Showing posts with label BCCI. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BCCI. Show all posts

Monday, December 15, 2014

How to Clean Up the BCCI

“When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That's my religion.”
Abraham Lincoln 

While I do not want our Supreme Court to play judge, jury and executioner, they are also the last resort to save our sport from the cesspool it has been reduced to by the very men who were tasked with stewarding it. In this regard I am glad that the court has taken a rather dim view of the BCCI board’s actions, or lack thereof, in the illegal betting scandal that engulfed the last IPL.

The two Justices have shown public disdain for Mr. Srinivasan from the time they called his refusal to step aside “nauseating.” While it is easy to detest a man like Srinivasan, it would not bode well for the credibility of our legal system if we were to cast him aside purely on the grounds that he is not a likeable man or for his lack of honour and integrity. Additionally, as tempting as it may be for every Indian and cricket lover to see Mr. Srinivasan being bashed around and bullied by these Justices, in the end they must find substantive legal grounds to usher in his demise and to restore credibility to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

Finding impropriety in the BCCI board’s actions and lack of governance should not be very hard for the court to do. The BCCI’s defense of Srinivasan has been laughable. I am no legal expert, but it seems there are already three very serious and clear violations of the board’s code of ethics that may also constitute legal grounds for some serious action by the court. 

1. Conflict of Interest
This is common sense and something that EVERY governing body in the world adheres to. Srinivasan’s ownership of the Chennai Super Kings would be the equivalent of American Football Commissioner Roger Goodell's owning the New England Patriots or another team. It is absolutely absurd. The fact that Srinivasan and the BCCI legal team are actually trying to defend his ownership of the Chennai Super Kings just demonstrates how deluded and absolutely corrupt their absolute power has made them. 

2. Perjury
Srinivasan and MS Dhoni both stated publicly and vehemently that Gurunath Meiyappan’s role in the Chennai Super Kings was nothing more than that of a cricket enthusiast. The court-appointed Mudgal investigation has concluded that Meiyappan was in fact a team official, and functioned more like their CEO. It would seem that both men lied. At worst they have perjured themselves; at best they were protecting a person whom they knew had been implicated in an illegal betting ring. Both should be held criminally culpable if they did willfully mislead the court appointed panel.

3. Board Governance & Credibility
After the allegations surfaced, the arrest made of Srinivasan’s son-in-law, and the fact that the team he owns was implicated in the IPL illegal match fixing scandal, the logical (and honourable) thing for him to do would have been to resign. Instead Srinivasan did the opposite and refused to budge. After much public pressure, he was forced to step aside while he personally appointed a committee that cleared him and his son-in-law of any wrongdoing.  It was not until the Supreme Court intervened that he truly stepped aside, although by all accounts he has continued to make all the major decisions, running the board remotely.

The net result of all this is that Srinivasan and this BCCI board have lost all credibility. No matter what actions the court demands, they can no longer be counted upon to conduct an unbiased or impartial investigation, or to implement the changes needed to restore credibility to cricket’s wealthiest and most powerful governing body.

So what can be done? We need to go back to the basic tenets of the BCCI’s mandate and in doing so bring back meaning to the emblem of the Order of the Star of India, India's highest order of chivalry during the British Raj. To this end, I hope the court can find sufficient legal grounds to not only publicly discredit the current board and all the administrators, making their continued tenure impossible, but also initiate legal proceedings against many of these men.

For cricket to have a future and for the BCCI to regain credibility, we must put in place new court-imposed rules and regulations. I do not believe any solution should involve a takeover or greater involvement from the government. That said, it is also not going to be sufficient to simply remove Srinivasan and his cronies; this would treat the symptom and not the cancer. The power vacuum left behind will quickly be filled by equally despotic men like Sharad Pawar or Lalit Modi. What we need is a complete overhaul of the BCCI’s functioning and structure, along with new blood to run it.

