After spot-fixing, illegal betting, drugs and foreign exchange violations, the Indian Premier League (IPL) has been hit by allegations of inequality bordering on racial bias.
The issue involves hiring people for production work. The Indian cricket board has been paying domestic technical professionals, most of them freelancers, lower wages than foreigners, for the same work and profile in IPL TV production.
An investigation by HT reveals significant imbalance in salaries between Indians and foreigners, mostly British, Australian and South African professionals, going back to 2012.
For example, only one cameraman, with 20 years experience, out of 45 Indians was paid Rs 14,000 per day in this year’s IPL. On the other hand, the lowest daily payment for the 22 foreign cameramen, regardless of experience, was $250 (approximately Rs 15750 as per May dollar rate), some even being paid more than $300. On the other hand, some of the lowest paid Indians got only Rs 9000 per day.
No big deal
International Management Group (IMG), which runs the league, justified the current pay structure. “Details of payments for all crew engaged on IPL production are confidential, but we can confirm that the rates paid to them reflect the skills and experience of the individuals concerned and the effect of market forces,” an IMG spokesman told HT in an email response.
“IMG and BCCI consult on all key commercial terms, including rates of pay to all crew.”
But confidential documents accessed by HT show the IMG claims are hollow. There are some important cameras such as UltraMotion (UM) and Ball Follow (BF) which need rich experience to operate. Indian BF cameramen get only Rs 12500 with seniors paid another Rs 1500 in exceptional cases. However, BCCI paid a fixed $250 to foreigners.
Another example of disparity was among EVS operators (handling replay machines). The BCCI paid Rs 10000 to Indian operators but foreigners were paid between $225 and $350 (approx Rs 14,175 to Rs 22050) last season.
“It’s painful when you find that a very ordinary foreign technician is paid twice your wages just because he is a foreigner. For us, foreigners are first class citizens in the IPL and we are backward,” said an Indian EVS operator.
Uniform wage policy
IMG has a universal policy of paying uniform wages regardless of nationality, of course depending on the role, seniority and responsibility.
In the case of IPL, protests have brought swift retribution. Anyone (read Indians) who questioned disparity in wages has been shown the door by the board and IMG bosses. All IPL operations, including telecast production, are handled by the IMG, but the rates for cameramen, floor managers, sound supervisors and action replay operators are fixed by the BCCI.
“One of the senior cameramen raised the rate issue with IMG last season. The next moment, he was shown the door. Even in this IPL he was nowhere,” a cameraman said, requesting anonymity.
However, IMG denied these charges. "IMG has always taken a mix of Indian and international crew to work on the IPL.
"The mix over time has changed to more Indian and less international and this trend is likely to continue. IMG plans to set up production offices in India and it will employ a number of locally engaged staff to support this operation," a spokesman said.