What about CSK, Royals? Board officials meet over IPL future today
The governing council of the controversy-plagued Indian Premier League (IPL) will meet in Mumbai on Sunday to discuss the suspension of franchises Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals in the wake of the Lodha panel order that found officials of the two teams guilty of illegally betting on games.
The IPL governing council, headed by the league's chairman Rajeev Shukla, is expected to delve deep into the finer points of the strong judgment issued a few days ago by the three-member panel headed by former Chief Justice of India, RM Lodha. It is also expected to chalk out a new roadmap for the cash-rich T20 event.
The future of the popular domestic league hangs in balance after the Lodha panel suspended for two years the star-studded Chennai Super Kings, two-time IPL champions, and inaugural edition winners Rajasthan Royals.
Gurunath Meiyappan, the former team principal of CSK, and Raj Kundra, co-owner of the Rajasthan Royals, were suspended for life for betting and bringing the IPL and the game into disrepute.
The Justice Lodha Committee was constituted by the Supreme Court in January this year with its terms of reference being to announce the quantum of punishment against Meiyappan, Kundra and the two franchisees -- India Cements Ltd, owner of CSK and Jaipur IPL, owners of Rajasthan Royals.
The league has been mired in controversy since May 2013 when fast bowler S Sreesanth and two of his teammates from the Rajasthan franchise were arrested by Delhi Police on charges of spot fixing, or influencing the outcomes of parts of a match in exchange for money.
The decision is seen as a big blow to Indian cricket’s showpiece event that brought glamour and big bucks to Indian cricket. It also puts a question mark on the future of dozens of cricketers playing in the two teams and is expected to dent the tournament's massive sponsorship and TV rights revenues.
The IPL governing body urgently needs to chart out a smooth road map for the T20 league -- owned by the Indian cricket board (BCCI). The governing council has to negotiate a very tricky and rock-strewn path full of legal hurdles such as conflict of interest issues, which had brought it to its knees in the first place.
It has quite a few options to resurrect the falling reputation and credibility of the league which has taken one hit after another over the years since it started with a bang in 2008.
Putting on a brave face Shukla had commented after the judgment that the controversy-ridden IPL remained a "robust" product, insisting that the event will come back stronger with a minimum of eight teams.
"We are always concerned about IPL and let me assure you the next edition will be a bigger success. IPL is a robust product and this judgement (suspension of teams) should not affect IPL as a product. The idea is to have the tournament in full format with a minimum of eight teams. We can't hold the event with six teams," Shukla had said.
According to Shukla, one of the options available for the IPL is to run the two suspended teams with BCCI control.
"There are many options available and we will discuss them all in the meeting on Sunday. One option is that BCCI runs the two teams and responsible people will be deputed for the job," he said ahead of the meeting.
However, views have already been expressed in some quarters that if this is the road the BCCI takes then conflict of interest issues could crop up again.
"We will deliberate on their (Lodha committee) report in the meeting. After that, a sub-group will be constituted and it will study the report. Based on that, we will decide how the report will be implemented," Shukla added.
Justice Lodha had also said a day after delivering the judgment that the BCCI was free to terminate the IPL franchises.
Lodha's clarification came in the wake of some confusion over the committee's proposal, specifically over the extent to which the BCCI can act against the two franchises as follow-up to the committee's decision.
"It is for the BCCI to consider terminating the teams and the Supreme Court judgment is clear on that. The BCCI can do that," Justice Lodha told a TV channel.
Asked why the Supreme Court-appointed Lodha committee itself didn't ban the franchise, Justice Lodha said: "We have been appointed as a disciplinary committee and (Clause) 11.3 deals with contractual obligation and that has to be dealt by BCCI, so we can't go into it."
Clause 11.3 (c) of the BCCI-IPL franchise agreement says the agreement can be terminated if "the Franchise, any Franchise Group Company and/or any owner acts in any way which has a material adverse effect upon the reputation or standing of the League, BCCI-IPL, BCCI, the Franchise, the team (or any other team in the League) and/or the game of cricket."
Justice Lodha's statement could even be a green signal for the BCCI mandarins to deliberate on the initial possibilities of even terminating the two franchises and bring in two new teams through a tendering process.
A senior BCCI member also felt the best way forward was to call for fresh bids for two teams. Considering that IPL’s valuation is at its lowest, the price should appeal to many corporates. Of the two new teams, one of the options being considered is to have the Kochi franchisee on board again after the court arbitrator ruled in its favour. However, the issues over which it was terminated may still exist, like clarity over its shareholding pattern.
To further heighten the suspense former BCCI president Shashank Manohar, a lawyer himself, had met current president Jagmohan Dalmiya in Kolkata recently, apparently to put forth his views on the matter.
It was under his reign that the contracts of four former franchises – Rajasthan Royals, Kings XI Punjab, Kochi Tuskers Kerala and Sahara Pune Warriors – were terminated for not sticking to IPL's governing rules.
Royals and Kings XI took the legal route to reclaim their spots only for the former to be debarred for the next two years by the Justice Lodha panel.
It's certain that Manohar, not a member of the IPL council, would have told Dalmiya of what needs to be done to restore the prestige and reputation of IPL.
Meanwhile, Justice (retired) Mudgal, who headed the Supreme Court-appointed committee to investigate the 2013 IPL spot-fixing and betting scandal, has suggested yet another way out in an interview to a newspaper.
He feels the way out is to invite two new franchises (through legal tenders) on board and loan (football style) the players from the suspended CSK and RR to these two teams for two years so that they can go back to their original franchises once these two teams return to IPL after serving their two-year suspensions.
However, the big question is - what happens to the two new franchise teams' composition once the leading players of CSK and RR return to their original teams, specifically how do they strike a good team balance in the new scenario after the 2017 edition.
The return of CSK and RR, after two new franchises are brought on board, will mean a 10-team IPL and more playing days and matches.
However, BCCI has the past experience of holding IPL with 10 teams in 2011 (74 matches between April 8 and May 28) and with nine teams in 2012 and 2013 before switching back to the eight-team format in 2014.