Here are my suggestions for our Supreme Court, on both the legal actions I hope they initiate and the functional changes they should mandate to truly reform the BCCI:

LEGAL ACTIONS:
1. N Srinivasan to be banned from holding any position in Indian cricket, for life.
2. Start a criminal investigation of M.S. Dhoni and N. Srinivasan for conflict of interest issues and misrepresenting CSK team management facts to court appointed panel
3. Disqualify Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals from IPL, for 3-5 years
4. Tainted players to be suspended while being investigated; banned for life if found guilty
5. Owners of both teams to forfeit ownership and never be allowed to own an IPL team
6. Legalise sports betting
7. Bring BCCI under Right to Information Act (RTI) 

MANAGEMENT & STRUCTURAL REFORMS
1. Ban politicians (current & former) from being on board or part of management of BCCI or any regional/state cricket associations

2. Ensure strong conflict of interest rules added to BCCI constitution, i.e. no administrator or employee of BCCI should be allowed to own a stake in any of team, franchises or cricketing venture where they may financially benefit as a result of their position within BCCI.

3. Bring in caretaker board and administration for one year while reforms are being implemented. The idea is to completely revamp the current management structure to prevent future abuse and corruption:
  • Create a governing board consisting of two ex-cricketers, two retired judges, two individuals from private sector. Each person would serve a one-time term of three years
  • Divide the current President position into two offices;
    • President (appointed by governing panel) would oversee all cricketing affairs and retain all other current roles and responsibilities with exception of the business/financial side i.e. sponsorships, advertising, media rights negotiations, etc.
    • Add a non-elected CEO position, also hired by the governing panel to run the BCCI for a term of two years. CEO would be hired from the private sector
    • Both positions would have two-term limit with each term being limited to two years
  • Change status of BCCI to a corporation that is for profit but also for benefit to society, akin to a B Corporation in the USA
  • Officials holding positions in state cricketing bodies cannot simultaneously hold positions within the BCCI administration or its various committees
  • All monies dispensed to state associations must be accounted for at the end of the fiscal year by an external and independent auditor; this includes the BCCI financials
  • All monies spent by state associations should be used to further the cause of and promote cricket in their respective states
  • All infrastructure projects must follow an online blind bidding process with final bid award being made under supervision of CEO and board for projects above certain amount
These are some of the things that I believe will help provide much-needed transparency and accountability to the BCCI and help restore its credibility with the fans. Granted they are a private body and should remain one, but since their mission has always been about growing the sport in the public interest, there always needs to be a balance between the their autonomy and the oversight required. 

ALSO READ: Open Letter to N. Srinivasan, BCCI President

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Business of Sport and Foul Play

“But rules cannot substitute for character.”
Alan Greenspan (US Federal Reverse Chairman, retired

When we think about sport the words that immediately come to mind are sportsmanship, respect, fair play, integrity and clean competition. In fact, the various sports governing bodies have ethics that are meant to set the standards and uphold the integrity and reputation of the sport they are meant to champion and steward. And they have a code of conduct tied to their mission and intent. Here are a couple of lines from FIFA, NFL and the ICC, respectively: 

“FIFA is constantly striving to protect the image of football, and especially that of FIFA, from jeopardy or harm as a result of illegal, immoral or unethical methods and practices...” 

“All persons associated with the NFL are required to avoid "conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the National Football League." 

“The overriding objectives of the Code are to enhance the reputation of the ICC, to foster public confidence in the ICC’s governance and administration of the sport of cricket worldwide and in particular to strengthen its authority to deal with corruption.”

All of their codes and rules sound rather impressive, and reading through any of them might leave one with the impression that these organisations hold themselves, their executives and players, to a high standard of excellence and integrity. These standards serve to enhance the reputation of their respective sports and set an example for the rest of us, most importantly for all the young impressionable minds that form the largest audience and fan base for them. I am referring to some the most iconic, powerful and recognisable sports governing bodies in the world from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA); bodies that have been entrusted with furthering the growth and development of sport in a manner that is meant to always put the good of the sport and its athletes ahead of all other interests - personal, business or otherwise. Major sporting events often form the only common ground between sworn enemies, and also the glue that cuts across ethnic divisions within every nation. One cannot underestimate the importance of sport in our world. Where else would we see Iran take on the USA or a divided Afghanistan come together to root for their cricket team? In a world more divided and more divisive than ever before, sport has become the healthiest bond between societies, and a source of national pride and identity for legions of fans. This is the responsibility with which these men have been entrusted.

