MUMBAI: The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is learned to have sold the ground rights for the two Twenty20 Internationals between India and the West Indies, to be played in Florida (US) this weekend, without a tender process last week.
The rights have been sold to Chennai-based Tech Front, which is a veteran in on-ground-in-stadia cricket rights. While the base price for the broadcast rights for these two matches was mentioned on the BCCI website, no such declaration was made by the cricket board for the ground rights deal, suggesting that it’s not been a ‘transparent deal’ as recommended by the Supreme Court-appointed Lodhacommittee.
This comes at a time when TOI has learned that the BCCI has written a letter to Sony Pictures Network India (SPNI) categorically stating that it needs to “take part in a tender process” to retain the rights of the much-valued Indian Premier League (IPL) so that the entire deal can be handled in the most transparent manner possible. The 10-year rights for the IPL will end with the 2017 season.
After the July 18 SC order, which mandates “transparency” in all financial dealings of the BCCI, it was clear that the board would have to bring out a tender to sell any/all potential properties in future.
Sources in the Lodha committee have expressed surprise that while the BCCI is toeing the transparency line for the IPL rights, it sold the ground rights for the Florida matches without a stipulated tender process. On Tuesday, the first signs of what is expected to be a tooth-and-nail fight for the IPL rights came to the fore when sources revealed that BCCI had written to SPNI asking it to participate in the tender process and was told in return that it was violating the terms of the contract signed in 2010.
Informed sources told TOI that while BCCI has indeed sent the letter to SPNI, asking it to participate in the tender process, “SPNI is clear that it is a blatant violation of the existing IPL contract”. This newspaper had reported first that a clause exists in the BCCI-SPNI IPL deal which allows the latter the first right of refusal for the broadcast rights when they come up for renewal.
This clause, it is further learned, was inserted in the contract between BCCI and Sony when the latter took the cricket board to court in 2010, giving way to the facilitation fee controversy – also involving the World Sports Group, Singapore – that continues to be under the investigation of the Enforcement Directorate.
SPNI, add sources, is trying to understand the legal implications of BCCI’s letter because it strongly believes that the cricket board “is not being fair and clearly is in breach of the contract”.
Star, in the meantime, is sitting pretty knowing that its best chance to grab the IPL rights will come if there’s a tender process in place. Sources close to the giant broadcaster said, “Star has always maintained that the 2010 out-of-court settlement between BCCI and SPNI (then Multi Screen Media) was signed under ‘suspicious circumstances’ because of the facilitation fee controversy.”
The row had erupted in April 2010 with Lalit Modi at the helm of the multi-million-dollar tournament.
Even as BCCI maintains that it has made a final written offer to SPNI stipulating its expectations for the “next rights period”, sources say SPNI is only in receipt of a letter from BCCI saying that an open tender process needs to be put in place. They insist the broadcaster hasn’t received any “final written offer” from the board.
BCCI sources also say that despite several discussions with SPNI on the subject of IPL rights renewal, the two parties haven’t been able to reach a ‘fair’ agreement.