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BCCI taps TV executive Rahul Johri as its first CEO

MUMBAI: Pushed by the Lodha Committee and the Supreme Court, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has appointed its first chief executive officer (CEO) to bring in an air of professionalism.

The world’s richest cricket board has tapped a TV executive to take charge of operations in a power structure that rests with politicians across party lines. This is part of a broader initiative that the apex court wants the BCCI to carry out, to improve governance and introduce operational processes.

Rahul-Johri1Former Discovery Network Asia Pacific executive vice president and general manager for South Asia Rahul Johri will assume the historic role of BCCI CEO on 1 June. Nobody yet knows the mandate of the CEO, but the official announcement said he would report to the BCCI secretary and work out of the Mumbai office.

That the BCCI would dig into the corporate world for a CEO was obvious. This was essential to give a signal to the apex court that it was serious in bringing about changes in the professional functioning of the board.

Said BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur, “In the past one year, the BCCI has undertaken various initiatives aimed at transforming the working of the BCCI in order to make the functioning more robust. This endeavour is yet another initiative of the board aimed in the same direction and will mark as one more milestone towards strengthening the professional working of the BCCI.”

The hiring of a TV executive, finalised after scanning candidates through head-hunting firm Korn Ferry over a three-month period, will have its own set of advantages. The BCCI earns a major chunk of its revenues from the media rights it sells to the broadcasters. For example, Star India paid Rs 3,851 crore (Rs 38.51 billion) for the rights to broadcast Indian cricket for 2012–18. The IPL is another cash cow for the BCCI.

Though Johri has no experience in sports broadcasting, he has led Discovery Networks’ growth to an 11-channel bouquet. During his stint, Discovery has also worked with Shah Rukh Khan for a special on his Kolkata Knight Riders IPL franchise.

Not having a sports background allows Johri to start with a clean slate. “Johri not having a sports background is not an issue. When Sundar Raman was hired as IPL COO, what sports background did he have? He came from a media agency. Not having a sports background also means that Rahul is not carrying any baggage,” opined a media analyst.

Johri will be responsible for the smooth functioning of operations, stakeholder management and building robust strategies for further promoting the sport.

“There is very little to do when it comes to selling the media rights of India cricket or the IPL. The process is the simplest and most transparent. The BCCI calls for bids and the highest bidder bags the rights. Selling of TV rights cannot be Johri’s main role. Coming from a sales and TV background, he will also draw comfort from getting sponsors on board and servicing clients,” a sports broadcasting executive said.

Though the Supreme Court-appointed Lodha Committee had recommended a five-year contract for the CEO, the BCCI did not mention details on Johri’s tenure.

In January 2016, the Lodha Committee had recommended the appointment of CEO, who would run the daily affairs of the BCCI and be accountable to a nine-member apex council.

“There would be a maximum of six managers to assist the CEO who would have expertise primarily in the streams of Operations, Finance, Technical Compliance (legal), Human Resources and Media,” the Committee had said.

In February, the Supreme Court directed the BCCI to “fall in line” with the recommendations.

How much the BCCI will bend and what role Johri will play only time will tell.

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