Not only are the men in charge of these governing bodies powerful in the world of sports, but also today many are counted among the most influential men in the world because of the nexus between business and sport. Sepp Blatter, the four consecutive terms President of FIFA, made #69 on the Forbes’ list of the most Powerful People for 2013. “Blatter is only the 8th President to have served in the more than 100 years of FIFA’s existence” (Source: Forbes). With all this influence and absolute power, it is no wonder that these organisations operate more like the mafia than a charity. For the recently concluded World Cup, FIFA demanded that the Brazilian government change a decade old law banning the sale of beer in stadiums because Budweiser was a major sponsor (Source: Latin Post). “Brazil spent an astounding $11 billion to host the FIFA tournament. FIFA officials have to be treated like royalty, and there have been accusations of bribery and other forms of corruption...and according to Brazil's Internal Revenue Service, FIFA is getting tax exemptions worth nearly $250 million dollars. Other estimates are even higher.” (Source: CNN). Also, there has been much media attention focused on how Qatar won the bid to host the 2022 World Cup. Qatar is a desert nation that has no football team much less a league to speak of, and temperatures that routinely cross 117 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, when the event is scheduled. So far the fallout has been just one FIFA official, Jack Warner, resigning, and this only after the media released a tape of him encouraging FIFA officials to accept bribes ahead of the voting process for awarding the 2022 World Cup.

Something people may not be aware of is that all these sports organisations hold tax-exempt status. Yes you heard me right – these multi-billion dollar, for profit enterprises, have tax exempt status. The latest World Cup in Brazil generated more than $4 billion in revenue for FIFA. This is on top of declared cash reserve they have of $1.4 billion (source: Forbes Article). The IOC generated $5 billion in revenue between 2009 and 2012. The NFL generates close to $10 billion annually, the Professional Golf Association (PGA) tour nearly $1 billion (source: CNN article). The National Hockey League (NHL) reported record earnings of $3.7 billion this past season (source: CBS Sports Article). The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) recently joined the league of wealthiest sporting bodies in the world, with revenues of $1 billion for 2011-12 (source: Financial Express). All these sports organisations have been given tax exempt status, somewhat similar to charities, because they are considered private organisations whose primary purpose is to further the industry or profession they represent. They are similar to a local chamber of commerce or the hotel and restaurant industry associations. However, one fundamental difference is that many if these sports bodies have the right to represent countries on the international stage, and they also avail of tax payer funded facilities like stadiums and other public sporting infrastructure without paying for it. The BCCI in India has steadfastly refused to come under the purview of the Right to Information Act (RTI) on the grounds that it is a private body with charitable institution status.

Here in America, the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who incidentally was paid a $44 million salary in 2012, was recently caught on the wrong side of a domestic abuse case involving one of the league’s star players. It seems Goodell may have lied about information that was previously disclosed to him, in order to cover-up the seriousness of the incident. It is possible he withheld evidence (the player got a two game suspension for knocking out his pregnant fiancé and then physically dragging her out of the lift unconscious) to protect the image of the league and the massive revenues brought in from its sponsors. Turns out that during Mr. Goodell’s seven year plus tenure there have been more than fifty reported incidents of domestic violence involving players and a total of six game suspensions handed out by him; hardly the zero tolerance policy one would expect to fit the serious nature of these crimes. Yet, Mr. Goodell has refused to step down over his clear mishandling of a very serious matter or for his less than stellar track record in dealing with this crime during his tenure (Source: NYTimes).

