BCCI OMBUDSMAN AP Shah has handed Sourav Ganguly a clean chit with regards to the conflict-of-interest allegations, citing that none of the rules prescribed by the board on the issue could be applied in this case. While disposing of the matter, Shah refers to the bidding process for the two new franchises in the IPL as having been ‘transparent’ and one in which no member of the governing council, including Ganguly, could have played any role. This relates to the original complaint against Ganguly by Niraj Gunde, who alleged that the former India captain was ‘conflicted’ as a result of being a member of the governing council and having business interests with the promoters of the new Pune franchise.
Shah also reveals to have considered points beyond the BCCI’s framed rules on the issue to see whether Ganguly could have had a ‘conflict’ on the basis of having ‘attended the meeting and being part of the group of people that oversaw the bidding process’. But again, he fails to establish any conflict of interest.
“It is clear that the bidding process involved first, the submission of sealed technical and financial bids; second, the opening of technical bids; third, the scrutiny of the technical bids by lawyers; fourth, the opening of financial bids; and fifth, the selection of the lowest bidder among those who had qualified the technical round. All of these steps were taken on the same day in the presence of all the bidders. It is clear that members of the IPL Governing Council had no role to play, more so because the final selection of the bidder was based on objective criteria, i.e., the lowest bid,” the ombudsman writes in his order passed on February 17.
In his response to the complaint against him, Ganguly had written about having a 5 per cent stake in Atletico de Kolkata, an Indian Super League (ISL) football club whose owners have a stake in the new IPL franchise, Rising Pune Super Giants. But he had insisted on not being aware of the franchise’s share-holding patterns or having any connection with them. Gunde had then questioned his claims, appealing to the ombudsman that as a member of the governing council Ganguly would have been privy to the ‘contents of the bids’ since the BCCI was aware of the identities of the potential bidders, which included the RPG group that Ganguly had previous financial links with. The BCCI, meanwhile, had admitted to having no idea about Ganguly’s business affiliations but did back his claim that he hadn’t arrived for the meeting till the time the technical bids had been opened.
The ombudsman doesn’t find any ‘room for doubt’ regarding this version of events. “Mr Ganguly, as admitted by him, and verified by the BCCI, arrived at the meeting venue after the technical bids were already opened, and subsequently, as per previously advertised procedure, 3 financial bids were opened, and the lowest bidder was declared successful,” he writes.
Shah further goes on to reiterate that since the members of the governing council had no role in the bidding process, it didn’t matter whether they were present or not.
Bhajji seeks legal opinion
Meanwhile, according to PTI report, Harbhajan Singh has said he is seeking legal advise on the way ahead after BCCI Ombudsman Shah observed that the bowler should dissociate himself from sports apparel company ‘Bhajji Sports’, which supplies kits to domestic teams.