Their association with cricket might have gone sour but Sahara Group is set to renew its long-term sponsorship deal with Indian hockey by signing a five-year agreement with Hockey India, the modalities of which have been worked out.
Under the agreement, expected to be signed in the next few days, the country's men's and women's hockey teams at both the senior and junior level will get the financial backing of the corporate giant till 2017.
"More or less everything has been finalised. Most probably tomorrow, the agreement would be signed. We are hoping for a deal worth between Rs 15 to 17 crore because we need more money to promote the sport," a Hockey India official told PTI on condition of anonymity.
When contacted, a top official of Sahara said the company is keen to continue its association with hockey and the picture will become clear within the next two to three days.
"Nothing has been finalised as yet. Talks are on with Hockey India and within next 2-3 days we are expecting to take a decision," Sahara India's corporate communications head, Abhijit Sarkar told PTI.
"Our sponsorship deal with Indian hockey ended last month after and Hockey India has approached us to renew the contract," he added.
If a deal is worked out, the Indian team will sport the Sahara logo on their jerseys during the Olympic qualifiers to be held here from February 18 to 26. Indian hockey's six-month extended sponsorship deal with Sahara ended last month before the five-match Test series against South Africa (for men) and four-Test rubber against Azerbaijan (for women), following which HI approached the company for another extension on a pro-rata basis.
The Sahara Group had first signed a sponsorship deal with then Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) in July 2003 for eight years. The development comes as a major boost for the Indian team in this Olympic year. The men's team will face Canada, Singapore, France, Italy and Poland, while the women's team will square off against South Africa, Poland, Canada, Ukraine and Italy in the Olympic qualifiers.
Earlier, in a sudden development Sahara, sponsor of the Indian Cricket team for over 11 years, decided to part ways with the BCCI last week. The company had announced that the money saved would be used for the development of other sports and welfare work.