In India, the current ICC Chairman and BCCI President, Mr. N. Srinivasan has also been acting with complete impunity and with total disregard for the ethics he has sworn to uphold. He failed to act when an illegal match-fixing scandal engulfed the Indian Premier League. This despite the fact that his own son-in-law was indicted as one of the prime accused in the case, and it concerned a team that he owned. The fact that the head of a governing body can also be the owner of a team, in the league he governs, should be sufficient grounds to disqualify him from holding any post; it is a blatant and obvious conflict of interest. However instead of apologizing and doing the right thing, Mr. Srinivasan has dug in his heels and unabashedly challenged anyone to oust him.  It was not until India’s Supreme Court stepped in and severely reprimanded him that he was forced to step aside (albeit temporarily) as President of BCCI. The court called Mr. Srinivasan’s refusal to step down “nauseating.” Meanwhile, he has just been elected as Chairman of Cricket’s international governing body, the ICC.

These are just three examples from the sordid world of sports governing bodies and the cancer that seems to plague their leaders today. Corruption seems to be rife across the board with reports of bribery at the IOC, doping cover ups in both baseball and cycling, and even sex and drug fueled orgies to win contracts for Formula One racing. With the sheer amount of money being generated through lucrative TV rights and sponsorship deals, the influence it has brought with it has absolutely corrupted these men. Today their actions are making political crony capitalism look like amateur stuff. There is an urgent need to save the future of sport by cautioning and holding these men accountable for their conduct. We need to remind them again who they are here to serve and be clear that even as non-elected representatives their behaviour is important in preserving sports’ reputation and integrity.

We must all demand that these men be worthy of upholding the principles and values of the sports they represent, and that they are able to discharge their duties with humility, integrity and honour; always putting the good of the game ahead of their own greed and personal ambitions. It seems all these men have forgotten their purpose. So drunk on power have they become that they believe they can operate with complete impunity and function with zero external scrutiny or governance. Sport has the unique power to unite people and bring nations together. Sport, like the eternal flame, must be the beacon of hope and fairness in the world. With great power comes great responsibility.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Cricket, 464 yrs; Demise of a Gentleman’s Sport


Born: 1550 (approx.) in Surrey, England
Died: 26th June, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia

On a sunny afternoon of June 26, 2014, the great sport of Cricket passed away after a long battle with corrupt administrators. In her last hours she was surrounded by the three men responsible for her demise: Narayanaswami Srinivasan, Giles Clarke and Wally Edwards, as well as extended family from the various governing bodies. The families, whose avarice led to their selling out without so much as putting up a fight to save the sport that they had sworn to uphold, protect and serve.

Cricket is said to have had her beginnings in the town of Guildford, Surrey in England, as early as 1550*; thought to have been originally conceived as a game for young children. From these humble beginnings she grew into a great global sport often referred to as a Gentleman’s game. The same sport that has now been consumed by three corrupt old men who stand against all that she once represented: fair play, integrity, honour and chivalry.

In India, the current mecca of cricket, she held greater sway than religion and was one of the few things that united the entire country. Indians cricketers are held in higher esteem than Bollywood stars and Gods. Cricket pitches were the only places where caste, religion, language, education and wealth never mattered. Such was once the power of cricket and that is why her demise should concern us all, greatly.

Her rich and storied life includes Articles of Agreement being written as early as 1727* to guide the conduct of matches between teams. The first recorded women’s county match was played in 1811* between Surrey and Hampshire at Ball's Pond in London, England in what was still otherwise completely a man’s world. Over the centuries cricket has produced legendary figures from the likes of WG Grace, Sir Donald Bradman and Sir Garfield Sobers to modern day heroes who have been great ambassadors of the sport, both on and off the field, like Brian Lara, Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar. These men inspired generations of young impressionable minds to strive for greatness through integrity, dignity and the ethics of hard work. (*sources: ESPN cricket and Wikipedia)

Today, a few wealthy men have hijacked our great love and turned it into their personal fiefdom. One where a ruthless, unethical few will now be able bend the rules with complete impunity to enable their thirst for power and single-minded pursuit of money. Cricket, who once nurtured the souls of the young, all over the world, will now feed the hunger of three corrupt boards at the expense of the sport and all her adoring fans.

