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Mahesh Bhupathi was on Friday accused of non-payment of dues by the production company that was involved in the broadcast of his star-studded league IPTL but the Indian tennis ace said he was not responsible for the situation.
Bhupathi founded the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) in 2014 and the league, which featured stars such as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams among others, was halted after the 2016 season due to financial crunch.
The veteran Indian player, also the non-playing captain of the Indian Davis Cup team, has been accused of "breaking the business code" by TV Production company Broadcast Sports News.
However, Bhupathi while admitting the delay in payments, said IPTL crashed not because of him but due to an alleged "fraud" committed by the Legenderi group, which owned one of the teams.
Broadcast Sports News issued a statement, which was shared on social media by the company's graphic designer Steph Trudel, accusing Bhupathi and IPTL of not paying 'the fees for labour and associated expenses for the 2016 season'.
"Twenty two months later and the entire production crew, technology service providers, satellite uplink and distribution suppliers, chair umpires and court surface provider remain unpaid including their expenses, visas costs, per diems (daily allowance) and ground transport fees," the statement read.
When contacted, Bhupathi admitted that the League owes the players and the vendors about USD five million claimed that the Legendari Group was largely responsible for the mess.
"There have been pending dues to the tune of approx USD five million from the league to players majorly, most of them are my colleagues and vendors as well. It's been extremely painful in general but we will get it done one way or another it's just this process of recovery needs time," Bhupathi told PTI.
On how the League reached this situation, the multiple-time doubles Grand Slam champion said, "In 2016, one of the IPTL team owners, the Legenderi group, that owned the Japan franchise turned out to be frauds and their share of the payment, close to USD eight million, was the reason things came down."
"The management has constantly been in contact with all confirming that as and when recovery in any fashion happens, the dues will be cleared, majority of them have been cooperative since in the first two seasons the event was a success. I guess some got tired of waiting," said Bhupathi.
Broadcast Sports News also stated that the organisers were aware of the financial issues, but chose to go ahead with the event. "A spokesperson representing the IPTL crew explained, 'What is most frustrating is that the IPTL continued in December 2016 while the management team knew there were insufficient funds available to pay for it'," it read.
While most of the players have remained silent on the issue, Croatian Marin Cilic had spoken about the non-payment early this year, without giving going into the details. It has also been reported that Singapore Slammers had sent IPTL a legal notice to recover their dues but Bhupathi denied receiving it.
"It's business. There are ups and downs. It concerns just me others should keep out of it," he said.