The sweeping recommendations of the three-member Supreme Court-empowered panel headed by former Chief Justice of India RM Lodha at a glance, appear to be cricket’s version of the big cull. The changes suggested go into the heart of the entrenched ways in which the Board of Control for India (BCCI) has functioned down the decades. The trigger undoubtedly was the 2013 spot-fixing scandal which damaged the image of Indian cricket and its governing body, following controversies over the Indian Premier League’s 2009 edition being moved to South Africa and the subsequent ban of its commissioner, Lalit Modi. But the BCCI’s stubborn resistance to address conflict of interest surrounding then president N Srinivasan’s ownership of an IPL team that was caught in the scandal, forced the apex court to intervene.
The ‘one state, one vote’ and ‘one man, one post’, removing the all-powerful president’s intervention powers, appointing a CEO to run the day-to-day affairs and restricting tenures of office-bearers will fundamentally alter the BCCI’s governance pattern; it is aimed at taking away the incentive that encourages a handful of officials to cling to power of a body that has become a financial behemoth as well. The BCCI top brass is unlikely to readily accept changes that will alter power equations forever, but it is doubtful whether the court would view its objections with much sympathy at the hearings into the report. The board lost the perception battle as well when the court heard petitions against conflict of interest and passed strictures against the sports body.
Few would contest BCCI’s argument that it is the best governed sports body in the country. But cricket’s popularity, and the resultant financial windfall, has also allowed it to run on auto-pilot. But the recommendations to abolish dual posts, legalise betting, and bring the BCCI under the RTI Act shows the Lodha panel has gone to the root of the malaise. While it has appreciated the work done by the BCCI, the panel’s demand is that the board turn into a model for sports governance. And the changes that seem inevitable may well become the template for India’s other sports bodies mired in controversies.