Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan ‘rejected’ lucrative offers from betting companies

By
Kasim Abbasi
Pakistani batters Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam make a run during a match against South Africa played at Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai, India on October 27, 2023. —Reuters
Pakistani batters Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam make a run during a match against South Africa played at Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai, India on October 27, 2023. —Reuters

  • Babar Azam was offered a Rs250 million yearly contract.
  • Mohammad Rizwan rejected Rs100 million deal offer. 
  • Babar, Rizwan's image rights given against their will, says source. 


ISLAMABAD: The duo of Pakistani stars Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan rejected sponsorship offers worth millions of rupees from betting companies, The News reported Monday.

According to documented emails available with the publication, the players were approached by these illegal companies which have collaborated with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).

The development comes amid “conflict of interest” allegations against former chief selector Inzimam-ul-Haq which is being probed by a fact-finding committee. However, he has denied all these allegations and resigned from the post.

The report stated that the cricket board, in clear violation of the rules, accepted sponsorship from a surrogate betting sponsor like Dafa News which allegedly not only opened the floodgate for more than 150 illegal surrogate betting sites and apps to operate in Pakistan on all digital platforms but also allegedly led to some of the PSL franchises forcing players on individual levels to accept shirt logos and give image rights to the illegal betting companies.

‘As Muslims, we do not support any betting’

A source in one of the betting companies also disclosed that Babar had refused a Rs250 million yearly contract while Mohammad Rizwan refused a Rs100 million yearly contract by just one surrogate betting company solely because such sponsorships and contracts were against the law.

It is pertinent to mention here that Rizwan, who is the captain of Multan Sultans, refused to put the logo of WOLF777 on his kit during the last Pakistan Super League tournament.

An email sent to Babar by the 1XBET betting company — which is available to The News — stated that the company was impressed by the player’s social media platform and wanted to work with him.

However, the reply by Saya Corporation, which is responsible for Babar’s individual sponsorships, investments and advertisement, said, “Thank you. As Muslims, we do not support any betting or surrogate betting brands. Thank you for reaching out.” 

This email is also present with The News.

The same kind of offer was sent to Rizwan where the response was the same, a documented email shared by the source revealed.

‘Image rights given against players’ will’

The source further revealed that the PCB had given the image rights of Babar and Rizwan to these betting companies against their will.

This source also provided The News with digital media ads of 1XBET using their images against their will and allegedly under the blanket image rights approval granted to the surrogate betting companies because of their sponsorship to the PCB, PSL and some of the franchises.

“Babar, Rizwan along with others have clearly refused contracts from such companies yet the PCB along with PSL franchises has given their image rights to us,” said the source.

According to the unnamed official, some of the PSL franchises also forced players to wear the logo of these surrogate betting companies at all costs which is a clear violation of the freedom of speech and freedom of rights of the players.

The PCB’s code of conduct or rules clearly states, “The Services/ Campaign shall not support any activity (commercial or otherwise) associated with betting, gambling, tobacco, alcohol, illegal drugs, weapons, obscene of sexually explicit language; which advocates the violation of Pakistani law or PCB’s policies”.

‘Dafa News is a news organisation’

Meanwhile, a PCB spokesperson has clarified that since the "Zero Tolerance Against Surrogate Betting Companies" notification by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, no such sponsor had been engaged.

“Dafa News is a news organisation. Its paperwork was scrutinised by our legal and commercial departments and no common ownership stake was identified with a betting concern,” the official maintained.

It is pertinent to mention here that the information ministry has categorically stated Dafa News as a surrogate betting company operating in Pakistan through a notification issued on September 25.

“The PCB strictly prohibits all forms of betting or associated activities. Certain news sites may have been sponsors but it has always been ensured that there is no ownership overall of any sort in terms of their certificate of incorporation and shareholders with any alleged betting concerns,” the spokesperson maintained.

Explaining further, the spokesperson said that there were allegations against these companies which have not been ratified by a court of law.

“However, needless to say, the PCB will abide by all relevant laws and ethical provisions in terms of seeking sponsors for all upcoming events,” he added.

Crackdown launched

The surrogate betting companies infiltrated Pakistan through cricket when ads started to appear in Pakistan cricket around 2021.

As of the PSL 2023, four out of the total six PSL franchises boarded betting surrogates as their key sponsors and the PCB failed to regulate them.

The government has initiated a crackdown on more than 150 surrogate betting companies operating in Pakistan causing billions of dollars of loss to the national economy, The News recently reported.

Caretaker Minister for Information and Broadcasting Murtaza Solangi revealed to The News that all institutions were united along with the military establishment in eliminating the betting companies.

However, after more than a month since the issuance of the notification by the government, all betting applications are still running and no action has been taken by the authorities till now.