How to run the sports federation BCCI Shows The Way
On September 19, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) set a record in the history of country’s sports federation as it unanimously elected Narayanswamy Srinivasan as its 30th president.
The Board’s first president Grant Govan (1928-36) and he was followed by four others till 1946. At the time of Independence, Anthony SD’Mello was at the helm he remained in the post for five years (1946-51). Besides Govan (eight years) and D’Mello (five years) P Subbarayan headed the organisation for eight years (1938-46) and these three are exceptions in the BCCI’s 83-year history. After D’Mello, JC Mukherji took over (1951-54) and from then onwards the BCCI has scrupulously adhered to its election schedule.
What is remarkable about BCCI is that it is the only sports federation in the country which has been holding its elections regularly and no president has been re-elected after he had completed his tenure (two/three years). This election is considered significant in the background of a bitter stand-off between the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), National Sports Federations (NSF) and the Sports Ministry over the tenure of the officials and several other points. Ironically, it was BCCI which forced the government to drop the controversial Sports Development Bill. Though it is in sync with the bill except on the RTI issue.
Interestingly between 1993 and 2007, while Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) was ruled by KPS Gill, Football Federation was headed by Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi and Athletic Federation by Suresh Kalmadi (to name a few) BCCI in that period had six presidents. It is not to say that BCCI is above petty politics. It is also mired with severe factionalism. Ram Prakash Mehra (1975-77), SK Wankhade (1980-82), BN Dutt (1988-90), AC Muttaiah (1999-2001) and Ranbir Singh Mohindra (2004-2005) fell victim to the power play within the Board and their tenure was confined to ‘legally’ two-year term.
]Ranbir Singh Mohindra was another exception. He was the only president of the Board whose term lasted only one year as he became a casualty at war between the Jagmohan Dalmiya and Sharad Pawar groups. Mohindra was Dalmiya’s nominee. Even during this election, the factionalism in the Board came to the fore and Srinivasan could not get his nominee Ranjib Biswal as his successor. Before taking over as president, Srinivasan was the secretary of the Board.
Behind the scene manoeuvring forced the BCCI president to drop Biswal and go for a consensus candidate. Biswal, a former Orissa Ranji trophy player and national selector, failed to get the requisite support from his East Zone. On the contrary, his nomination was strongly opposed by Jharkhand and Tripura units. Even Bengal and Assam units did not strongly pitch for him and what sealed his fate was reported backing of the outgoing president Shashank Manohar to the candidature of Sanjay Jagdale for this important post. Srinivasan was left with no choice but to accept Indore-based Jagdale as his successor.
But it was not as simple as it looks. Elevation of Jagdale put paid to the aspiration of Union Minister and president of the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association Jyotiraditya Scindia of becoming the vice-president from Central Zone, because both are from Madhya Pradesh. The post of vice president fell vacant after incumbent Rajeev Shukla had been appointed the new chairman of the Indian Premier League. BJP MP Anurag Thakur from Himachal Pradesh known to be very close to Arun Jaitely was made the joint-secretary in place of Jagdale.
The BCCI in fact resembles mini union cabinet, with Dr Farooq Abdullah, Sharad Pawar, Vilas Rao Deshmukh, CP Joshi, Rajiv Shukla, Jyotiraditya Scinda along with leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitely forming its top hierarchy. Jaitely has emerged as a very important decision-maker in the BCCI and there were whispers that he played a crucial role in the selection of office-bearers. That Jaitely wants to be seen as a very active player in the BCCI was proved by the fact that before the Annual General Meeting (AGM) he had a breakfast meeting with the outgoing president Manohar and then flew to Belgaum in a private plane for a political meeting and returned to Mumbai in the evening to sort out Board’s issue.
Having said that it goes to the credit of the world’s most cash-rich Cricket Board that it has never allowed any individual, howsoever powerful or influential, to rule beyond the prescribed time frame. As week before these elections, Team India under MS Dhoni was getting clobbered by England side, while Rajpal Singh-led Indian Hockey team won the first Asian Champions Hockey trophy in China. Hockey India disgraced itself as it announced paltry Rs 25,000 each for the winning team’s players as reward money which players disdainfully rejected. It is another matter that Sports Ministry and some other state governments pitched in to give the players cash awards which they deserved.
Hockey India’s secretary Narender Batra brazenly told the media that his federation did not have enough money to give to the players. But Batra and officials of other sports federation will still stick to their positions despite their federations being bankrupt or totally dependent on the government’s dole. BCCI on the other hand has no such qualms. Despite the team getting thrashed there is no shortage of sponsors for men in blue. The reason is simple: BCCI despite its several flaws and drawbacks is run very professionally, as far as money is concerned. It has marketed the game so well that companies are eager to be the part of the BCCI.
On the other hand, sports like football and hockey are struggling. Despite the fact that high-profile minister Praful Patel has taken over as chief of the AIFF, football has not shown any sign of revival. Several clubs have been disbanded and the less said the better about the conditions of the stadia all over the country. Same is the case with hockey and other sports. These federations lack professional acumen and the office-bearers have no interest in selling the games. They are used to government doles and do not want any competent financial expert or professional in their set-up. They live in their own world oblivious to the changes taking place in their respective sports all over the world.
