All for profit

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The BCCI and IPL have proved that the individual is superior to the system, says Rahul Mehra

STUNG BY the poor performance of the Indian cricket team in the 1999-2000 India-Australia Test series, as an ardent cricket fan, I had filed a public interest litigation against the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and its member association, the Delhi & District Cricket Association (DDCA). In October 2004, the Delhi High Court ruled that the BCCI is accountable to the public, as it discharges important public functions. The ruling came even as the BCCI argued hard in court that it’s a private body not answerable to anyone. This case was once again upheld by the Supreme Court and referred to in the television rights case by Zee Telefilms.

Despite the judgment, the BCCI continues to enjoy monopoly power sans accountability. There still isn’t an iota of transparency in its functioning. It is common knowledge that the BCCI receives enormous benefits and concessions from the Union and state governments. It buys/hires land and stadia at ludicrous rates, gets entertainment/income tax exemptions and security — free of cost.

No sports federation in the country, however rich or powerful, can be allowed to function like private empires of businessmen — without any accountability or obligations to the public. Once again, the IPL controversy has brought forth the same issue that I had raised through my PIL in 2000. It is shocking to know that the IPL has no constitution of its own and is only a sub-committee of the BCCI. This makes the IPL, like its parent body, a “Not-for-Profit” as well. But is it really one? Only the probe ordered by the Finance Minister can reveal the truth.

It is imperative, therefore, for the BCCI/IPL to reveal how much money they have generated and how it is being spent. All such financial and other details should have been made available on its official website, which for reasons best known to them has been ‘under construction’ for over three years now.

Players like Pataudi, Gavaskar and Shastri are on the BCCI payroll. They don’t criticise it anymore

A glaring example of the IPL’S unprofessionalism is the whole issue of conflict of interest. BCCI Secretary N Srinivasan owns a 100 percent share in one of the IPL franchisees, the Chennai Super Kings (CSK). This is unethical. If one is a BCCI office-bearer, a member of the IPL Governing Council and also a stakeholder in one of the eight franchisees — the conflict of interest is evident. Why, then, was CSK’S initial bidding not disqualified? Besides, Chief National Selector K Srikkanth also happens to be the brand ambassador CSK.

Iconic players like MAK Pataudi, Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri — two of whom gave up their jobs in ESPN-Star Sports allegedly because they were promised higher fees by BCCI to be on its panel of commentators — are also paid members on the IPLGoverning Council and head various BCCI committees. It is learnt that these three players are being paid astronomical fees by the IPL to attend Governing Council meetings. Gavaskar and Shastri have been known critics of BCCI. However, one hardly gets to hear anything critical about the way BCCI or IPL functions from them anymore. Probably, this is how dissent is pre-empted. And most of us till now have been sitting comfortably thinking that these stalwarts are performing the key function of being ‘watchdogs’. Can these players and the BCCI come clean on this?

Today, instead of internal monitoring procedures, we have a scenario in which relatives of franchisee-owners are employed by IPL. Websites are being registered in the name of such beneficiaries, rather than the BCCI and the IPL. Numerous allegations are being investigated into by the IT and ED for violation of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), the Company Law, the Money Laundering Act, amongst others.

Some progressive and proactive office-bearers of the BCCI have often been heard saying that they themselves would like to be accountable and transparent. What is stopping them, then, remains a mystery? Is it the politics of the BCCI that is preventing them from doing the needful? Or is it the faulty mechanism where an individual is superior to the system?

(Mehra is a lawyer and sports enthusiast)

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