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Board in no mood to bend now
- BCCI set to reject ‘final offer’ on sponsorship terms

Calcutta, Dec. 20: Key functionaries of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), who met here today, favour giving the Shane Bond-treatment to the International Cricket Council (ICC).

For now, the ICC’s “final offer” on the controversial Player Terms (for the forthcoming World Cup) stands rejected. A formal announcement is expected on Wednesday, after the BCCI’s Emergent General Meeting in the city.

That the BCCI cannot immediately respond will be conveyed to the ICC on Monday, when the directors of its business arm (IDI Limited) are scheduled to have a tele-conference.

While the ICC is insisting the players don’t engage in endorsements that conflict with its own sponsors from 30 days before the tournament till five days after the final, the BCCI (for now) is firm on the clause being operational during the tournament only.

Then, while the ICC wants the players to make themselves available for imaging (to the event sponsors) for a period of three months after the final, the BCCI favours two. Moreover, it is specifically opposed to players with conflicting “pre-existing (personal) contractual agreements” being called upon for imaging.

For example, Pepsi shouldn’t seek to use Virender Sehwag (Coke) and Hero Honda must not call upon Sachin Tendulkar (TVS Suzuki).

According to The Telegraph’s sources, besides not climbing down from the position made known to the ICC on December 9, the functionaries (with president Jagmohan Dalmiya in the chair) decided action ought to be initiated on three fronts.

[That well-connected Rajya Sabha member Rajiv Shukla, too, attended today’s meeting suggests the BCCI will be actively lobbying in New Delhi’s corridors of power.]

First, to open a dialogue with three key commercial partners of the ICC — Pepsi, LG and Hero Honda — which have much at stake in India. The agenda will be simple: A request for an undertaking that no compensation will be sought even if the players don’t respect the restrictive clauses in full.

If that is received, the BCCI can pick the best XV without the affected players actually signing the terms. After all, if key sponsors don’t seek compensation, the ICC’s threat of a heavy penalty has no basis.

Second, to up the ante even more on the ICC’s contract with Global Cricket Corporation (GCC), formerly the World Sport Group, which holds marketing rights for all events till the 2007 World Cup.

However, that the previous dispensation signed the Cricket Events Agreement (with the ICC) without objections, does weaken India’s case somewhat.

Intriguingly, the ICC hasn’t responded to three uncomfortable queries from the BCCI: (a) When were restrictive clauses incorporated into its contract with the GCC' (b) When exactly did the ICC or its business arm decide on doing so' (c) Who was authorised, and by whom, to incorporate them'

Third, to seek the opinion of the country’s best legal brains.

It’s significant that during the Kerry Packer controversy, the Chancery Division, in England, ruled in favour of Tony Greig and others in the dispute over restrictive clauses by the Establishment. Essentially, unreasonable “restraint of trade” was struck down.

While the BCCI is intent on selecting the best possible XV, it won’t surprise if affiliated units move court should it be compelled to omit top players owing to this imbroglio.

“The possibility of leaving out certain players, thanks to lopsided restrictive clauses, is never ever going to be taken lying down by anybody --- least of all the concerned state/unit,” is how a well-placed source put it.

Though the XV must be announced by December 31, the players have time till January 14 to sign the terms. That date is 25 days before the start of the World Cup and, so, the 30 days before-the-tournament bit itself stands violated.

Meanwhile, taking exception to the ICC going public with confidential details of the World Cup Contracts’ Committee’s deliberations (via a tele-conference) yesterday, Dalmiya said the BCCI was being “pushed to the point of impossibility.”

What has irked the BCCI even more is that the ICC “amended” some of the restrictive clauses after discussions with the Federation of International Cricketers’ Association, a body which doesn’t have recognition. Yet, it remains cold to requests on behalf of the Indian players.

Clearly, Dalmiya is preparing for what will probably be his toughest battle.

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