NEW DELHI/MUMBAI China’s Vivo has pulled out as title sponsor of this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL), two sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters, amid a growing backlash against Chinese companies in India.
Smartphone maker Vivo had secured the IPL sponsorship rights for 2018-2022 for nearly 22 billion rupees ($293 million).
“They (Vivo) have pulled out of this year’s title sponsorship. We’re are looking for a new partner. Everything will be finalised soon,” an IPL governing council member who asked to remain anonymous said.
The member declined to elaborate on the reasons for the decision, but a second source, also a governing council member, said Vivo had withdrawn partly because of the weak business environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic and because of widespread anti-China sentiment in India following a border clash.
Vivo has currently pulled out only for the 2020 tournament, both the sources said.
Vivo did not respond to a request for comment. Indian cricket board (BCCI) president Sourav Ganguly and IPL Chairman Brijesh Patel did not reply to calls and messages from Reuters.
There is growing pressure on Chinese companies in India following a border clash in June when 20 Indian soldiers were killed.
India has banned Chinese firm ByteDance’s TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps, and made approval processes more stringent for Chinese companies wanting to invest in the country.
The IPL Governing Council had in June said it would review its sponsorship deals in light of the border skirmish.
Yet its decision to retain Vivo, taken over the weekend, sparked protests by a Hindu nationalist group close to India’s ruling party which threatened to call for an IPL boycott unless the decision was reconsidered.
The second source said India’s cricket board, the BCCI, was keen to retain Vivo as it would not be easy to find a new sponsor in the current economic environment.
The popular franchise-based Indian Twenty20 league, which could not be held this year in India because of the COVID-19 crisis, is set to be played in the United Arab Emirates from Sept. 19.
(Writing by Aditya Kalra; Additional reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal; Editing by Toby Davis)
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