In lieu of flowers, comments and support may be offered at Save Cricket in India

Friday, April 4, 2014

Open Letter to Narayanaswami Srinivasan, former president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)


“As he was valiant, I honour him. But as he was ambitious, I slew him.”
William Shakespeare 

Dear Mr. Srinivasan,

The tragedy in this saga is the fact that the sport that you were meant to champion and steward has been the greatest victim of your hubris. We realise that money can buy many things; votes, support from local, regional and even international cricketing boards but what you have never understood is that it cannot buy you the one thing you covet most – respect. 

Granted money also buys you the illusion of power, and make no mistake that it is nothing more than an illusion, because it is based entirely on surrounding yourself with spineless sycophants who will march to your tune, follow your orders and fill you with hot air – as long as you keep lining their greedy and sweaty palms and not a moment longer. You see it is only your money that these people respect, and not you. If this type of power is all you seek, then I feel sorry that you will never know what it feels like to truly earn the respect of people, based on your deeds and your actions; the only real and lasting respect in this life.

The respect to which I refer could have been earned by building a true legacy for the BCCI, by furthering the cause of cricket and doing right by it. This honour is earned by putting your country and our sport first. It is an honour reserved for men who are willing take on the greatest mandate the BCCI has ever had in its history, and use it to put India and Indian cricket on the world stage. For years global cricket was dominated by a small minority of overlords in England and Australia because they had the financial muscle to call all the shots. Even though it was the contribution of many other teams and boards that enabled the growth of cricket, the power structure remained unchanged. 

Then came an era of explosive economic growth in BRICs which helped open the floodgates of fan support in Asia. Along with the tide of fans came a tidal wave of advertisers and marketers falling over themselves to write large cheques to the BCCI for a small share of the billion plus Indian eyeballs and wallets. It is easy to discount another very important reason for this cricket frenzy and that is the men who wore the Indian blues with great élan on and off the field during the same time. I am talking not of our current young Turks who earn six figure paydays for IPL matches but of the men who played this sport because it was their passion; Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Sachin Tedulkar, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh to name a few, can be credited with lifting India on their able shoulders; their dedication, integrity and hard work took Indian cricket to its zenith, thus giving the BCCI a mandate that a single cricket board will likely never again have. 

However, under your stewardship the BCCI chose to exercise this authority not by showcasing our largesse as a nation or by commanding the world’s respect based on our actions but by embarking on a small minded, medieval and myopic grab for power. Your BCCI focused all its efforts on gaining control over cricket’s governing body, the ICC, fought for more revenues (BCCI already has more money than they know what to do with), threatened meeker boards to submit to your whims and fancies, and bullied everyone into allowing you to be crowned Chair of ICC.

For years the BCCI opined about how poorly all the non-white teams were treated; about how the sub-continental boards were underrepresented and never given a voice. For years we complained about the fact that there were no TV cameras at the World Cup we went on to win, when India and Kapil Dev outplayed Zimbabwe, as it was not considered an important match for the ICC to waste precious resources on. Under your stewardship of the BCCI, India had a chance to shine by presenting ourselves as a beacon of fairness and integrity. We had a chance to lead by example and show the world that when the tables turned and we had the decree to lead, we did not spend our time trying to even old scores or by seeking revenge. But that we showed our one-time oppressors how everybody deserves to be treated - based on their contribution to the sport and not based on the colour of their skin or the thickness of their accent. 

We had a chance to demonstrate that we can take the high road, the path less traveled and carry even those who once exploited us, showing them a better way forward. You could have brought the minnows of cricket in from the cold and leveled the playing field forever. After accomplishing all this you would have likely won the ICC chair on merit and based on overwhelming support from every cricket board in the world. 

Then you could have focused the ICC’s energies along with the BCCI’s financial muscle on spreading cricket fever into the untapped meccas of football. From Europe to South America, you could have recruited the game’s greatest ambassadors and dispatched them to spread the cricketing gospel; through IPL style exhibitions games designed to light a spark in young impressionable minds the world over; at a time when many are losing faith in the religion of football based on their sports own recent scandals. 

This, Mr. Srinivasan, could have been your legacy for the BCCI, for Indian cricket and for India. And it is for squandering this opportunity that you owe your countrymen an apology before you go quietly into the night.

