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Lodha Committee report: Strict measures on the cards, revamp of BCCI possible

711   //    03 Jan 2016, 20:18 IST
The long-awaited report on the BCCI’s governing structure would be submitted to the SC tomorrow.

For years now, the most popular and worshipped sport in India has been controlled by an organization with no legal implications, and neither an affiliation to a statutory body nor a clearly demarcated autonomy.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is a society registered under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act, and its corporate structure consists of key positions that are ‘honorary’ in nature; that allow for a window to those governing the board to be a part of the management of activities, thereby raising the contentious clause of ‘conflict of interest.’

The genesis of the committee

The upheaval of the IPL Scandal of 2013 brought the ever existent picture into the limelight when the board’s then president N. Srinivasan was caught holding crucial positions, both within the board, as well in one of the participating franchises- the Chennai Super Kings.

The chaos that followed is for everyone to see, and after the Honourable Supreme Court of India appointed the Justice Lodha Committee to investigate the scandal as well as suggest corrective measures for the governance structure of the BCCI in July, the committee would be submitting its report to the apex court on Monday.

The committee has already suspended the Super Kings along with the Rajasthan Royals for two years from the IPL following their confirmed involvement in corrupt practices during the scandal.

The three-man committee has observed an utter lack of transparency and accountability within the board as well as the state associations that are affiliated to it. The need for professional management is also likely to be emphasized upon, as should be the need to put in place checks and balances for public accountability.

The conflict of interest clause

On the root of all causes- the conflict of interest in this case- it is learned that the panel has been in constant touch with the incumbent President of the board, Shashank Manohar, who has in turn reined in a slew of measures to bring transparency within his realms.

Manohar had issued a letter to all the stakeholders, including state association members, employees, players, coaches and selectors, containing clear directives to avoid conflicts of interest.

The BCCI went as far as appointing an independent auditor by the name of  PriceWatherhouseCoopers to look into the activities of the state associations and make sure that the various subsidies that were provided by the board to them were utilized for its correct purposes.

The most prominent example of the aforementioned case is the BCCI Secretary Anurag Thakur, who, besides being a two-time MP, is also the President of the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA). All eyes are set on the report and as to what it has in store for Mr. Thakur.

Classical former Indian batsman VVS Laxman can also be brought under the scanner as he serves as the mentor of the Sunrisers Hyderabad, an IPL franchise, apart from being a member of the BCCI’s advisory panel and a TV commentator.

Even Sachin Tendulkar is a sitting Rajya Sabha MP, apart from being a member of the same panel as Laxman. Sourav Ganguly is in the fray as well as the trio complete the panel, despite Ganguly’s role as the President of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB). 

Defence for former players

However, in the players’ defence- those holding multiple positions- it was said that such a provision was essential for them (former cricketers) to make a decent earning after retirement. Arguing that while for politicians and businesspersons it (holding dual and conflicting positions) shouldn’t be allowed, for former cricketers, it is a major source of income through the alleged simultaneous involvement in coaching, media work, commentary etc.

The committee, despite being sympathetic to these concerns wishes for a structure where a conflict of interest is no longer seen as something inevitable. It is likely to be of the view that the governance structure should be so made that there are paid professionals for every position thereby leaving neither an excuse nor a room for the disputed clause.

However, a strong vocal opposition of this structure has a view that the removal of former cricketers from positions of responsibility would lead to even more entrenchment as it would make it possible for those who have no relation to the sport whatsoever to hold key positions.

This set of people wants the committee to not just stop at the conflict of interests clause but also dig deeper into the illegitimate favours while team selections, match-holding rights and contracting prices. 

Other issues

Apart from that, issues related to the management of the IPL, by making it a separate private company, doing away with the powerful BCCI working committee and replacing it with a board of directors including players, former players, and public, and a change in the criteria of state affiliations to the BCCI by controlling the roles of voting and non-voting members also looks to be on the cards.

As we have seen with FIFA, there is a broader ethics challenge that needs to be met head on when it comes to sports administration," one legal expert said.

"If you look at the BCCI books you will probably find them quite clean and they will stand up to scrutiny. But dig deeper into the books of the affiliates and there is going to be a big black hole. You then begin to realise why honorary jobs in state associations make sense to so many. The committee will surely look to plug these gaping, leaking holes," said another expert.

The only meaningful relationship I have been able to foster in my life is the one I have with cricket.
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