The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Zee rejoices, ESPN howls

Chennai/Calcutta, Sept. 5: The Board of Control for Cricket in India today gave Zee Network the first chance to make a run for cricket telecast rights, but rival ESPN-STAR Sports is crying foul.

After its marketing committee meeting in Chennai, the BCCI asked Zee Network to deposit $20 million “in the next two to three days” as the prime and necessary condition for bagging the telecast rights for international cricket matches in India for the next four years.

Zee got the first opportunity to deposit this amount after it matched the revised bid of runner-up ESPN-STAR at $308 million.

BCCI chief Jagmohan Dalmiya, however, clarified that the decision did not amount to handing the rights to Zee. “Today we have not awarded (the contract),” Dalmiya said.

“(Zee) Has to deposit $20 million within two to three days; then we will give them a letter of intent,” he added. There are other conditions, including a bank guarantee, but Dalmiya did not explain what these are.

Zee claimed that it had bagged the rights. Subhash Chandra, the chairman, said: “It is an overwhelming feeling to have finally been able to seal the deal which I always believed from day one was legitimately ours.”

Zee officials refused to explain what the “other conditions” referred to by Dalmiya were. “They are a part of the terms of the tender document and nothing beyond that,” Rajiv Garg, the CEO of corporate strategy and finance of Chandra’s Essel Corporate Group, said from Chennai.

“We are bound by confidentiality and cannot share the details,” he said. He declined to explain the break-up of Zee’s payment schedule as well, terming them “confidential”.

Rik Dovey, the managing director of ESPN-STAR, expressed disappointment. “The BCCI had changed the entire process of bidding in violation of rules set by BCCI themselves. We feel that today’s proceedings clearly are a denial of natural justice and a violation by the BCCI of its own tendering process,” he said.

Dovey added that yesterday the BCCI had asked ESPN-STAR to provide clarifications about its original bid, which it did. “The tender committee had clearly expressed that they wanted the bidding process to stop there,” he said.

At a meeting today, ESPN-STAR was told that the BCCI tender panel had changed its position from yesterday.

“We were informed that BCCI had just given Zee the opportunity to increase their bid. Providing Zee met certain conditions, not all of which were disclosed to ESPN-STAR Sports, Zee would be awarded the rights later this week,” Dovey added. Asked if the company plans legal steps, a spokesperson said: “We cannot say right now whether we will move court but we are keeping all options open.”

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