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  Friday, 3 November, 2000, 03:38 GMT
What price sponsorship?
Matthew Hoggard
Matthew Hoggard bowls against a Cornhill backdrop
By BBC Sport Online's Mark Barden

The Indian Central Bureau of Investigation report on corruption in international cricket could hardly have come at a worse time for the English game's govening body.

The England and Wales Cricket Board is currently seeking sponsors for two domestic competitions as well as the Test series against Australia and Pakistan next summer.

Last month PPP Healthcare announced it was ending its association with the County Championship after two years citing what it described as 'commercial reasons'.

Their decision followed that of Cornhill Insurance to end its sponsorship of England's home Tests after 23 years.

National Westminster Bank has also decided it will no longer bankroll the English game's premier knockout competition - the NatWest Trophy is no more.


The ECB publicly expresses confidence that it will find new commercial partners, and is hoping to unveil a new County Championship sponsor by Christmas.

But with the CBI report sending shockwaves through the cricket world, will blue-chip sponsors want to be associated with the sport?

Terry Blake, ECB Marketing Director
ECB marketing boss Terry Blake has a tough task
ECB spokesman Mark Hodgson said: "Anything that tarnishes the name of cricket can't be good for the game, but it's very hard to say what the perception of potential sponsors might be.

"The Central Bureau of Investigation report has only just been made public, so it really is too early to judge how it might, if at all, affect people's attitudes towards cricket."

Dr Greg Harris, lecturer in marketing at London's City University, said: "Sponsorship is a very fickle market in which it often proves difficult to hold on to clients

"The whole business is very subjective, and it certainly doesn't take many negative factors to persuade a company not to pursue a particular sport or event.

"Any sponsorship is about brand awareness, but if the perception it generated was, say, 'brand name equals cricket equals corruption', it would be a short-lived affair."


Cornhill's long partnership with Test cricket was, according to corporate communications manager Geoff Mayhew, "very fruitful, but we took our decision to end it for sound business reasons

Mark Alleyne, Gloucestershire
Any takers? Mark Alleyne lifts the NatWest trophy
"After a fairly major reorganisation, Cornhill was no longer a single brand so it no longer made commercial sense to sponsor Test cricket as one company.

"The commitment needed - the fee alone for the last year of our deal was 3.2m - meant it did not make financial sense for a single sub-brand of the Allianz Cornhill group to continue as sponsors.

"So we bowed out, happily on a high note with England beating the West Indies."

But will companies be queueing up to take Cornhill's place?


Mr Mayhew said: "Our association with the game helped to take public recognition of the Cornhill brand to heights we could never have dreamed about.

"I'm sure Test sponsorship could be of similar benefit to other companies, especially emerging brands trying to establish themselves in particular markets."

As with any sport, cricket has to be clean
Cornhill spokesman Geoff Mayhew
He added: "It's not my place to comment on the Indian report and its contents, but personally I hope that cricket can overcome these problems.

"It's vital for the future of the game that it can be held in the highest respect by sponsors, participants and the public alike. As with any sport, cricket has to be clean."

Dr Harris believes that, ultimately, cricket's profile is high enough to overcome all but the most serious image problems.

"The benefits of sponsorship are very intangible - it's hard to measure its impact. But if a company's board thinks a sport or event is a 'good fit', they will pursue it.

"Despite the large sums of money involved, you would be astonished at how intuitive, even anarchic, the sponsorship decision-making process can be."

In-depth section on corruption in cricket

The clean-up begins

The key players

Background features



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