BCCI to issue fresh cricket tenders, clears Zee's path for bidding

NEW DELHI: With an eye to steer clear of legal quagmire, which had enveloped cricket rights, the newly-constituted Indian cricket board today announced cancellation of an earlier bidding process and said bids will be invited afresh after informing the courts that are hearing several cricket-related cases.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)s marketing committee also decided to unleash an array of sponsorship initiatives in a bid to increase revenue generation, including merchandising activities and unbundling of a host of sponsorship rights that were unveiled before the media in a detailed presentation.

Sponsorship Details

o Team Sponsorship will have branding on the leading arm and chest of the players shirt

o Separate team sponsors for Champions Trophy and World Cup to avoid conflict of interest

o Team kit sponsors will get branding on non-leading arm of player's shirts

o BCCI will have an official kit supplier for the Indian team

"The committee decided to cancel the current tender and issue a new one with fresh terms... The BCCI is looking at generating more revenues and has identified the areas," BCCI vice-president Lalit Modi today said at a crowded press conference.

He added: BCCI would like to get out of all legal battles in courts with regard to telecast rights. So, we have decided to approach the courts and seek their approval to cancel the current tender and put out fresh tenders with fresh terms very soon."

Modi, a close aide of the present cricket boss, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, though did not put a time frame on fresh bids, but added issuing a separate tender for ICC-organised tournaments like the Champions Trophy is being contemplated.

However, neither Modi, nor BCCI treasurer N. Srinivasan hazarded a guess whether the new bids will be on the higher side of previous quotes or on the lower side. New government norms make it mandatory for all sporting events of national importance to be shared with Doordarshan, thus robbing the rights of total exclusivity.

According to Modi, the Board would invite bids for team sponsors on 12 December and finish the whole process of awarding the rights before 20 December so that when the Indian team plays the next cricket series after finishing matching prowess with the Sri Lankans, a new sponsor would be in place.

The BCCI marketing committees decision today makes it clear that Zee Telefilms will be able to participate in the bidding. The previous regime at the BCCI, headed by Jagmohan Dalmiya protégé Mahendra Singh, had attempted to frame eligibility criteria in a way that would have kept Zee on the outside.

However, a senior executive of Zee Telefilms today was cautiously optimistic on the developments and said, These are early days yet and we would not like to comment outright on the bidding process except that our stand has been vindicated.

ESPN Star Sports, one of the main contenders for the Indian cricket rights, could not be reached for comments.

Some of the main decisions of the BCCI marketing panel are as follows:

# A re-tendering would be done for domestic cricket. Time frame would depend on a clearance from the court where several cases are being heard.

# A completely new set of rules and eligibility criteria would be set.

# BCCI to unbundle some of the rights in the new tender. For example, broadband, telephony, IPTV rights would be sold separately and would not form part of the broadcast rights. "BCCI is looking at a broader coverage (of cricket). We don't want people to feel that the Board is being too restrictive," Modi said.

# Separate deal with Doordarshan as per policy decision. Modi said, "All India Radio would be given broadcast rights free of cost."

# BCCI expects that Sahara would come forward and re-bid for the rights. Sahara has been an exemplary team sponsor, Modi added.

# New categories of sponsorships like official time keeper, air carrier and media partners will also be created to generate more revenue.

# BCCI would like to have its own TV channel, but no time frame has been set as no final decision on it has been taken.

# Issue of production houses bidding for the telecast rights would be dealt with separately.

# The highest bidder would get the rights.

# BCCI looking at creating opportunities through merchandising activities. This would result in increased earnings for players too, Modi said.

The cricket rights issue had got entangled in legal controversies after ESPN Star Sports went to court late 2004, challenging on technical grounds a decision to award four years? rights to Zee Telefilms, which had bid a humungous $ 308 million.

Since then the matter has been moving from one court to another, including the Supreme Court. The legal battle had benefited pubcaster Doordarshan that got to air all cricket matches played in India since January 2005.

The decision on re-tendering comes as no surprise and was an expected one. By handing Zee Sports the satellite telecast rights for the ongoing India-Sri Lanka Test matches, the BCCI had as good as acknowledged Zee's eligibility to bid for domestic cricket for the next four years.

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