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BCCI governing council okayed most IPL deals
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NEW DELHI: THE minutes of several crucial meetings of a committee set up by India’s cricket authorities to oversee the Indian Premier League, or IPL, cast doubt on a central plank of the allegations against Lalit Modi, the controversial entrepreneur who ran the Twenty20 tournament for three years.

Since April, officials of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) have sought to relentlessly drive home a one-point message — Mr Modi was a rogue administrator who had reached important commercial deals keeping the board’s officialdom in the dark.

But the minutes of the meetings of the committee, known as the governing council (GC), paint a rather more complex and nuanced picture.

Most matters regarding IPL, including many commercial deals, were discussed by GC and other meetings of BCCI and many of these contracts were ratified by GC, according to documents reviewed by ET.

The minutes of GC by no means absolve Mr Modi. While some of the deals for which he is currently under investigation — such as the broadcasting deal with Sony affiliate MSM and WSG — were indeed discussed at various points, there is no evidence to suggest that BCCI knew about the specifics that are now being investigated. The most famous among these is the facilitation fee paid by MSM to WSG, a sports marketing company, to revive a broadcasting contract that IPL had scrapped.

Other controversial deals, such as one with website Ticket Genie for online ticket sales that BCCI president Shashank Manohar has publicly described as ‘irregular’, also don’t find mention in the minutes. Some of the charges against Mr Modi, such as bid rigging and kickbacks, are obviously outside the ambit of these meetings.

Speaking at a press conference on April 26, after the IPL controversy erupted, Mr Manohar had said that most contracts had been singed without obtaining GC’s consent. “Now most of the contracts which are entered into have been entered into without the consent of GC or they’ve been brought to GC after the contract was signed. So GC has no other option and are presented with a fait accompli.”

But the minutes describe a GC which appears to be very actively en-gaged with the minutiae of even small commercial deals.

“100% of all decisions were approved. All documents have been presented and approved by GC members collectively. Also, GC members were even otherwise aware of these facts, in the course of their per-sonal interactions with me and IPL,” Mr Modi said, responding to ET’s questions on email.

Mr Modi declined to comment in detail on the facilitation beyond claiming that it was the business of sports marketing companies to buy and sell rights.

“I would not like to comment on the same (the facilitation fee) at this point. But I will point out that we sold the rights to WSG. They further sold the rights to many channels. Their business is of exploiting rights... This is how any exclusive wholesaler or distributor functions, buy the whole lot and then sell the parts. The difference in the sale and the purchase price is his profit. Some call it commission, some facilitation and others service charge.”

Mr Manohar declined to comment as the matter was the subject of an ongoing internal enquiry.

Mr Modi, now suspended from his post as commissioner of IPL, is be-ing investigated by an internal BCCI committee consisting of Arun Jaitley, the lawyer and leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Union minister of state Jyotiraditya Scindia and Chirayu Amin, the interim commissioner of IPL.

ET has reviewed the minutes of governing council meetings held on February 5 and August 11, 2009, and on March 7 and 21 this year. This paper has also accessed the minutes of a meeting of the Working Committee of BCCI held on March 22, 2009, and audit observations pertaining to IPL and the 2009 edition of the tournament.

In the meeting on February 5, 2009, for instance, Mr Modi was authorized to make purchase decisions less than Rs50 lakh, while any amount above that would have to be ratified by GC.

Other matters discussed include the appointment of auditors for IPL, prize for the best outfield, slow over rate penalties and a commercial dispute arising out of Big TV, part of the Anil Ambani Group, walking out as sponsors.

GC members were certainly not passive listeners. In the meeting, Arun Jaitley and Rajiv Shukla brought up the issue of political adver-tising in IPL and it was decided unanimously that such advertising should not be allowed. In the same meeting, IS Bindra pointed out that the contract with IMG, which was about to be finalised for Rs33 crore per year, should not be frozen without obligations and deliver-ables being defined precisely. The contract was subsequently revised to about Rs27 crore.

Regulations for the 2010 season were also discussed at length, with interventions from many members, including BCCI secretary N Srini-vasan, Mr Bindra, Mr Manohar and Ravi Shastri. Season window, transfer of players, strategy breaks and relations with foreign boards were all discussed.

GC approved the auctioning of two more franchisees, auction dates and time line, and other technical details.

In the governing council meeting on March 7, 2010, theatrical rights were ratified, as were licensing deals with Viacom18 and Karbon. New sponsorships and official partners were approved.

It also approved payment of Rs13.10 crore to Jaipur IPL (Rajasthan Royals) and India Cements (Chennai Superkings) to compensate for the cancellation of Champions League 2008 against unaudited claims of loss of revenue made by the franchisees. Mr Srinivasan, also a GC member, is the owner of Chennai Superkings.

The minutes also reveal some unknown details. Civil aviation minister Praful Patel’s daughter Poorna, contrary to his claims that she is a ‘junior employee’ of IPL, attended at least two GC meetings in her ca-pacity as manager (hospitality) of IPL, a position she has held since September 2008. She was later designated as head of marketing serv-ices.

The documents show that IPL 2009 held in South Africa resulted in a net deficit of Rs33.9 crore, which contradicts the widely held notion that every edition of IPL has made money for BCCI.

The minutes also indicate that agriculture minister Sharad Pawar strongly supported moving IPL 2009 out of the country as it was clashing with general elections in India, while his government wanted IPL to be held in India with a changed schedule.

The decision to hold IPL in South Africa led to a public standoff be-tween home minister P Chidambaram and Mr Modi. “I am too small a person compared to Mr Modi,” Mr Chidambaram famously said in April last year, adding that BCCI did not understand the ‘compulsions and concerns’ of the police force.

“GC, unanimously along with all the team owners, was of the view the tournament must go on. I was, as the head of the organisation, only implementing the decisions taken by GC. It is unfortunate that I am being made to blame for successfully implementing and ensuring a successful second season,” Mr Modi told ET by email.

Source: The Economic Times

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