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Kochi Tuskers arbitration verdict is a big reversal for the BCCI

Shreyas Sharma | Updated on: 9 July 2015, 14:20 IST

The termination

  • In 2010, IPL chief Lalit Modi had questioned the team\'s shareholding pattern.
  • Sunanda Pushkar, who later married Shashi Tharoor, was a shareholder.
  • Kochi failed to provide a bank guarantee to cover the franchise fee for 2011.
  • BCCI terminated the franchise in September 2011 and encashed its 2010 bank guarantee.

The blowback

  • Arbitrator has asked BCCI to pay the franchise Rs 550 crore.
  • Failure to pay will incur a penalty of 18% on the amount annually.
  • The franchise doesn\'t want the money, it wants to be reinstated to the IPL.
  • The law is catching up with BCCI, for long run as an old boy\'s club.
  • Demand to bring the Board under the RTI will get a boost.

For decades, the Board of Control for Cricket in India had its way when it came to running cricket in the country. Since it is registered as a private society rather than a public organisation, its activities were not scrutinised as scrupulously as that of other public bodies.

But the long arm of the law seems to be catching up with it - thanks to the quicksand pit that the Indian Premier League has turned out to be.

First, there was the whole brouhaha surrounding the IPL-6 betting and fixing scandal, which put paid to Board president N Srinivasan's hopes of clinging on to power.

And now, almost four years after the BCCI terminated the Kochi Tuskers Kerala franchise from the IPL, the decision has come back to haunt the governing body.

Unexpected reversal

According to a report in The Indian Express, former Chief Justice of India R C Lahoti, the arbitrator in the case, has ruled in favour of the erstwhile franchise. The BCCI has been asked to pay Rs 550 crore to Kochi Cricket Pvt Ltd, the consortium that owned the franchise. Should it fail to do so, 18% penalty will be charged annually on the amount.

But now, the Kochi franchise is singing a new tune: it doesn't want the money, it wants to be reinstated for the ninth season of the cash-rich league next year.

Till a few years ago, there would have been about as much chance of the BCCI acquiescing to this demand as pigs have of flying. Even now, the odds of Kochi's demand being met would be tremendously long. But the BCCI, battered and bruised by the law and on the back foot, is unsure - it calls the decision 'a setback' and is 'exploring all legal options' before it.

Case history

It's not as though the Kochi Tuskers franchise was the epitome of virtue. In fact, its single-season stay in the IPL was so controversial that it led to the removal of its brand ambassador Shashi Tharoor as the Union Minister of State for External Affairs.

The Kochi franchise is singing a new tune: it doesn't want the money, it wants to be reinstated for IPL-9

Even before the franchise took the field in 2011, it had been dragged through mud. It was sold to a consortium headed by Rendezvous Sports World for approximately Rs 1,560 crore in March 2010, alongside the Pune franchise being sold to Sahara.

Among the shareholders in the franchise was the late Sunanda Pushkar, who later married Tharoor. It was claimed that Tharoor had used his influence as an MP and a minister, to ensure the IPL came to his home state, Kerala.

The then IPL chairman Lalit Modi had raised doubts over the shareholding pattern of the team on Twitter, and the domino effect of his tweet led to Tharoor's resignation from the government. Modi himself was removed by the BCCI at the end of the 2010 IPL.

The BCCI had promised a 94-game IPL season to the two new teams (minimum 18 games per team), which was later reduced to 74 (14 per team). This made the Pune and Kochi franchises ask for a 25% waiver of their franchise fees, which the BCCI rejected.

There was also talk of a lot of infighting among the constituents of the franchise, which led the BCCI to threaten to disband the team. After a lot of back and forth, the BCCI announced in December 2010 that it was satisfied with the owners' fresh agreement.

On 19 September 2011, the franchise was terminated by the Board for failing to provide a bank guarantee to cover the franchise fee. The deadline for furnishing the bank guarantee was March 2011, but even after six months, the team hadn't submitted it, leading to what the then BCCI president Srinivasan called an "irremediable breach".

The Board proceeded to encash the bank guarantee the franchise had provided in 2010, worth Rs 156 crore, and disbanded it. When asked if there was any chance the franchise could return, Srinivasan had said: "No, we have terminated the franchise because the breach is not capable of being remedied."

Current conundrum

While the reasons behind Justice Lahoti's decision to order the BCCI to pay are unclear, it's a big reversal for the Board nonetheless. After all, the Kochi case was supposed to be the most clear cut among all the murky dealings related to the IPL - the franchise defaulted on its payments, and the Board terminated the contract with it.

In the last two years, the Board has spent a combined Rs 56 crore on court cases. Its chickens are coming home to roost given its penchant for doing things in a transparent and above-board manner, which has led to a multitude of court cases.

The new dispensation of BCCI President Jagmohan Dalmiya and Secretary Anurag Thakur has noted on numerous occasions that the Board's image in the public eye needs to be restored. However, for that, a complete overhaul would be necessary. As things stand, while the game continues to prosper, the image of its administrators is at an all-time low.

Regardless of whether the Kochi team is reinstated or not, what's clear is that it's high time the BCCI is brought under laws such as the Right to Information Act, which would lead to a more transparent way of functioning, rather than as it does now - an old boys' club.

First published: 9 July 2015, 9:13 IST
Shreyas Sharma @11shreyas

When the neighbours' kids were out playing cricket, Shreyas was umpiring, owing to a disease called laziness. His love for sports never went away, though, so he settled for the easy chair outside the boundary rope and became a journalist, first with ESPN and then, for more than five years, with Mail Today. Now an Assistant Editor with Catch News, his dream is to utilise his other 'talent' and become a humourist. Please don't encourage him by laughing at his jokes!