Robi Axiata pulls out of Bangladesh sponsorship deal

Mustafizur Rahman hurls a throw during a training session on Monday where Bangladesh players wore kits without a logo Raton Gomes/BCB

Robi Axiata, the telecom company, has ended its title sponsorship deal with the BCB. The board has expressed surprise over the decision, stating it had been in the process of getting players to terminate individual endorsement deals with rival brands - the reason behind Robi pulling out of their second two-year contract, which was due to extend until the 2019 World Cup.

"Robi has withdrawn from their sponsorship deal of Bangladesh national team," BCB chief executive Nizamuddin Chowdhury said. "They have said that since individual player endorsements with conflicting brands wasn't getting solved completely, they took this decision. But we felt that that they had a different strategic reason.

"We couldn't entirely accept their way of thinking. We took a number of steps after discussing this with Robi. Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal discontinued their individual deals with mobile companies. [ODI] captain Mashrafe Mortaza is also in the process of discontinuing his deal with Grameenphone. Since we were going through this process and they were informed about it, Robi's decision has surprised us."

In its statement on Sunday, Robi Axiata only said the current deal "falls short in upholding the spirit of the agreement", without divulging any more details. Robi had first signed a two-year contract with the BCB for BDT 41.41 crore (USD 5.32 million) in 2015, after Amby Valley, an affiliate of Sahara India Parivar, had also prematurely ended their title sponsorship contract with the BCB.

Chowdhury said individual players' endorsements with conflicting brands had been included in the terms with Robi in their second two-year deal, so Mashrafe's personal deal with Grameenphone, the country's leading telecom company, wasn't a problem. Still, Chowdhury said the BCB had asked the ODI captain to end his deal with Grameenphone, who had parted ways with Tamim following the board's directive earlier this year. Shakib terminated his deal with Banglalink, another telecom company, for the same reason.

"Individual players' conflicting brand has been in discussion for quite some time," Chowdhury said. "It was a matter of time before they were told to come out of their contracts. We needed breathing space, and we were reaching a settlement with Robi. So this sudden decision is disappointing. Still, we thank them for their support.

"These deals were done in different times. Mashrafe signed up [with Grameenphone] when there were no terms with Robi regarding the conflict, during the first two-year deal. It was added later. We addressed it accordingly when Shakib and Tamim did their deals. We mentioned in the settlement agreement with Robi that we are trying to come out of these deals."

Chowdhury, however, said such conflicts would not be allowed in the future. "Players' freedom and team sponsorship doesn't really go hand in hand," he said. "When a player does a deal, the company's massive branding dilutes the team sponsorship's own branding. So the board will have to stop players from going into these deals with conflicting brands."

The BCB will now look for a title sponsor ahead of the Asia Cup, which is three weeks away. "Legal teams from both sides are settling the matter," Chowdhury said. "We will claim the full amount during the course of our contracted period.

"We will send out a circular in the next day or two, as we are looking for a new sponsor before the Asia Cup."