CHENNAI: The anxiety is palpable within the Indian cricket board. This is how a veteran board member responded to New Year: “Let’s see how it pans out on January 4. Whether it’s a good year or not will be known in four days.” This reflects the mood of BCCI officials who are anxiously waiting for the Justice RM Lodha-led panel to spell out the recommendations for good governance of the BCCI. Some even felt even if half of the speculations are true, it will threaten the existence of some top officials.
The three-member panel — former Justices Ashok Bhan and RV Raveendran are the other members — was formed by the Supreme Court to make recommendations on the functioning of the BCCI. The panel has already suspended Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royal after the court found their officials Gurunath Meiyappan (CSK) and Raj Kundra (RR) guilty of betting. Meiyappan and Kundra too were banned for life.
Come Monday, BCCI officials will be wary of the recommendations. There have been a lot of rumours that politicians and businessmen will be asked to stay away from holding BCCI office. As reported by Express, the panel might even do away with multiple associations in a state and even abolish voting rights of clubs like National Cricket Club (Kolkata).
However, the bigger worry for the BCCI officials is whether the recommendations, good or bad, would be made binding or not. Top BCCI officials are pointing towards SC’s order that states the panel’s recommendations are binding only while determining the quantum of punishments of Meiyappan and Kundra.
However, legal experts believe there could be a twist to the tale. Justice TS Thakur, who was part of the two-member bench that formed the Lodha panel, is now the Chief Justice of India. “He (Thakur) was the one who recommended the panel and I don’t think he would show any leniency towards BCCI. The Board has not done anything to correct themselves in all these years and it needed a Supreme Court-appointed panel to recommend the punishment on two franchises and striking down the conflict of interest clause,” observed noted sports lawyer Rahul Mehra.
On Sunday, most BCCI officials appeared clueless on what will be the outcome. That politicians and businessmen might be barred from holding posts in the BCCI didn’t seem to go well with many. “It would be ridiculous if they do so. They should be realistic,” said one.
As reported by this newspaper a fortnight ago, the panel might do away with the all-powerful Working Committee of the BCCI. In a 30-member body, only five state units form WC on basis of permanent Test centre tag, while five others make it on a rotation basis. The panel might ask for structural changes in the BCCI, meaning its very existence under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration act might be questioned. If the BCCI has to appoint a CEO or COO, then it can’t do so under the current circumstances as all the office bearers hold honorary posts.
All the muck started flying after the BCCI amended its constitution that allowed the board officials to have commercial interest in the IPL. The Apex Court struck it down saying it was the root cause of all problems. Though the IPL is managed by a sub-committee of the BCCI — IPL governing council — the panel might recommend it to be a separate entity, independent of the BCCI. Moreover, it might also ask the BCCI office bearers not to hold any positions in IPL and be governed by former cricketers.
Conflict of Interest
Ever since Shashank Manohar took charge as the president of the BCCI there has been a lot of talk about minimising conflict of interest. For a change there isn’t much conflict at least in the BCCI right now. However, in affiliated units, there are a few.
One State, One Body
The other significant proposal could be that one state should have only one association. Maharashtra has three — Mumbai, Vidarbha and Maharashtra while Gujarat has got Baroda, Saurashtra and Gujarat Cricket Association. Incidentally, there are only two state units from the North East and states like Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, despite the bigger populations, have only one unit.
Expert’s Take: Will it be Binding or Not?
Though it is not clear what the magnitude of the committee’s recommendations will be, many of the board officials have other big concerns, primarily on whether the Supreme Court will make the recommendations binding or not. If it is binding, then the BCCI has to follow them like it did with the suspension of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals. Moreover, though the BCCI is likely to challenge the structural changes if recommended, there are others who believe the time is right for the board to undergo changes. Sports lawyer Rahul Mehra said: “They have to be more transparent. They will never allow anyone from outside to contest and it is always the ones inside who do so. It is like a ‘you scratch my back and I will scratch your back’ policy. And why does a board which is responsible for cricket overall has only two units from the North East? And this is why the SC should make the recommendations binding.”