The Twenty20 Champions League has lost its title sponsor due to lack of interest in the multi-nation club tournament, according to Indian media.
Telecom giant Airtel ended its three-year deal worth $40 million after two years, citing low viewership, the Economic Times quoted company officials.
Tournament broadcaster ESPN-Star, which reportedly paid $1 billion for 10-year media rights for the tournament, confirmed the company had pulled out.
“Airtel had other brand investments to make and it was not possible for them to pump money into the Champions League,” ESPN-Star’s Executive Vice-President for Sales and New Media Sanjay Kailash told the newspaper.
The Champions League was launched in 2009 by the cricket boards of India, Australia and South Africa in the wake of the hugely popular Indian Premier League (IPL). But its first two editions, played in India and South Africa, failed to ignite the same interest as the IPL, partly, analysts say, due to a lack of marquee name players.
“It’s a folly to think every cricket match will sell in India,” said a media executive. “The IPL is popular in India because each of the 10 teams has a few national stars and fans can identify with them.
“Most of the foreign teams have players who are sometimes unknown even in their own country,” he said
This year’s edition of the Champions League Twenty20 tournament kicks off in India from September 19. The qualifiers will be played in Hyderabad from September 19, while the main tournament will be held in Chennai, Bangalore and Kolkata from September 23.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2011.