ICC cannot afford to kill golden goose, says Wadekar

Published: Friday, August 23, 2002, 0:46 [IST]
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Mumbai: The International Cricket Council's (ICC) assurance that cricketers signing contracts for next month's Champions Trophy would not be bound for the World Cup in 2003 appears to be only a short-term strategy to curb the sponsorship row and does not offer a permanent solution, experts said on Thursday. They said that even if the players agree to sign the players participation agreement for the Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka, the controversy would erupt again ahead of the World Cup.The only way to end the current impasse between the ICC and the warring players would be by way of a substantial change in certain clauses of the agreement between ICC and its global sponsors, they said. Key Indian players, including batting stars Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly, have been hesitant to sign the ICC contract as they have agreements with companies that are in competition with the ICC's sponsors. "The ICC cannot afford to kill the golden goose. A cricketer such as Sachin Tendulkar is a golden goose. What is an ICC tournament without him or Saurav Ganguly or for that matter any other star player from other teams," said Ajit Wadekar, a former India cricket captain. "People come to see them and because of them ICC gets its money. This is where the whole strategy to end the ongoing crisis falls flat. If there is not going to be a change in future contracts, how do you expect players to sign any agreement," Wadekar asked. "In fact what the ICC is doing is making way for another (Kerry) Packer to come and change all the rules of the game." He said the way things were at the moment, the ICC had no option but to change controversial clauses, especially the 'ambush marketing' clause. The clause stipulates that no cricketer who has signed the contract would be allowed to endorse products of rivals of the global sponsors of ICC for 30 days on either side of any ICC tournament. Indian cricketers such as Tendulkar (the world's richest cricketer), Ganguly and a few others have high-paying long-term contracts with corporates such as Pepsi, Visa, Adidas, Sahara group, Samsung, TVS group and Fiat. Tendulkar has a five-year contract with Adidas worth $ 20 million, as well as a host of other lucrative endorsements. Some of these corporates directly compete with the ICC's own sponsors, such as LG, South African Airways and Hero Honda. The ICC has sold its tournament rights up to 2007 to these and other such sponsors for $ 550 million. "The ICC has stirred a hornets' nest by its insistence of certain clauses of the contract," said former Indian international billiards player Michael Ferreira, a well known commentator on sporting issues. "The trouble is that ICC is basically an English institution and probably went by the fact that their players have hardly any endorsements to speak of," Ferreira wrote in his column in the daily newspaper 'Mid-day'. The cricket sponsorship row continued on Thursday, with the three warring parties - the ICC, the Board of Cricket Control for India (BCCI) and the players - all sticking to their guns. Indian officials refused to bow to players' power and decided Wednesday to send a second-string team for next month's Champions Trophy because the leading players are refusing to sign the ICC contract. Australia on Thursday said it would send a full-strength cricket team to the Champions Trophy, but warned the ongoing dispute still threatened next year's World Cup. BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah also said the board had ruled out further talks with those who have not signed the contract. Most of the former Indian players however appeared supporting the stand taken by the present Indian cricketers in the present controversy. "They (cricketers) have stood for a cause and should remain united in their efforts. Remember, the power of many outweighs the power of one," said popular commentator and former cricketer Navjot Sidhu.

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