Yours Sincerely,
A Cricket Fan

READ Cricket's Obituary: Demise of a Gentleman’s Sport

Sunday, September 29, 2013

BCCI, Cricket and the Soul of India


“Sport has the power to change the world…it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.” 
Nelson Mandela 

I am acutely aware that there are far more serious and weighty issues that plague our country. Not for a moment do I believe that poverty, hunger, education, healthcare or a myriad other problems measure in the same breath as the recent Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) corruption scandal. I also understand where my critics are coming from when they argue that we should not distract ourselves or spend time bothering about some rich corrupt private league of old men. They say that the harm they do is limited. This is largely true but here is the thing that makes everything that has transpired within the ranks of the BCCI so important: nothing unites our country like cricket. We have a many religions, dozens of languages and dialects. Our cuisines and climates are totally different, as is our dress code from east to west and north to south. Even our cinema is split between Bollywood, Tollywood and regional films. The ONLY thing that unites every Indian is the Indian Cricket team. The boys in blue are a great symbol of national unity and international pride. They help us fight proxy wars with Pakistan, on the pitch, and defeat racism in Australia by beating the hosts handily. They help us hold our heads up high on the world stage, time and again, based on their conduct both on and off the field. Cricket is the fabric of India and it is bigger than religion. We hold our cricketers in higher esteem than Bollywood superstars, doyens of industry and even Nobel Prize winners.

Every young boy has imagined becoming a Vijay Hazare or Nawab Pataudi to Sachin Tendulkar and M.S. Dhoni. Every boy has played cricket growing up and dreamed of representing his country. From the fields of every village to the back gully in every city in India you can hear the screams of a child’s delight; from Azad Maidan to Kanyakumari, only cricket is the great leveler. Any Indian with the skill, talent and determination used to be able to play for and represent India. Our cricket pitches were the only places where caste, religion, language, education and wealth did not matter. Such was the power of cricket, and that is why, what has transpired should matter to all of us. 

The conduct of the current BCCI President, N. Srinivasan, with his refusal to step aside, or even apologize is abhorrent. Mr. Srinivasan is also the owner one of the most successful franchises in the Indian Premier League (IPL) – the Chennai Super Kings. This fact alone should have been sufficient ground to disqualify him from holding the post of President of BCCI (he is also President of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association). His son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan (the CEO of Chennai Super Kings), has been charged in an illegal betting and match fixing investigation. Naturally, this should make Mr. Srinivasan’s position even more untenable and one would expect him to have tendered his resignation. Instead he has dug in his heels, unabashedly proclaimed himself King and openly challenged anyone to oust him. He has deftly removed anyone on the board who might have stood up to him or opposed him and clearly seems to have the rest of the board in his pocket. It is quite clear that Mr. Srinivasan has been absolutely corrupted by his absolute power over the wealthiest cricket board in the world. He cares nothing for the sport he was once selected to steward. I wonder if he even remembers that the BBCI logo is derived from the emblem of the Order of the Star of India; India's highest order of chivalry during the British Raj.

This is about much more than a few corrupt old men. It is about the demise of a national sport, and with it the shattering of the dreams of every child, in every village and city gully in India. This is why we need to raise our voices and ensure that we give cricket back to the children of India. It is about restoring honour, responsibility, and integrity to the game we all loved and respected. We need to tell the BCCI that their conduct, even as non-elected representatives of Indian cricket, is incredibly important in preserving this sport’s and our nations, reputation. We must demand that these men are worthy of upholding the historic principles and values of cricket, and that they are able to discharge their duties with humility, integrity and honour, always putting the good of the game ahead of their own personal ambitions. It seems the men of the BCCI have forgotten their purpose. So drunk on power have they become that they believe they can operate with complete impunity and function in an opaque manner with zero external scrutiny or governance. A few wealthy men have hijacked our great love and turned it into their personal fiefdom.  

If cricket is India’s soul then the BCCI have morally bankrupted it. It is time to remind the BCCI who they are here to serve; the game of cricket. Only we can rejuvenate India’s soul - by raising our voices in protest and expressing our indignation, and we must because that is the only way we will give back the dream to every child in India.


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