ESPN Star Sports moves court on India cricket rights

MUMBAI / NEW DELHI: In an expected move, ESPN STAR Sports (ESS) has approached the courts in a last-ditch attempt to reverse the decision by the Board for Cricket Control in India (BCCI) to award the India cricket telecast rights for the next four years to Zee Telefilms.

This during a week when one of its American parents - ESPN - is celebrating its silver jubilee year. And at a time when ESPN's contracts with both the NFL and and Major League Baseball  the heart of its programming in the US for years  are close to expiring.

An official communiqué issued late this evening states that ESS has "challenged BCCI's decision to award conditional allotment of rights for all cricket to be played in India to the Zee Network in the Mumbai High Court."

Justifying the move, Rik Dovey, managing director, ESS, Asia was quoted in the release as saying, "Unfortunately, we are left with no other option but to resort to the law in an attempt to bring fair-dealing and justice to the process. ESPN STAR Sports was the highest eligible bidder under the rules of bidding specified by the BCCI and now the BCCI has changed the entire process of bidding in violation of rules set by BCCI themselves to favor our competitor by giving them an unfair advantage."

Zee Telefilms meanwhile, had filed a caveat in the High Court yesterday itself in anticipation of ESS moving the courts, company spokesperson Ashish Kaul says.

While the matter is expected to come up for hearing in the Mumbai High Court on Tuesday, 7 September, the BCCI has said it had not received any legal notice thus far. Professor Ratnakar Shetty, joint secretary of the board, told Wisden Cricinfo, "I was in the BCCI office till 6 pm and at that stage we had not been served any notice." The BCCI office, in stadium house, on the premises of the Brabourne Stadium, officially functions till 5 pm. Even an hour later than that they had not received any word regarding a legal notice.

Explaining the basis of taking legal recourse, ESPN Software India managing director RC Venkateish was quoted in the ESS release as saying, "As described in the terms of the BCCI tender document Zee should not have been allowed to bid in the first place. Zee does not qualify because it does not have any experience of broadcasting or producing live international cricket event as specified in the tender. Clearly the required technical evaluation of the bids has not been carried out."

"On Sunday the BCCI changed the rules to unfairly disadvantage our bid without giving us any further rights to bid," Venkateish added.

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