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Vivo pulls out of Indian Premier League title sponsorship

A sports journalist browses VIVO sponsor IPL cricket logo on his mobile phone in Hyderabad on June 22, 2020. (Photo by NOAH SEELAM/AFP via Getty Images)

Chinese mobile phone maker Vivo has withdrawn as title sponsor of this year’s Indian Premier League, amid political tensions between China and India.

Vivo’s deal is reported to be worth Rs4.4bn ($59m/€50m) per year, and was to run from 2018 to 2022. The company says it will fulfil the remaining three years of the deal in 2021 to 2023 instead.

The Press Trust of India reported that Vivo cited the coronavirus pandemic as the principal reason it was pulling out of the deal this year. However, it does so amid intense debate in India over the country’s relations with Chinese companies, after a military clash at the India-China border in June that saw 20 Indian troops killed.

The Indian government has banned dozens of Chinese smartphone apps, including the video sharing platform TikTok, and taken other measures to restrict trade with China. There have been calls for a boycott of Chinese goods and cricket authorities including the IPL have come under scrutiny for their sponsorship deals with Chinese firms.

On Monday, there had been reports Vivo would remain as sponsor of this year’s tournament.

Swadeshi Jagran Manch, the economic arm of the politically-powerful right-wing, Hindu nationalist organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, told India Today that if the IPL went ahead with its decision to keep Vivo on board then it would call for a boycott of the cricket tournament.

The sudden withdrawal of the title sponsor leaves the BCCI with a financial void it will be difficult to fill at short notice. With the IPL now confirmed to begin on September 19 to November 10 in three venues in the UAE – Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi – the governing body is reported to be in discussions with Indian companies to step in for 2020 and is considering a tender for the new sponsorship in the next few days.