New Delhi: In a bid to nip corruption in the bud, the main body that governs cricket in India has put out guidelines that restrict the access owners of Indian Premier League (IPL) teams have to cricketers during matches.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has sent out the advisory under pressure from the International Cricket Council (ICC) whose Anti Corruption and Surveillance Unit (ACSU) was set up in 2000 in the wake of bribery scandals involving international cricketers. The third IPL season has already been buffeted by controversies about the ownership of the new Kochi team that is expected to take the field in 2011.
On 23 March, IPL chief executive Sundar Raman sent an email to owners and senior officials of IPL teams that curbed their visits to player dugouts to only twice per match with a maximum ten minutes for every visit. A copy of the email is available with Mint.
A BCCI official told Mint on condition of anonymity that ICC had been putting pressure on the cricket board to adopt the anti-corruption guidelines because of the scale IPL has achieved in three years. “When you are sitting in the stadium there is a difference of a few seconds between the actual game and what you see on television. So, to prevent corruption from seeping in, it was thought best to adopt ACSU guidelines.”
The new guidelines are different from the anti-corruption code for players, team owners and executives adopted in season one and published on the official IPL website iplt20.com.
The new guidelines further specified that if there was more than one owner in question, then “two owners may each visit once”. The new rules allow owners to be accompanied by only one other person to the dug-out, either be a security person or a relative. It also prohibited owners’ access to the dressing rooms of cricketers and banned the use of any communication devices, including laptops and mobile phones while in the area.
Less than a month after the new laws were communicated, Raman followed up with an email on 12 April. The team franchisees were “observing the protocol technically but not in spirit”, he wrote.
He improvised on the rule on team owners’ access to player dugouts: “I am writing to confirm that if the owners are keen to be visible around the perimeter of the cricket ground and subject to a suitable location being identified, one owner may sit on a chair on the ground near to the dugouts during the match. A suitable location is one that: a) is not less than 12-15ft outside the white lines that delineate the dug-out area, b) does not interfere in any way with the cricket or broadcast operations and c) is not an access route.”
The guidelines have not gone down well with the franchisees and executives managing the teams. The BCCI official quoted earlier said Kolkata Knight Riders’ Shah Rukh Khan, who was involved in a row with security guards in season one of IPL, when he was denied entry to the player dressing rooms, has now vowed not to watch any games in the stadium till the guidelines are relaxed. Khan could not be reached for comment.
Another senior team official who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “The chairman of our company was asked to leave the dug-out after the specified time limit, but just a few minutes later the owners of the other team were not told anything for sitting with the cricketers for as long as they wanted.” He added: “With (Lalit) Modi, there is no level playing field.”
V. Shankar, chairman of the Deccan Chargers, was blunt: “If these guidelines are specific to just IPL, then we don't accept these restrictions because I have put down money and if I can’t motivate my team then it makes no sense,” he said, adding: “I can’t rig a match sitting in the dug-out. It would be easier to do that sitting in my office where I could make any number of calls. These guidelines are based on a wrong premise.”
A member of the Dubai-based ACSU said the player access guidelines were specific to IPL because there were no franchise owners for cricket matches prior to IPL. “Although we had dugouts, we did not have franchise owners.” According to him: “The prohibition of the use of mobile phones and laptops and the ban on access to dressing rooms has been brought in because historically contact has been made” with “cricketers as well as support personnel.” The ASCU member did not want to be identified as he was not authorized to speak to the media. ICC media managers were unreachable on the phone for queries.
Raman was not reachable, but N. Srinivasan, secretary, BCCI, said: “BCCI has engaged ACSU this year for additional guidelines. I am not going to comment on why additional guidelines this year or specifics of the guidelines issued, but all I can say is we are implementing their (ACSU) advice.”