Television

Cricket: BCCI debunks bidders’ objections

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NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: Cricket and controversy in India are synonymous now.

The latest round of allegation and counter-elucidations relates to overseas cricket telecast rights for Indo-Pakistan cricket matches to be played in neutral venues with one set of bidders alleging “irregularities” in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
The charge that the Indian cricket board is allegedly biased towards Sahara One Media & Entertainment, which is presently telecasting the ongoing India-England home cricket series on Sahara One channel, however, has been dismissed by the BCCI as “making a mountain of a molehill.”

If that’s not enough, media reports from Pakistan hint that while the BCCI is going ahead full steam with the proposed cricket matches --- 25 in number over a period of few years --- actually no formal agreement exist between it and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), which is as much owners of the cricket matches as the Indian cricket board.

On the last day of submission of financial bids for Indo-Pak cricket on neutral venues, some companies like Zee Telefilms, ESPN Star Sports and Nimbus today have alleged that tender documents criteria “seem to have been totally ignored by Sahara in the bid submission process.”

Not only one of the bidders has written a letter to the BCCI president and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, after marking it to other officials like the marketing head chief Lalit Modi, but a sequence of happenings as it happened have been detailed.

BCCI has fixed a reserve price of $ 5 million dollars a match and the total revenue generated could be in excess of $120 million.

The basic thrust of the allegations listed in the letter, a copy of which is available with Indiantelevision.com, is not only the Sahara group submitted its bids after the deadline of 11 a.m. today, but also flouted a condition of bringing the bids in open envelopes.

“…the Sahara financial bid was in unsealed condition and was actually taken out of the envelope for approximately 10 to 15 seconds,” the letter states, adding that all the other bidders present objected to it and lodged their formal protest on Sahara’s late arrival too.

While Sahara One Media and Entertainment refused to make any comments when contacted by Indiantelevision.com, BCCI vice-president Modi dismissed the allegations by saying the other bidders were simply splitting hairs over a small issue.

“There has been no irregularity,” Modi insisted, “If people feel that on a small technical issue, we would disqualify a newcomer (Sahara has never bagged telecast rights till the recent India-England series), then they have to think again.”

According to Modi, the other companies were attempting to form a “cartel” in an effort to hammer down the prices.

“It almost seems that some companies are ganging up against a newcomer’s entry. It also seems a cartel is being attempted so that the price (of the telecast rights) could be lowered,” Modi told Indiantelevision.com.

Asked whether the BCCI has a formal deal with the PCB before going ahead with sale of telecast rights of Indo-Pak cricket, Modi criticized the Pakistani media for raising unimportant issues, which are of “no consequence.”

“The very fact that we are going ahead with the bidding process shows that PCB and the BCCI have an understanding. Has the PCB said anything formally?” the businessman-turned-sports administrator countered

Meanwhile, the protest letter concludes by stating, “We believe that the new BCCI administration has conducted the earlier tender processes with complete transparency and fairness. There have been instances in the past, where companies have been disqualified on technical grounds.

“Keeping these facts in mind, we trust that in all fairness, the Sahara financial bid should not be considered. We are hopeful that the BCCI will take a fair decision on this occasion as well.”

Whether the BCCI takes note of the protests lodged by the likes of Zee, ESS and Nimbus can only be gauged when the financial bids are opened on Thursday (6 April) and the successful candidate announced

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