Money makes the world go around is the saying. For the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) though, the growth of its financial clout has increasingly led to it making rounds of the courts.
The eighth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) will kickoff with the spot-fixing and betting scandal that erupted two years ago still nowhere near closure.
The Supreme Court verdict in January barred N Srinivasan from seeking re-election as BCCI president and forced him to legally cut ties with the Chennai Super Kings (CSK).
However, both CSK as well as Rajasthan Royals (RR) — the teams under the scanner — will not know their fate until the threemember committee of former apex court judges appointed by the Supreme Court gives its verdict on the serious allegations against them.
Kicking off the new season on Wednesday could be a bit strange for CSK as well as RR. Both teams can even be terminated if the SC committee finds serious violations.
Amazingly, till the Supreme Court intervened, the BCCI was eager to push through its own panel to probe CSK and RR and the allegations of illegal betting around them, and its top officials did not bother to even place concerns over fairplay before the AGM or working committee.
Instead, all energy has been spent only on tip-toeing around the court verdict, protest innocence. The BCCI, which acted against players, and that included a life ban on former India pacer S Sreesanth, has not taken a single proactive step against officials in the ruling camp facing questions of impropriety.
The big power, big responsibility line hasn’t worked with the BCCI, which has spent crores defending itself, or its top officials, especially over the last decade.
Be it the big fight with Zee over the way it first awarded and then withdrew the awarding of the lucrative TV rights a decade ago, the constant and unsuccessful battle with Prasar Bharti over not allowing it to broadcast matches involving India, demands that the board changes its opaque manner of functioning, the BCCI has spent lot of time and massive amounts of money as legal fees, especially in the Supreme Court.
The BCCI’s biggest defence in the past was that as a body registered under the Societies Act, it was not answerable to writ petitions like a ‘state’ or public body. However, it lost that blanket protection when the apex court, while delivering its judgement in January, said the BCCI, which administers cricket and selects the national team, cannot escape the fact that it is discharging a public function.
The fundamental issue over the years has been that BCCI, which still rides the wave of a sellers market as far as commercial rights are concerned, often acts arbitrarily when it comes to selling the lucrative TV rights. The grouse has been that rules somehow help firms close to the BCCI establishment to carry the day.
While other major federations in the country are also beset with legal battles in the last few years, BCCI has splurged money defending itself. Last year (after the spot-fixing scandal surfaced in 2013), it spent Rs 23 crore, more than Rs 6 lakh per day, as legal expenses. BCCI officials believe that the amount may double this year with the IPL spot-fixing saga showing no signs of ending.
“We had to pay Rs 23 crore, but this IPL scam is squeezing our surpluses. This year, we may have to pay double that amount. The BCCI is fighting for many people in the Supreme Court just because our beloved president’s son-in-law is facing charges of illegal betting in IPL matches,” a BCCI working committee member told HT during the SC hearing in January.
The Rs 19.38 crore paid as match fees to 28 players last year for playing in eight Tests, 34 ODIs and one T20I match pales in comparison.
The legal battles have raged beyond the Supreme Court as well, at the Mumbai and Rajasthan High Courts against former IPL boss Lalit Modi. The BCCI is also fighting charges of foreign exchange violation in excess of Rs 1,600 crore brought by the Enforcement Directorate.
Giving its verdict on the spot-fixing case, the Supreme Court pronounced it was important to preserve the game’s integrity. “Cricket being not only a passion but a great unifying force in this country, a zero tolerance approach towards any wrongdoing alone can satisfy the cry for cleansing,” it said. But the BCCI’s focus unfortunately has been almost entirely on the legal, rather than ethical, issues.
(With inputs from Jasvinder Sidhu)