Business Today

Fixing the IPL!

The IPL controversy exposes the urgent need to revamp the BCCI and other sports bodies in India. BT asks experts to draw a blueprint for the radical reforms required to clean up the mess.

Print Edition: May 16, 2010

Balu Nayar
Head of Morpheus Media Fund; Earlier, Managing Director of IMG India

Change. Radical change. That's what's needed—not just in the Indian Premier League or IPL, but in Indian cricket in general.

Let's look at what the IPL set out to do (and did) for Indian cricket. The league ensures that our young talent has a far lower career risk when deciding to opt for cricket as a profession, that our sportsmen are exposed to the best coaches, that our stadia are continually upgraded, and that numerous employment opportunities are created around the country.

Problems & Solutions

Problem 1

  • Governance: Key BCCI officials behave like autocrats, with little accountability to those who matter most—the players and the fans.
  • Solution: Man the board with salaried professionals who are aligned with sporting and commercial objectives.

Problem 2

  • Financial dealings: Transactions lack transparency and credible auditing.
  • Solution: Have a credible accounting firm audit the financials.

Problem 3

  • Political involvement: BCCI and state associations have politicians at the forefront who find it difficult to stay away from the lucrative proposition that is cricket.
  • Solution: Let professionals run the show.

Problem 4

  • Shadow of matchfixing: In an environment in which betting is illegal, the doubt of player and franchise involvement in fixing results will always hover.
  • Solution: Create legal sports betting platforms with licences given to competent organisations.
The IPL could one day fund Test cricket and other sports in India—like an enlightened music label(!) subsidising its classical music portfolio with revenues from pop music. However, for Indian cricket lovers, the recent revelations have been a drastic watering down of a psychedelic Indian dream.

Let's look at the core issues and some radical solutions—some of these may appear unrealistic, but it's crucial to aim for the ideal. While the BCCI has been successful in marketing cricket, governance is an issue, whether in reality or perception.

Keeping aside the issues concerned with private trusts, it's clear that at least a partial government control over the sport is warranted, perhaps on the lines of the bank nationalisation programmes. Rather than struggling in the quagmire of bureaucracy, it's best that the cricketing body is structured on the lines of a quasi-PSU. All members of Cricket India will need to be salaried professionals, accountable for sporting and commercial objectives as well as corporate governance.

One of the key allegations concerns misconduct during financial transactions, including team bids, media rights, etc. The only remedy is to have these sensitive processes managed and audited by one of the Big Four firms, with due checks in place to eliminate any possibility of corruption. In future, any cricket-related financial transaction will need to carry the stamp of a reliable auditor for the process to have credibility.

Both the BCCI as well as the state cricketing associations are manned largely by politicians, and it would perhaps be a wise decision for them to voluntarily step aside to allow the professionalisation of cricket administration.

The root-cause of match-fixing is illegal cricket betting, which is estimated to be about Rs 1,60,000 crore per annum, and continues to flourish. The best solution to this problem, which obviously runs on black money, is for the government to create a legal cricket betting platform with the operations licensed out to competent organisations. This would not only help the sport, but could bring in substantial revenues to the government— multiple times the current tax receipts from the IPL of around Rs 200 crore.

A national sporting achievement such as the IPL raises a country's optimism index quite dramatically. However, the reverse is also true—if quick measures aren't taken, the negative impact on the national psyche could be significant. A cleansed cricket ecosystem where credibility and competency prevail—that's what's needed to raise the collective spirit.

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