It’s not just Kolkata’s icon Sourav Ganguly who has been dropped from captaining Shah Rukh Khan’s IPL team this season. The name “Kolkata” has been dropped from all Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) merchandise.
The team is still called KKR, but official sources said this could change to Knight Riders in the next IPL season.
Sources in Reebok, the official merchandise partner for the team, said it was Shah Rukh Khan-owned company’s decision. Hence, the city’s name has been dropped from all T-shirts, socks and accessories.
Sources indicated the company was actively looking at shifting base to other cities following the controversies involving Sourav Ganguly’s captaincy.
The company is registered as Knight Riders Private Ltd and all vouchers are issued under this name. As the team belonged to Kolkata, with seven home-playing matches in Kolkata last season and with Sourav Ganguly’s involvement in them, the brand used for the team name and the merchandise was “Kolkata Knight Riders” in IPL1.
“If the matches had not shifted from Kolkata, the merchandise would have continued to have ‘Kolkata’ Knight Riders written on them,” said the source.
“KKR is more popular as Shah Rukh Khan’s team than for Kolkata. So, merchandise sales will not be affected. Also, shifting base to other cities like Ahmedabad will help the company manage its administrative issues better and keep it away from more controversies. Dropping ‘Kolkata’ from the team’s merchandise will bring worldwide appeal,” said the source. Reebok sources said merchandise sales in India had dipped by more than 30 per cent this year compared with last year but the opportunity to sell merchandise the world over had opened up. “So, there may not be a dip in overall revenues,” said a source.
Financially, Knight Riders was the most successful franchise last year, achieving a profit of Rs 13 crore.
The speculation last year that KKR would shift base from Kolkata to Ahmedabad was fuelled by the money demanded by the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) in the last season. However, after a meeting with former ICC and BCCI chief Jagmohan Dalmiya, Shah Rukh Khan assured that his team would stay in Kolkata.
There were other controversies around KKR. According to reports, Shah Rukh Khan wanted Sourav Ganguly to speak to West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee about the entertainment tax on matches at Eden Garden. Ganguly turned down the request. Also, Shah Rukh was barred by the International Cricket Council Anti-Corruption Unit from entering the dressing room of the team last year.