What's in store for the BCCI in 2017?

Tanay Tiwari 16:35 29/12/2016
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Rocky roads ahead for BCCI.

On February 2, 2005, in the final judgement in the case of Zee Telefilms v. Union of India (AIR 2005 SC 2677), the honourable Supreme Court of India denied a petition seeking the status of ‘State’ (or a govt. entity) for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

Justifying their stand, the majority of the bench held: “…in a democracy there is a dividing line between a State enterprise and a non-State enterprise, which is distinct and the judiciary should not be an instrument to erase the said dividing line…”

A little over a decade later, the Supreme Court has announced a date: January 4, 2017, at which it will revamp the top brass of the BCCI entirely, which means that come the new year, the richest cricket board in the world will get an unprecedented face-lift; for good or bad, remains to be seen.

Not so long ago, in January 2015, the Justice Lodha Committee was instituted to decide upon the quantum of punishment for two IPL franchises in violation of the established rules and also for their then alleged involvement in spot-fixing. But, as the Lodha Committee dug deeper, they unearthed droves of corruption.

They could trace corrupt practices straight to the people who mattered most in the BCCI. Thus, in its recommendations to the Supreme Court, the Committee recommended massive changes to how the BCCI worked and how it ought to function as a sporting body.

Some of these recommendations, for example, the One-State-One-Vote-Policy, seemed like a welcome panacea for a stagnant system in place, but, others were absurd.

Suggesting a cap on the advertisements in between overs and that former cricketers should be administrators made as much sense as Donald Trump’s views on climate change – zilch.

What was astonishing to see was how actively and obstinately the Committee and the Supreme Court dealt with the matter in the months to follow. Suddenly, the same court which was more than happy with the working of the BCCI as an autonomous body not so long ago, wanted to remodel it from a Ferrari to a Sedan.

While a Sedan might be more viable, there’s no denying that there was a sense of pride among the Indian people in the Ferrari we had in the BCCI. Of course, the allegations against the board were a worry, but to say that a change of car is the only way to fix the inefficiency is stretching a bit too far.

In a bid to protect itself, the BCCI dug its heels and decided to go down fighting. Calling for all sorts of meetings only to pass resolutions against accepting the recommendations made by the Lodha Committee meant that this was now a battle of egos.

To put it quite frankly, you can be the richest board of any sport in the world, but you don’t win a battle of egos against the Supreme Court of India.

The Committee and the Supreme Court made sure that the BCCI knew what they were getting into, hitting them where it hurt the most. The Committee on October 4, 2016 ceased all payments from the BCCI to any state association which wasn’t ready to comply with the Committee’s recommendations.

The Committee didn’t stop there, they added another caveat mandating all payments to be authorised by the Supreme Court before being disbursed.

So, with all that money in the BCCI coffers, each penny of which is accounted for (with balance sheets available on the BCCI’s website), the BCCI cannot access it without authorisation. Sounds like something we’ve all been a part of in India, of late, doesn’t it?

This has already hampered a number of domestic tournaments, with hotels and other service providers backing out of tender processes fearing a delay in getting paid. Come 2017, it will only get worse for the BCCI as the Supreme Court gets ready to replace the BCCI’s top brass with people it thinks are a better fit to govern cricket in India.

The money in the BCCI accounts isn’t the only worry for the board. The money that it was supposed to earn is as well. The IPL broadcasting rights’ bidding process – scheduled for late 2016 – has now been suspended indefinitely.

This was supposed to be the biggest deal in cricket broadcast history with experts estimating the amount to be anywhere between US$2.5 bn to US$3.5 bn.

With the BCCI on a sticky wicket, you can be sure that this is no more as lucrative a deal for the board as it could have been. February 4 is also the date for IPL auctions which means a host of new contracts and a host of new interventions from the Committee and the Supreme Court.

The BCCI is now like a group of bachelor residents in a housing society who are cornered by the authorities for a mistake they made a couple of years back. They stare at eviction, imploring before the authorities by citing all the good that they’d done thus far. But all of us know how this story unfolds.

Although, this time, it’s also nearly another million cricketers who will suffer the collateral damage alongside the organisation.

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