Business of Sport
Airtel exits Champions League
Mumbai - Champions League Twenty20 organisers are searching for a new title sponsor after Bharti Airtel staged an early exit from its partnership.
The telecommunications company agreed a five-year deal in 2009 reportedly worth $40 million, but has decided to end its agreement with the cricket tournament after just two years. The move has been confirmed by ESPN Star Sports, the Champions League’s official broadcast partner.
"We confirm that due to unforeseen circumstances Airtel has exited the title sponsor slot for Champions League Twenty20 this year," Sanjay Kailash, ESPN Star’s executive vice-president for ad sales and new media, told ESPNcricinfo.
The Champions League, launched by the cricket boards of India, Australia and South Africa, gathers the world’s leading Twenty20 club teams, but has endured a difficult time since its first edition in 2009. The tournament’s scheduled first season in 2008 was cancelled after the Mumbai terrorist attack in November of that year. Since that time the event has struggled to generate strong television ratings in comparison to the all-powerful Indian Premier League.
Indian media reports state Airtel’s deal had an exit clause that allowed it to withdraw from the tournament if the ratings did not match expectations.
The 2011 Champions League is scheduled to be held in India from September 23 to October 9, and will be preceded for the first time by a qualifier from which three teams will progress to the main round to compete with seven others.
Kailash added that negotiations to sign a new title sponsor are already underway with a formal announcement expected soon. ESPN Star paid nearly $1 billion in 2008 for the 10-year-broadcasting rights to the tournament.