Birmingham City Council has performed an embarrassing U-turn over news of a proposed sponsorship of Warwickshire County Cricket Club.
It was revealed on Tuesday that the authority was considering a £4million deal to rename the cricket ground as the City of Birmingham Edgbaston Stadium.
The proposals also included the T20 team being named the Birmingham Bears.
But hours after a document detailing the proposed deal appeared on a council committee website, the authority’s press office issued a statement denying the document even existed – and dismissed the sponsorship out of hand.
And a statement issued from council leader Sir Albert Bore’s offices said: “This is a bit of kite flying.
"We have been in discussions with the cricket club but not about naming rights, rather general support. Considering our financial situation we cannot afford to be talking about sponsorship deals.”
Yet the deal is set to be discussed by the Partnership and Contracts Scrutiny Committee next Tuesday.
It has already been given a cautious welcome by the chairman, Labour councillor Majid Mahmood.
But the farce was condemned by Martin Mullaney, a former Lib Dem cabinet member for leisure, sport and culture.
He said: “This is total incompetence by the Labour administration running Birmingham.”
A council source explained that the proposals were initially and quietly rejected late last year as unjustifiable against a backdrop of budget cuts.
However, extra social, education, sporting and community benefits were added to the sponsorship deal and it was thought worthy of reconsideration – which is why it was put to the Scrutiny Committee.
The proposed deal now includes more than 60,000 tickets a year being passed on to schools, sports clubs and community groups.
The sponsorship also has a guarantee of school visits, jobs being offered to city residents and locals receiving access to the ground for coaching, fun days and events.
Meanwhile, Warwickshire CCC supporters, particularly those living outside the city, were angered by suggestions that the T20 team could be re-named Birmingham Bears as part of the deal.
Dan White said: “I’m a Bears fan from North Warwickshire not Birmingham – I want to support the county, not Birmingham.”