Following the Supreme Court order on Friday, BCCI secretary Ajay Shirke has written a letter to the Lodha Committee, underlining issues that are imminent. “We have to finalise the broadcast rights for the IPL. The invitation to tenders (ITTs) are slated to be opened on Tuesday. Now that a new independent auditor will be appointed and the Committee’s nod is required for all new contracts above a fixed limit, I have sought clarifications on whether we can go ahead with the process or stop it. And if the independent auditor will be present at our meeting,” Shirke told The Indian Express.
To some extent, there’s a sense of relief within the BCCI after the SC order. For the last three-odd months, following the Supreme Court’s July 18 judgment that accepted the majority of the Lodha Committee recommendations, the cricket board had been on tenterhooks. In its status report, the Lodha panel had asked for the removal of the present cricket board office-bearers; appoint a group of independent administrators to take charge of the functioning of Indian cricket and issue contempt charge against the BCCI top brass for non-compliance. The Supreme Court restricted the board’s financial powers instead.
The court said the state units under the BCCI shall not be given a single penny “for any purpose whatsoever” until they implement the Lodha reforms in toto. It also said the Committee should appoint an independent auditor to scrutinise the BCCI’s accounts, while directing the cricket board president Anurag Thakur and secretary Ajay Shirke to meet the Lodha panel and file an affidavit in two weeks. Today, the apex court released the order it had reserved on October 17.
The order came along the lines of the court’s earlier observation, when it said replacing the BCCI office-bearers would be an “extreme measure”. It has allowed the governing body of Indian cricket some breathing space. Embargo on fund disbursement to state associations is basically an extension of the court’s October 7 order, while fixing an upper limit on the value of contracts the BCCI can enter into doesn’t appear damaging. In fact, subject to the Lodha Committee’s approval, the board can go beyond the limit.
“All I can say is I have full faith in the Indian judiciary. I have been saying this from day one. But somehow many people tried to project it as a war; that we are not implementing the Lodha Committee recommendations. The fact is that we called a meeting on the deadline day and we have implemented many recommendations. In fact, we ushered in many reforms even before the panel’s recommendations. The BCCI was always very open and positive, and our record shows we are the best-run sports federation in the country,” BCCI president Thakur told The Indian Express.
About the appointment of an independent auditor, he said: “We already have our internal and external auditors and if the court wants to have a few more auditors, we have got no issues with that. We are very transparent as far as our functioning is concerned.
“Even the global bidders are so impressed with our bidding process – each and every envelope is opened before them on the same day – that they have said this is the most transparent bid process internationally.”
Asked about the affidavits that they have to file, he commented: “We will look at the detailed order. We have got nothing to hide.”
To a major extent, the BCCI is in trouble because of the cricketers that allegedly transgressed – the Sreesanths and the Chavans and the Chandilas. Thakur tried to put things in perspective. “It is not reported well in the media that the BCCI has been very strict at taking action on issues like fixing and other disciplinary breaches. We have banned many players in the past. We have had a very extensive and successful education programme (for the players). So I think we have taken all the steps in the right direction,” he said.
Coming back to the fund ban issue, the court didn’t restrict the state bodies to spend from their own coffers but without the BCCI money a lot of associations would be in trouble. “Yes, states can use their own money and there’s absolutely no doubt about that. If certain states are facing financial difficulties; help and guidance will be sought from the newly-appointed auditor. Rajasthan is suspended and the BCCI is paying to cover the expenses of the Rajasthan Ranji team. We will ask the auditor if we can continue. Associations like Jammu and Kashmir and Goa might face problems and once again we will seek the auditor’s advice.