The owner of new Pune franchise Sanjiv Goenka’s business links with former India captain Sourav Ganguly has inadvertently raised the issue of conflict of interest, which has been high on BCCI’s agenda since the IPL spot-fixing case. Ganguly, a member of the IPL governing council, is the co-owner of Indian Super League side Atletico Kolkata along with Goenka. The other members of the consortium that owns the team are Utsav Parekh, Harsh Neotia and Spanish club Atletico Madrid. The association of Ganguly and Goenka, however, is seen as a potential conflict.
BCCI president Shashank Manohar, however, disagreed at the post-auction press conference, insisting people ‘have not understood the meaning of the word conflict.’ At the same time, he said the BCCI-appointed independent ombudsman Retd Justice AP Shah will have the last word on this. It does not (result in conflict). These two teams are different. Everyday I get questions from various partners over the issue. People have not understood the meaning of the word conflict. It means where there could be a obvious bias regard to the decision making process. When a person can influence the decision making,” Manohar said. “You can’t stretch conflict to absurdity levels. Unless and until there is something to show that I have influenced the decision making process. These were close bids submitted and Sourav Ganguly had nothing to do. We have appointed an ombudsman to check if there is a conflict or there is no conflict.”
Former BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah concurred. “Yes, Ganguly is a member of the IPL governing council. But the bidding took place before everyone, so how could he influence it? In fact, he arrived late, returning from London. Also, there’s no money or commercial interests involved as Ganguly is not on the pay roll of any IPL franchise. So I can’t see any potential conflict of interest as far as his case is concerned,” he told The Indian Express.
Ganguly’s colleague in the governing council Ajay Shirke was more forthright. “There has to be some understanding of the conflict of interest issue. Conflict arises when somebody is in a position to grant someone an undue favour. In what capacity Ganguly can do that? I don’t see any merit in this argument but if someone still feels he is conflicted, we now have a forum (ombudsman) for redressal,” he said.
Apart from being a governing council member, Ganguly also heads the BCCI technical committee and is the president of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB). The cricket board’s rules on conflict of interest says: “A. An Administrator or his near relative, shall not have any commercial interest in any activities/tournaments of the BCCI including Indian Premier League. B. An Administrator or his near relative shall not be on the pay roll of an IPL Franchise.”
The guidelines, however, don’t offer much clarity on what will happen if a business partner of a BCCI official or functionary enters into a commercial agreement with the cricket board. Goenka believes there cannot be any conflict of interest for Ganguly. “He’s not involved in our cricket franchise. As for his association with Atletico de Kolkata, football is a different sport and doesn’t have any connection with the IPL. Also, two separate companies are involved here. The company that owns the ISL franchise and the one that owns the Pune team in the IPL are two completely separate entities. So how can there be a conflict of interest for Sourav Ganguly?,” Goenka said.