The BCCI knows how to manage finance and protect its interests. The very first order which Srinivasan issued after taking over as president was the termination of the IPL franchise of the Kochi Tuskers Kerala, ‘for breaching its terms of agreement’. “Because of the irremediable breach committed by the Kochi franchise, the BCCI has decided to encash the bank guarantee (for 2010) in its possession and also terminate the franchise,” Srinivasan said. “We have terminated the franchise because the breach is not capable of being remedied,” he added. How many federations (world over) can take such drastic action? The money involved is simply mind-boggling. The consortium that owns Kochi is reported to have defaulted on an annual payment of Rs 156 crore as a bank guarantee.
In April 2010, the BCCI’s working committee had rejected demands from Kochi and Pune Warriors for a reduction in their franchisee fees. The two new franchises, which made their debuts in 2011, had sought a 25 per cent waiver on the ground that the BCCI had stated in the bidding document that each team would play 18 league matches in a season. The schedule was later reduced to 14 matches per team. The chairman of Kochi, Mukesh Patel, put up a feeble defence threatening that he would drag the BCCI to court. Patel asserted that his company did not owe any money and was quoted by media as saying: “The BCCI notice is wrong, prima facie. We will take legal action against them after our legal team reviews the case in a day or two. Maybe we have to move court. We have never defaulted. The Board will be paying us Rs 12 to 15 crore ($2.5 million to $3.13 million) next month as a part of our central revenue.”
The franchise’s dispute centres on the BCCI’s decision to reduce the number of IPL games from 94 to 74. “The number of games in Tender Document was 94; they then reduced it to 74 but did not reduce the franchise fees. The Board chief was not wee bit worried”. “What will be the consequences of the termination and the future of the players as well as whether to play with nine teams—all these will be decided by the IPL governing council. (But) players’ interest will be safeguarded. BCCI will not leave the players in the lurch. We will find an equitable solution that is viable both for the players and the BCCI.”
“Whether it will be nine-team affair it’s for the IPL governing council to take a call at their next meeting, which I hope, is soon. I can’t decide that on my own, it is a decision of the IPL governing council and for BCCI as a whole to take.” There is still one area of concern for the new president and that is ‘conflict of interest’ involved in him holding the top post in the BCCI and at the same time owning the IPL side Chennai Super Kings. But he asserts India Cements Limited owns the team not he.
“India cement, the public limited company, owns Chennai Super Kings. I don’t own it. I don’t have any personal conflict of interest at all. All members take decisions in BCCI at the AGM or the executive committee unanimously. In governing council if any matter on franchisee issue comes up I would excuse myself.” However this attitude was not liked by former IPL commissioner and now the fall guy of BCCI, Lalit Modi, who wasted no time in castigating Manohar and Srinivasan for alleged mess created by them by terminating Kochi franchise.
“Kochi now being terminated—a further loss of 1500 crore to BCCI. Compounded by reduction in media rights. My estimate is 2000 crore.Who is responsible for this mess now? Current president and outgoing president for sure. Who will they blame now for this? Where is the accountability and who will take responsibility?” Modi wrote on his twitter. Just have a peep into the BCCI’ s financial clout. It currently has the highest income of all national cricket boards. Its revenue (not profit): In 2006-07—Rs 651.81 crore, 2007-08—Rs 1000.41 crore, 2008-2009 Rs 726 crore and in 2010-11—Rs 868 crore.
The global media rights for international cricket to be held in India between March 2010 and March 2014 were awarded to production house Nimbus for US$612 million. Official kit sponsorship rights for five years from 2010 to 2013 inclusive were awarded to Nike for US$43 million. The media rights for 25 neutral venue one-day matches to be played over the next five years were awarded to Zee Telefilms for US$219.15 million. “The amount of money they are talking (BCCI and the franchise ) is just awesome and unthinkable for us. I think that amount (involving one franchise) can take care of the whole of Indian sports for next one decade,” confessed an official of another sports federation.
Talking of lure of cricket, it will not be out of place to mention that HI secretary Narender Batra is one of functionaries in the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA). Can one imagine a top BCCI official accepting a post of minor functionary in any state association of any other sports? That is not all, the BCCI showed no urgency in discussing the team’s poor show in England. Supremely confident that it has cash and sponsors, Srinivasan outrightly rejected any move to have an inquiry into this debacle. For him it seems cricket is played more in the Boardroom meetings than on the field. “I don’t like to lose and the BCCI can’t wait to get back to the top spot. But we have not formed any committee to look into it (debacle),” was the way he summed up the Board’s reaction.
After admitting that “we did not have our best team together from the beginning (in England),” he was dismissive of the argument that India played too much cricket, saying the BCCI had compared the number of days other countries play to that of India, and found not much of a difference. “I agree that we lost badly and whoever watched the matches are aware of the reasons. We had far more injuries than we had in the past during a single tour. It’s too early to write off the team or to criticise the team whom we praised to the sky two months ago.”
By Harpal Singh Bedi