With cricket already facing a crisis of credibility, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) was hit with a financial challenge as well on Tuesday after the Sahara Group pulled out of the domestic Twenty20 league and announced it would not renew its contract with the national team which ends in December.
Sahara’s announcement that it was withdrawing as Pune Warriors owners came after the board encashed its bank guarantee for non-payment of franchise fee. Sahara had failed to pay Rs. 170 crore by May 19, but the fact that the BCCI didn’t heed to its request not to encash points to a lack of trust between two sides.
Since coming on board in 2010, Sahara have been demanding that the BCCI should reduce the franchise fee.
Though the team was sold on the basis of a revenue calculation on 94 matches over 10 years, the number of matches was much less, so the fee should be cut, the group has been contending.
Last year, Sahara abruptly pulled out as franchise owner and India team sponsors on the morning of the player auctions in Bangalore. They agreed to stay on only after senior BCCI officials pacified the group. But the discontent remained as the group felt the BCCI did not take any step to get the arbitration process going to reduce the franchise fee.
Unable to get all players into the auction pool has also been a sore point with Sahara. Pune Warriors, the most expensive buy that cost Sahara around Rs. 1,700 crore (10 years) has also failed to make an impression. After finishing at the bottom in their first two seasons, they are second last this time.
Squarely blaming the BCCI for its decision, Sahara asked the board not to approach it for reconciliation. In a statement, the group said it had not pulled out at the start of the league season despite legal advice in “utter sportsmanship spirit”.
Sahara said a day after it played the last league match, “the BCCI representative was there in the bank to revoke the bank guarantee”. “We still tried to contact (board) for amicable settlement, but could not get anybody on phone in time,” it added.