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‘Enthusiast’ to de facto team owner

Feb. 10: How the probe panel concluded that Gurunath Meiyappan was indeed a Chennai Super Kings official despite claims to the contrary by his father-in-law and Indian cricket chief Narayanswamy Srinivasan and his company India Cements, which owns the franchise:

Just an ‘enthusiast’

Srinivasan had said in May 2013, after the scandal broke, that Gurunath was just a “young (cricket) enthusiast” associated with the Super Kings.

India Cements had said Gurunath “was not (a) team principal as he claimed on his Twitter account but merely an honorary member of (the) CSK team management”.

Srini and Dhoni

India Cements representatives told the probe committee that Gurunath had no shareholding in the company and so could not be considered an owner of the franchise, the report says.

India and CSK captain M.S. Dhoni, Srinivasan and India Cements officials also told the panel that Gurunath had nothing to do with the cricketing affairs of the franchise and was a mere cricket enthusiast supporting the team.

Present everywhere

The committee asked many people what Gurunath’s “role and position” was in the Super Kings. It found out that:

Gurunath would be with the team during practice sessions and the team’s meetings and travels. He would be at the auction table and in the owners’ dugout.

He participated in IPL owners’ meetings and workshops, introducing himself as the CSK owner. He “held out to the world at large as the team principal/team owner of CSK”.

Gurunath’s claims

“Saved Web pages” of Gurunath’s Twitter handle showed he had been openly describing himself as CSK team principal although, after the allegations surfaced against him, “there were efforts… to erase proof of (his) link with Chennai Super Kings”.

Mumbai police showed the panel business cards and letterheads “wherein Mr Meiyappan had claimed to be the team owner/principal”.

‘Owner’ muddle

IPL CEO Sundar Raman told the panel that team ownership structures were in general ambiguous, and the term “owner” for the purpose of accreditation was used loosely and had no implications while identifying an owner under the franchise agreement.

Raman said the IPL governing council had not made any efforts to determine who the ultimate owners of the franchises were.

Authorisations

Gurunath was “accredited/authorised (though implicitly at times) by India Cements to participate and be present when various crucial decisions were taken in relation to CSK”.

India Cements forwarded accreditation requests for Gurunath every IPL season “under different nomenclatures (i.e. owner and management)”.

A BCCI letter dated February 3, 2013, was annexed to a CSK representation of 2011 that sought accreditation and described Gurunath as a team director.

“This document also seeks access (for) Mr Meiyappan to all areas. A gold pass and a management blue pass have also been sought for Meiyappan,” the report says.

Hussey flip-flop

The panel noted that CSK cricketer Mike Hussey had written on Page 97 of his book Underneath the Southern Cross that: “As he (Srinivasan) was also on the board of the BCCI, he gave control of the team to his son-in-law Mr Gurunath. He ran the team along with Kepler Wessels, who was coach….”

But the panel also noted that Hussey had later issued a public retraction.

De facto owner

The conclusions reached by the panel after talking to “several persons who were/are part of CSK”, former and current IPL players and administrators, “persons representing other IPL teams, cricket commentators and sports journalists”:

Gurunath formed an “integral part” of the CSK and most people viewed him as “the face of the team”.

Gurunath “had knowledge of, or was in a position to easily access, sensitive team information, team strategies, match conditions, etc, which… was outside the preview of an ordinary person following the game of cricket”.

Although the “de jure ownership vests in India Cements”, Gurunath acted as a team official “if not the de facto owner of CSK”.

Whether Gurunath is described as “team principal” or “owner” would not “materially alter his status/position held in CSK”.

So, Gurunath would qualify as a “team official” under the IPL’s operational rules, and “all IPL rules and regulations would squarely apply” to him.

India Cements’ claim that Gurunath was not related in any way with the Super Kings “appears to be contradicting the factual position”.

HORSES’ MOUTH

Some of those the committee interviewed

■ The accused: Such as Gurunath Meiyappan, Raj Kundra and S. Sreesanth. But Vindoo Dara Singh, the late wrestler’s son accused of placing Gurunath’s bets, played truant
lThe captain: India and CSK skipper M.S. Dhoni

■ Former players: Such as Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble and Krishnamachari Srikkanth — for any information and recommendations to curb sporting fraud

■ Ministers, politicians: Such a Arun Jaitley and Rajiv Shukla, who have been associated with cricket administration

■ Cricket bosses: Such as N. Srinivasan, Jagmohan Dalmiya, Shashank Manohar and I.S. Bindra

■ Journalists: Such as Harsha Bhogle, Kishore Bhimani, N.Ram, Sharda Ugra, Pradeep Magazine, Aniruddh Bahl and Boria Majumdar

■ Police officers: From Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Jaipur as well as former CBI director R.K. Raghavan

■ Team officials: Such as Kolkata Knight Riders CEO Venky Mysore, for details of how the teams were run and by whom

■ Others: BCCI and ICC anti-corruption unit members, people whose names featured on relevant documents, and those with knowledge of the issues involved.

*Some who deposed wanted their identities protected, and the panel honoured their request