Roy) on the team shirts. The ICC's contention that the wings graphic in the new logo conflicts with the interests of global sponsor South African Airways was termed as unacceptable by the Sahara management, which even threatened to take the matter to court.

"ICC's new objections 24 hours before India's first match is beyond any reasoning or rationale," Sahara India's spokesman Sanjay Lal was quoted as saying yesterday in a statement.

The ICC approved the new brand name of 'Subrata' but said, "It is subject to the removal from the proposed design of any element that is carried over from the Sahara brand. What it [the logo] can't use is elements of the Sahara logo. We are simply seeking to ensure that the new brand is actually a new brand and not simply Sahara in a different form," an ICC statement said.

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