Mumbai: Challenging the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) decision to terminate all contracts with it, the World Sport Group (WSG) made it clear on Tuesday that it would “take whatever steps necessary in whatever part of the world, to ensure that agreements with our business are honoured and complied with…”
Sticky wicket: BCCI secretary N. Srinivasan. AP
WSG’s implicit threat of legal action came in a letter signed by WSG’s chairman and chief executive officer, Seamus O’Brien that followed the cricket board’s decision on 26 June to cancel a contract with WSG giving the sports management firm international media rights to the Indian Premier League, the popular Twenty20 tournament. BCCI’s decision was on the grounds that the facilitation fee of Rs425 crore paid by MSM Satellite (Singapore) Pte Ltd (MSMS), the broadcast media rights holders for the sub-continent to WSG Mauritius Ltd was “improper” and that the sum belonged to the board as a part of the right’s fees.
The letter, addressed to N. Srinivasan secretary BCCI clarified that the board doesn’t have any claim on the facilitation fee. “On 15 March 2009 the BCCI agreed to license the India media rights to WSG Mauritius for Rs4,791.89 crore and on 25 March MSMS entered into a licensing agreement to pay BCCI Rs4,791.89 crore. Had an agreement not been in place, WSG would most likely have sub-licensed (the rights to) one of the other broadcasters it had been in negotiations with over the period, (or indeed sub-licensed to MSMS itself), and any margin would also have been for our account and not BCCI’s.”
The letter also rubbished BCCI’s claims that it was “never made aware” of WSG’s agreement with Sony, saying that the contract had been ratified by the IPL’s Governing Council.
BCCI, on its part clarified, on Tuesday that it had indeed terminated the contract with WSG. “All I can confirm is that the international media rights with WSG have been cancelled,” said Srinivasan, adding that media reports of a retendering process for international media rights were “all speculation” and that he did not want to comment on it.
WSG’s letter challenged the board’s decision, claiming that the reasons for the termination of contract were “nothing more than unsupported and unsubstantiated allegations.” It added that the board had not engaged with WSG in any conversation seeking information or clarification on the matter, despite the company’s repeated attempts to reach it.
It went on to say that the issue stemmed out of a fight between the board and the former chairman and commissioner of IPL, Lalit Modi, under whose tenure the deal had been struck. “What is now transparent for all to see is that the motivation for taking this course of action serves the interests of an internal agenda. It is clear from global press reports that over the past few months the BCCI has been engaged in a very public battle (with Modi)....”. The letter also said that WSG is being used as a “pawn” in that fight between BCCI and Modi.
Other BCCI officials couldn’t be reached for comment on the contents of WSG’s letter despite repeated attempts.