London: The International Cricket Council (ICC) warned players on Wednesday thinking of withdrawing from this September's ICC Champions Trophy for commercial reasons that it would not soften its stance.
The ICC have signed up a number of official sponsors for the Trophy, effectively a mini World Cup, but many leading players have agreements with rival firms. However, the ICC is determined to support its backers if those competing companies try to take a piggyback ride on the event through so-called 'ambush marketing'. In a statement ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed said, "Every major sporting event provides protection to their partners and anyone involved in elite sport would recognise that this is an essential component of being able to stage this event. "In structuring these agreements, ICC has used the experience of previous Cricket World Cups. As a result, the protections in place today largely duplicate those that have existed previously, in particular the protections that were in place for the 1999 Cricket World Cup in England." Perhaps cricket's most famous example of 'ambush marketing' came at the 1996 World Cup where Pepsi tried to sabotage arch-rival and official sponsor Coca-Cola's plans by flying air-balloons with their logo on near match venues. The ICC has asked national Boards to ensure their best teams are available for leading events. Failure to do so could result in legal action from angry sponsors. The World Cup, to be held in South Africa next February and March, faces the same problem because the ICC won't budge on its intention to fully protect its major sponsors. That creates a potential conflict of interest for some of cricket's biggest names, including the Australians and Indian Sachin Tendulkar. The ICC Trophy starts on September 12 in Colombo and will feature all the world's leading sides. In 2000 the ICC signed a $ 550 million rights agreement for all its events until 2007 and stressed again on Wednesday that some of the money would filter down to players in terms of increased prize money. England and Pakistan both expect their players to agree to the ICC Champions Trophy contract but the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) has advised its members against signing. "It isn't about a money grab, it's about a fundamental principle," ACA chief executive Tim May said on Tuesday. "A player is not being allowed to endorse any product or service where that product or service conflicts with that of an ICC major sponsor," the former Australia off spinner added. May said it was premature to talk about a boycott of the Champions Trophy, which involves cricket's 10 Test-playing nations, but he said the players would not sign the current agreements. "That would mean a player would have to breach an existing contract and that's not only unreasonable, it's unlawful," May said. "The players want to play in the tournament - make no mistake about that - but they are very concerned about that one clause."
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