India news December 8, 2013

Sahara mulls sponsorship re-bid for Indian team

Seven corporate houses, including incumbent sponsors, Sahara India Pariwar, have bought the bid document for bagging the title sponsors' rights of the Indian cricket team from 2014 to 2017. The deadline for the bids is 3pm on Monday, after which they will be opened.

The deadline for buying the bidding documents concluded on Saturday, and Sahara emerged late entrants in buying the invitation to the tender, priced at Rs 200000 (approximately $3200). Sahara's decision to continue its association with the national cricket team raised a few eyebrows.

During their prolonged tussle with the BCCI over the franchise fees of Pune Warriors, the IPL team that Sahara owned before it was terminated in October, Sahara's top management had announced their decision not to extend their title sponsorship contract.

Merely buying the invitation to tender doesn't necessarily mean a corporate will submit its bid. However, Sahara seem to be seriously mulling over submitting the bid document on Monday, when all the bids will be submitted and opened in the presence of all the bidders in Chennai. Two of the top-most Sahara executives were in Chennai to sort out their differences with BCCI bosses, including president N Srinivasan.

While Sahara officials claimed they have changed their mind following requests from top Indian cricketers, ESPNcricinfo understands that the BCCI's decision to slash the base price turned out to be the game changer for Sahara to start considering a re-bid. While Sahara have been paying Rs 3.34 crore (approx $543,000) per match from July 1, 2010, the BCCI has now set a base price of Rs 1.5 crore (approx $244,000) per match.

Even if Sahara decides to submit its bid, they will face stiff competition from some of the corporate giants. The other six entities who have bought the invitation to tender are Star India, Multi Screen Media, UB Group, Twenty First Century Media (TCM), World Sports Group and Gaames Unlimited.

Star India is the BCCI and ICC's official broadcast partner, and also succeeded in bagging series sponsors' rights for the BCCI's recent home series against Australia and West Indies. Multi Screen Media is the BCCI's broadcast partner for the IPL, while UB Group owns the IPL franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore.

It has been learned that TCM, a sports marketing and management company, has bought the tender document on behalf of Bharti Airtel, one of its premier clients. Airtel, who decided against renewing their series sponsorship association with the BCCI recently, had lost out to Sahara in the previous bid for the team's title sponsorship.

In a one-on-one battle in 2010, Airtel had submitted a bid for Rs 2.89 crore (approx $470,000) against the base price of Rs 2.5 crore (approx $407,000) per match, which was lower than Sahara's bid of Rs 3.34 crore (approx $543,000).

Similarly, WSG, a sports management firm, is understood to be representing a premier global airline firm which has been associated with international cricket. Gaames Unlimited, a sports management firm that represents more than a dozen India players, is unlikely to submit a bid.

Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo