Sahara and BCCI reach agreement; Pune to play in IPL

The tussle between the Indian cricket Board and sponsors Sahara seems to have finally reached an end with the Board agreeing to Sahara's demands on Thursday.

Updated: February 17, 2012 00:39 IST
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New Delhi: The BCCI and the aggrieved Sahara Group on Thursday reached a compromise after a series of hectic negotiations over the past few days, paving the way for Pune Warriors' participation in the fifth edition of the IPL.

(Also read: Full text of the joint statement | The BCCI-Sahara patch-up in 10 points | The timeline of the BCCI-Sahara saga)

Sahara, which had severed ties with the Board and withdrawn the Team India sponsorship on February 4, will return as a sponsor following the truce which brought an end to the 12-day stalemate.

The major concessions Pune Warriors got was an extension of the trading window till the end of February, re-activation of their auction purse, the possibility of being allowed five foreign players (subject to the agreement of the other franchises), and an arbitrator to decide on their demand for a concession in the franchise fee.

Both BCCI and Sahara issued a joint statement, giving details of the agreement.

Regarding the contentious issue of replacement for marquee player Yuvraj Singh, who is undergoing treatment for cancer in the United States, Sahara has offered to obtain the consent of all the franchises for fielding five foreign players for the IPL matches. The trading window has also been extended.

"To extend the trading window, which was due to close on Friday 17 February, until Wednesday 29 February 2012 to give Pune Warriors India the opportunity to have successful negotiations with other franchises as it looks to strengthen its squad," the joint statement said.

"Re-activation of the Auction Purse of Pune Warriors India so that it can take a number of players, subject to the squad composition regulations," it added.

This was a key Sahara demand - it means that the $ 1.8 million spent on Yuvraj is added to its purse for this year of $ 1.6 million - after accounting for the 400,000 dollars spent to acquire Sourav Ganguly - to make a substantial $ 3.4 milion dollars that it can spend in the next 10 days. Yuvraj, who is battling cancer, will not play this season.

The BCCI and Sahara have also agreed to start arbitration proceedings to address Sahara’s demand for a reduction in franchise fee for 74 matches last season. Sahara paid 1,702 crore for the Pune franchise in 2010, more than three times the cost of any of the original eight teams. It had asked the BCCI to reduce their franchise fee because only 74 matches were played in the 2011 season as opposed to 94 as originally proposed by BCCI. The bidding and the valuation for the franchises had been structured around the number of matches originally proposed by BCCI.

The BCCI also did not have any issues with Sahara seeking a strategic partner in the Pune Warriors India franchise, subject to terms of the Franchise Agreement.

"In respect of their request to sign overseas players who were not included in the Auction Register, subject to the relevant player regulations, BCCI agrees to the request subject to the views of all other franchise," the joint statement, signed by BCCI President N Srinivasan and Sahara Group Chairman Subrata Roy, said.

Sahara also requested for one of the play-off matches scheduled to be played in Bengaluru to be played in Pune, and the BCCI said it was in principle agreeable to host one of the play-off in the new Pune stadium subject to the consent of Royal Challengers Bangalore.

The right to host the play-off matches is awarded to the finalists from previous edition, in this case Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Sahara has also requested to furnish the Bank Guarantee against the Franchisee fee in two installments and the BCCI has agreed to consider it at the next available opportunity.

"Notwithstanding the recent working committee decision rejecting 5 foreign players in the playing XI, in consideration of the exceptional circumstance and the non-availability of Yuvraj Singh, Sahara has offered to obtain the consent of all the franchises for the submission to the BCCI," the statement said.

"Sahara confirms that it will continue sponsorship of the Indian team. Sahara may want to exercise its right to assign the sponsorship as per the agreement," said the statement.

Soon after the joint statement was issued, BCCI insisted that they have not bent rules and the matter has been resolved within the framework of rules and regulations.

"The matter has been resolved. We are happy. Whatever issues were there, have been addressed. Whatever was possible within the framework, has been achieved. We have not bent rules," IPL Chairman Rajiv Shukla said.

Sahara Group Chairman Subrata Roy, said an open auction without any player retention to make the cash-rich Twenty20 league more entertaining should be considered.

Roy said that doing away with player retention would lead to the teams being more balanced which he said would produce more thrilling matches.

"One request of ours is not included in the joint statement, but BCCI has definitely given us very positive assurance for looking into the matter seriously in the near future," Roy said in a statement.

"There should be perfect level playing field. We have strongly requested open auction without any kind of retention. Due to retention policy, a disparity in player ability and corresponding payment structure is created," he said.

Sahara, sponsor of the Indian team for over 11 years, decided to part ways with the BCCI on February 4, complaining that the Board did not give due consideration to its genuine grievances with regards to players and number of matches in the IPL. The decision to severe all ties with BCCI was taken just hours before the IPL auction got underway in Bangalore.

The BCCI's Working Committee had met in Chennai on February 13 but had failed to resolve the standoff.

The Board's Working Committee rejected some demands of the long-time sponsor and refused to make "exceptions" for the company.

After over three hours of deliberation at its Working Committee meeting, the BCCI said it had communicated its decisions with regards to Sahara's demands to the company and had hoped for a "favourable response".

Sahara had signed a renewed sponsorship agreement with the BCCI on July 1, 2010 till December 31, 2013 and was paying Rs. 3.34 crore per Test match, one-day international and Twenty20 International under the new terms. The deal is said to be worth Rs. 532 crore.

The BCCI could have lost close to Rs 2000 crore if no solution.

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