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Will the IPL media rights be impacted by Supreme Court’s directives to BCCI?

NEW DELHI: Will the Indian Premier League (IPL) media rights, expected to be decided on 25 October, be impacted by the Supreme Court’s directives to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)?

Supreme-Court-of-India01Irked by the BCCI’s defiant act, the Supreme Court has asked the Lodha panel to appoint an independent auditor to scrutinise the grant of high-value contracts, including the IPL, by the cricket board.

The apex court has directed the BCCI to seek the panel’s approval for contracts relating to media rights, ground rights above the fixed limit. The limit for contracts above which the BCCI will have to seek approval will be determined by the panel.

“The auditor shall also oversee the tendering process that will be undertaken by the BCCI as well as the award of contracts above a threshold value to be fixed by the committee; the award of contracts by the BCCI above the threshold fixed shall be subject to the prior approval of the committee,” the bench, led by Chief Justice TS Thakur, said.

The Lodha panel can obtain the advice of the auditors on the fairness of the tendering process adopted by the BCCI. The committee will determine whether a proposed contract above the threshold value should or should not be approved, the bench said.

IPLThe direction comes at a time when the BCCI is in the final lap of awarding IPL media rights contracts. As many as 18 companies have purchased tenders for the IPL media rights, which are expected to bring windfall gain to the BCCI. The last day for submitting bids is 25 October.

The apex court’s order means that the independent auditor will also have a say in the awarding of the IPL media rights contract. Star India and Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI), which is the incumbent TV rights holders for India, are expected to slog it out for the coveted rights.

The IPL digital rights for India are also expected to attract bids from non-broadcast players like Reliance Jio, Amazon India, Twitter and Facebook.

The SC also barred the BCCI from disbursing funds, even for organising matches, to the state cricket associations until they agree to abide by the recommendations.

Earlier, the panel had asked banks not to disburse large funds to the state associations until they implemented the recommendations. However, there was no freeze on fund disbursement for routine matters like cricket matches.

The bench was annoyed with the BCCI’s dilly-dallying over the implementation of Lodha panel recommendations. The apex court had passed an order on 18 July that made it binding on the BCCI to implement the panel’s recommendations. The BCCI has to implement these recommendations by 3 December.

The apex court made it clear that the BCCI has no option but to implement the recommendations or face legal action.

“Does the BCCI think it can violate our orders and get away with it? When the high-powered committee gives its report, we don’t expect this sort of conduct from the BCCI. Fall in line; otherwise, we will pass orders,” the SC had observed earlier.

The apex court has accepted major recommendations of the Lodha Committee such as barring ministers from being BCCI members, barring individuals aged above 70 years from holding posts in the BCCI, one state one vote, and having a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) nominee on the BCCI for auditing. It has left it to the government to bring the BCCI under the ambit of RTI and to legalise betting. However, it had omitted one major recommendation pertaining to airing of ads during breaks, as this had the potential to turn the cricket broadcasting economics on its head.