Chinese mobile phone manufacturer Vivo will not be the title sponsor for Indian Premier League’s 2020 season, due to start on September 19 in the United Arab Emirates, PTI reported on Tuesday.
The development has not been confirmed yet by the Board of Control for Cricket in India or Vivo.
Vivo is reportedly in talks with the BCCI for an “amicable separation” amid border tensions between India and China. The one-year pullout could be treated as a moratorium period and if the relations improve, BCCI may look at inking a fresh three-year deal with the company from 2021 to 2023 on revised terms.
“Yes, the discussions are on between BCCI office-bearers [president Sourav Ganguly and secretary Jay Shah] with the representatives of the company. There is a possibility that Vivo will not be title sponsors for one year,” a senior BCCI official told PTI.
After repeatedly delaying the tournament because of the coronavirus pandemic, the IPL announced on Sunday that the the 13th edition will start in UAE. While the official release did not mention anything about sponsorship deals, PTI had reported that all sponsors were retained for this edition. The decision was met with widespread backlash on social media.
It is worth noting that Vivo’s deal was worth Rs 440 crore per year. After coming on board for the first time in 2015, Vivo retained the IPL title sponsorship rights in June 2017 for five seasons (2018 to 2022). Their winning bid was Rs 2199 crores which represented an increase of 454% over the five-year contract that was signed by BCCI in 2012.
On June 19 this year, in the aftermath of the Ladakh stand-off, the IPL had said: “Taking note of the border skirmish that resulted in the martyrdom of our brave jawans, the IPL Governing Council has convened a meeting next week to review IPL’s various sponsorship deals.”
The Times of India reported on Tuesday that one of the eight IPL franchises informed the other teams of “Vivo’s impending exit given the hostility towards Chinese brands that has been around post the border skirmish between the two countries some time ago.”
With growing calls around the country for boycotting Chinese goods, there were question marks over the yearly Rs 440 crore title sponsorship deal IPL had with Vivo. Having won the bid first in 2015, the mobile phone manufacturer retained the title sponsorship rights for the IPL for a five-year period starting from 2017.
“All I can say is that all our sponsors are with us. Hopefully you can read between the lines,” an IPL Governing Council member had told PTI on Sunday.
The Confederation of All India Traders, which claims 70 million small business members, said the Indian government should block the IPL tournament for showing “utter disregard” to public anger over the border deaths.
Swadeshi Jagran Manch, the cultural arm of the influential Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sang threatened a boycott of the IPL unless the Chinese sponsor was dropped.
“We want to urge the IPL organisers to reconsider their stand on sponsorship by Chinese companies,” read an SJM statement. “Please remember the nation’s pride and security above all,” it added.
The Indian government had banned 59 Chinese apps, including video sharing platform TikTok, citing national security and privacy concerns. The order by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology came two weeks after Indian soldiers were killed in a violent clash with their Chinese counterparts in Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control. Following the incident, there had been outrage in India, and calls for banning Chinese products. There were protests around the country, with some people destroying and burning Chinese-made goods
Chinese officials have also expressed concern at other measures taken by the government which they see as freezing Chinese enterprises out of the Indian market of 1.3 billion people.
Some opposition politicians have however blamed the government for the decision to keep the Chinese sponsors for the key cricket contest which is a huge revenue earner.
Congress party spokesman Randeep Surjewala accused the government of “profiteering and double standards” in the cricket case by not forcing the IPL to act.
“In different circumstances, if the sponsors don’t keep commitment, BCCI can encash the bank guarantee which it had earlier done in case of errant franchises. But here, both parties are looking at an amicable escape route,” the official told PTI.
“These are sensitive times and need a cautious approach. Once you had said that you will review sponsorship and then did nothing about it, would raise a question mark over your intent on dealing with the Chinese companies.”
The BCCI is understood to be in talks with a couple of Indian companies who are believed to be interested in a short-term sponsorship deal – one year period.
“It will be difficult to make up the full amount (Rs 440 crore) in such a short time with the tournament being held overseas. Also, there won’t be much traction in an empty stadium. But we will come to that once Vivo officially quits,” the official said.
(With PTI and AFP inputs)