Political satirist John Oliver’s second instalment of the hilariously enlightening expose on FIFA for the Last Week Tonight show drew widespread applause and has been watched over 4 million times and counting since being uploaded on YouTube two weeks ago. If he levelled his angst at the myriad controversies of the BCCI, his verbal tirade would have crashed the video upload site.
It’s not breaking news by any stretch of the newsdesk imagination, but public perception of the BCCI continues to plummet.
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In 2007, the BCCI ostracised its biggest rival to Indian cricket’s golden ticket brainchild the IPl, the ICL – refusing to recognise the league and preventing it from organising matches in cricket grounds around the country. The aggressive campaign that followed saw the BCCI single-handedly orchestrate the downfall of the ICL, to the benefit of the IPL.
Money was thrown at the competition in staggering amounts as the BCCI laid down the marker for the rest of the world in financing domestic cricket in the era of Twenty20 cricket. But it was not all rosy for the league as fixing scandals in the fifth and sixth editions were followed by the arrest of Gurunath Meiyappan, a top official of the Chennai Super Kings franchise, on charges of illegal betting. The fact that Meiyappan was the son-in-law of then BCCI president and current ICC chairman, N. Srinivasan further aggravated public perception. That N. Srinivasan is an industrialist involved in more controversies than Charlie Sheen had the potential to send shockwaves through the governing body. Typical of the BCCI, its stranglehold on the game and the manner in which it protects its own, Srinivasan only left his role to take on the role of chairman with the ICC.
For things to change in crickets governance, BCCI needs to be brought under RTI Act & adhere to good governance practices in Sports Code.
— Rahul Mehra (@TheRahulMehra) February 8, 2015
Former India captain Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi put it perfectly surmising: “The ICC may well be the voice of cricket but the BCCI is an invoice.”
Given that more than 70 percent of the money in world cricket comes from India, the BCCI has been frequently accused of abusing its power to persuade the ICC into favourable scheduling and player suspension decisions.
In 2009, the BCCI reached an impasse with the ICC over the creation of its own renegade cricket-specific anti-doping code outside of WADA and expected the ICC to heed their demand. When the BCCI disagrees with the ICC and other cricketing bodies on issues ranging from the WADA to DRS, the ICC could impose strict sanctions against them. But if cricketing history has taught us anything it is that hell hath no fury like a scorned BCCI.
Such tyrannical-like behaviour has created an elitist culture that does not sit well with the public and it requires prompt, imperative change. For almost a decade now, we’ve seen the BCCI try everything to improve IPL’s global coverage and bring in even bigger cheques. They introduced cheerleaders, fantasy leagues and other American products to make it the $8 billion commercial success that it is today. But currently, the most pressing issue has to be how they can change the public’s perception.
To begin this righteous path towards positive change, the BCCI needs to accept its troubled history and take responsibility for its future. So, here are five ways for the BCCI to clean up its image.
1) TIME FOR A BAPTISM
The Board of Control for Cricket in India is registered under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act as a “private club consortium”. Nominally, a lot of those words have negative connotations. A rechristening could benefit the organisation, like it did for Accenture and the Altria Group. So, how about the National Institution for Cricket Enthusiasts (NICE)? It certainly changes the tone, doesn’t it? They aren’t the all-powerful, greedy guys from BCCI anymore. Now, they’re the NICE guys.
2) KEEP YOUR FRIENDS CLOSE BUT YOUR ‘ASSOCIATES’ CLOSER
With great power comes great responsibility but the BCCI, with all its financial clout, continues to establish an elitist society alongside the not quite as cool, cool kids at the English Cricket Board (ECB) and Cricket Australia (CA). Rather than accepting moral leadership, it continues to forsake the smaller members and associates. Organising more series against these nations would be an ideal start to its long road to repentance.
3) I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!
Pepsi, much like Coca-Cola with FIFA, are in a position to hit the BCCI where it hurts by withdrawing financial aid if they grow tired of the bad press that follows the BCCI. Any further damage to the drinks manufacturer’s image would be dangerous ground for the governing body, considering Pepsi’s ₹ 400 crore (approx. Dhs231m) commitment to the IPL. As sponsorship and advertising revenue form a substantial part of the BCCI’s overall income, any threat of withdrawal would have to be taken seriously.
4) SHOW ME THE MONEY
The BCCI is not required to make its balance sheet public, but doing so will certainly give the public an understanding of how the BCCI functions and (should) eliminate doubts of fraud. Not only does it reveal the financial health of the organisation, it also shows where the money comes from and where it goes. In case of any questionable financial activity, both the public and the media can shout: “Show me the money!”
5) WHAT WE’VE GOT IS FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE
The communication teams of most cricketing bodies and even IPL franchises often post videos of team training sessions, fielding drills and personal interviews to give fans an inside view of the workings of a professional sports team. The BCCI should follow this lead and make the public realise that it cares. Having contests and awarding winners with team merchandise or an opportunity to meet their sporting heroes first-hand. Fans will remember and cherish such moments more than the obligatory post-match remarks of gratitude.
After Americanising an English sport with cheerleaders and sautéing it with a pinch of that vintage Indian corruption, the BCCI has a long journey ahead of them to mend public perception to its liking. Let’s hope for the sake of cricket in general, we see the required changes soon. Let’s hope they become the NICE guys sooner rather than later, or else John Oliver will be sent for.
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