The Eden Gardens wore a deserted look on Tuesday, bereft of any on-field action. But off-field action made up for the cricketing vacuum with disbursement of BCCI funds to its state units taking centrestage.
On Tuesday evening, the Lodha Committee issued directives to state associations, asking them not to touch the BCCI money that has already been transferred to their bank accounts.
Lodha panel secretary Gopal Sankaranarayanan informed the state units via an email that their parent body, the BCCI, had taken the decision to disburse “large funds” at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) on September 21 and the Working Committee on September 30 “without framing the disbursement policy which was mandatory”.
Sankaranarayanan also mentioned that an amount “between Rs 10-20 crore” had already been disbursed, confirming that most of those transactions were “hurriedly carried out by RTGS between 29th September and 1st October”.
The Lodha Committee has already filed a status report before the Supreme Court, complaining that the BCCI didn’t adhere to the panel’s directive of restricting its AGM to matters related to 2015-16. That the cricket board has missed the September 30 deadline for implementing the first set of proposed reforms has also been brought to the court’s notice. The apex court asked the BCCI to file its reply with the next hearing scheduled on Thursday.
“In this light of events, as the actions of the BCCI to transfer these funds is (sic) contrary to this Committee’s directions and sub judice, you (state associations) are hereby directed not to in any way transfer or disturb those funds that have been transferred as above to your association. If anything is done contrary to this express direction, it will be brought to the knowledge of the Hon’ble Supreme Court for appropriate orders on contempt,” the panel secretary said in his mail.
WATCH VIDEO: BCCI To Cancel India-New Zealand Series, Here’s Why
The lead-up to the latest mail from the Lodha Committee had been dramatic, with the BCCI hinting at cancellation of the ongoing series against New Zealand because of its “frozen” bank accounts and the panel subsequently issuing a clarification, citing misinterpretation on the board’s part.
The Indian Express reported on Monday, quoting a senior BCCI official, that the India-New Zealand series could be called off because the banks decided to “freeze its accounts”. According to a cricket board insider, letters from Yes Bank and Bank of Maharashtra confirmed the “freeze”.
“We don’t deserve this. What about our image? It looks like we have gone bankrupt or have siphoned off funds. It is the money of the state units. It has been with the board for so many months. It is their right to get it back. What is BCCI? It is made up of these 30 associations. BCCI, on its own, doesn’t even own a single stadium. Basically, it is the state units that own the stadiums and host matches,” BCCI president Anurag Thakur told The Indian Express, while describing “routine work” a pretty “vague term”.
He also questioned the Lodha Committee’s authority to interfere in the cricket board’s banking operations.
“Has the Supreme Court given the Committee the authority; have they been empowered to reach the banks directly? Has the court authorised them (Committee) to freeze accounts? Have they been authorised to interfere in day-to-day work, or their role was to see the implementation (of the Supreme Court order)? If they have to do the day-to-day work, what do we have to do? Where is our autonomy? Where is the autonomy of the BCCI? It’s the first and foremost rule of any international organisation to get affiliation, whether it is the ICC or IOC,” Thakur said, saying that “in the interest of cricket and India’s image, the BCCI will host matches”.
The Lodha Committee, however, has termed the cricket board’s statements “misleading”. “It is unfortunate that the directions/contents of the e-mail have been misinterpreted, as is evident from the press reports to state that the present India-New Zealand series is at stake.
“The Supreme Court Committee has not frozen the bank accounts of BCCI. Nor has it objected to the banking operations/payments relating to routine administration and conduct of cricket matches/tournaments/activities. This has been clarified in express terms to the banks concerned, so that cricket and the public are not made to pay for the actions of the BCCI governors.
“What was objected to was (sic) the decisions said to have been taken at the Emergent Working Committee meeting of BCCI on 30.9.2016, to disburse large funds to the various Member Associations under the guise of increasing the annual infrastructure subsidy and to divide the proceeds of the Champions League compensation. We understand that these may run into figures of more than Rs 500 crore. Such decisions were neither routine nor emergent,” another mail from the Lodha panel to BCCI office-bearers and CEO Rahul Johri mentioned.
The letter that the BCCI got from Bank of Maharashtra on Monday evening, however, stated: “We are enclosing the Supreme Court Committee mail with this. Under such circumstances, we are stopping all transactions on your accounts till further information from the Supreme Court Committee.”
The Yes Bank letter said: “Attached herewith is the Supreme Court Committee mail. In view of the same, we are constrained to put debit freeze on all your accounts in our bank. We also take this opportunity to request you to avoid banking operations in the said accounts as they are being placed under debit freeze.”
According to a source, the accounts were unfrozen only after the Lodha Committee sent directives to the banks on Tuesday morning. BCCI secretary Ajay Shirke spoke about the “difficulties” of working in “glorious uncertainty”.
“Today freeze, tomorrow unfreeze, day after deep freeze – a body like the BCCI cannot function in such glorious uncertainty,” Shirke told The Indian Express.
However, for the Kiwis, it’s “business as usual” as of now and they are preparing for the Indore Test. They haven’t received any communication from the BCCI yet. According to a cricket board official, the final decision regarding the Test would be taken “maybe by tomorrow evening or October 6”.
“We need clarity on routine operations,” he said.
Sequence of events
* On Monday at 12.08pm, the Lodha Committee sends a mail to the BCCI secretary, treasurer and CEO, while copying it to banks of the BCCI. Directs them “not to take any steps towards financial disbursement” of the “large funds to the various member associations”.
* The BCCI gets letters/emails from the Bank of Maharashtra and Yes Bank, confirming the account freeze.
* Deep into the evening, a senior BCCI official tells The Indian Express they would be “forced” to cancel the ongoing series against New Zealand following the Committee’s direction to banks to “freeze the accounts”.
* On Tuesday morning, the Lodha Committee secretary Gopal Sankaranarayanan tells this paper that the instruction doesn’t freeze the bank accounts and nowhere has the panel directed the BCCI to stop its routine affairs, including the series against New Zealand.
* Lodha Committee subsequently sends directives to the banks to unfreeze the accounts.
* In a mail to the BCCI, the Supreme Court-appointed Committee terms the statements from the cricket board office-bearers “misleading”, while clarifying that it has no intention to put the India-New Zealand series at stake.
* At 5.50pm on Tuesday, the panel sends “directions” to the state associations on funds, asking them “not to in any way transfer or disturb those funds”.
* BCCI president Anurag Thakur questions the Lodha panel’s authority to interfere into the board’s banking operations.
* BCCI secretary Ajay Shirke describes the whole “freeze and unfreeze” episode as “glorious uncertainty”.
* New Zealand team management says it’s “business as usual” and they have not received communication from the BCCI.
* A BCCI official says Indore Test’s fate would be known in a “day or two”.