The recent controversy that has arisen over the Kochi franchise has brought to light a number of issues. The IPL has become a billion+ industry in a short span of 2-3 years. The promoters led by Lalit Modi have been subject to very little oversight let alone any degree of scrutiny whatsoever. So the ruckus over the Kochi franchise is a blessing in disguise.
The coming together of big business, Bollywood and cricket with no formal mechanism for checks and balances has served as a perfect breeding ground for corruption and favoritism. Its time to ensure complete transparency. Also, the issue of subsidies to to IPL and its franchises needs to be accounted for as rightly pointed out in recent article in the Hindu.
The BCCI-IPL cost the public crores of rupees each year in several ways. The waiving of entertainment tax worth Rs 10 crore -12 crore for the IPL in Maharashtra alone was discussed in the State’s Assembly. It was little reported and less discussed in the media. Maharashtra has extended other support to the IPL, which is yet to be quantified. This, despite being a State whose debt will cross Rs. 200,000 crore in the coming year. And there are similar subsidies and write-offs extended to the BCCI-IPL in other States, other venues.
A whole raft of concealed freebies from public resources to the BCCI-IPL is also not discussed. We have no picture of their full scope. No questions either on why a public sector company should be billing itself as the “sponsor” of a team owned by the fourth richest man in the planet. No questions asked about issues ranging from super-cheap land leases and stadia rentals and low-cost stadia security. We don’t even know what the total bill to the public is: just that it is probably in tens of crores. We do know that these supports to the IPL from public money come at a time when subsidies to the poor are being savaged. But we don’t want to go down that road. An inquiry into the IPL must cover the BCCI as well and must record all the open and hidden write-offs and subsidies that both get.
The bulk of the media is deeply focused on the emerging “hot news” ranging from Shashi Tharoor’s personal life, his text message to Modi, speculation about his resignation/firing, Modi’s intricate web of family members and friends who own stakes in the IPL teams, charges of bribery, the Gujarat team vs the Kochi team, among other things. The bigger story with a potential positive long term impact is an opportunity to clean up administration of not only the IPL but also the management of cricket across the country. The clean up process should start at the state and district levels of cricket. For instance, why are state cricket boards headed by politicians? (Lalu Yadav, Arun Jaitley, Farooq Abdullah etc.). Is there transparency with regard to funds of the various state cricket board and their distribution across each state? Why should the BCCI be headed by a politician? Why should India choose a politician to head the ICC? Why was the ICL squashed by the BCCI? After all ICL was the first of its kind and should have been allowed to co-exist along with the IPL. One can only hope that the media does not move on to the next hot story (once the public interest dies down) and lose track of an opportunity to bring about lasting fundamental change to India’s most popular and profitable sport.