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Allegations against Meiyappan surfaced after Delhi Police arrested three Rajasthan Royals players for conspiring with bookies to fix specific outcomes. Photo: SaiSen/Mint
Allegations against Meiyappan surfaced after Delhi Police arrested three Rajasthan Royals players for conspiring with bookies to fix specific outcomes. Photo: SaiSen/Mint

IPL spot-fixing: Mudgal report casts cloud over cricket, BCCI’s functioning

Mudgal panel finds N. Srinivasan's son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan guilty of betting, which threatens to undermine the BCCI chief's position

Mumbai: A Supreme Court-appointed committee’s findings on betting and fixing in the sixth edition of the popular Indian Premier League (IPL) has cast a cloud over the sport in India and the functioning of the country’s apex cricket body, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), and threatens to undermine the position of its president N. Srinivasan.

The report, released on Monday, also casts a shadow over Srinivasan’s imminent ascension to the top job at the International Cricket Council (ICC).

Cricket generates an estimated 1,500-2,000 crore in advertising and sponsorship in India in a non-Cricket World Cup year, according to a media estimates.

And while the immediate impact of the report by a committee headed by Mukul Mudgal, a former judge, on this can’t be assessed, there may be a price to pay if tough legal action is taken.

The allegations have landed on Srinivasan’s doorstep, said Shailendra Singh, joint managing director, Percept Ltd, which also runs a sports management business. “There is no doubt that the law will take its own course. But if the custodians of the game want the sport to be corruption free, there will have to be a serious initiative from the top," Singh said.

The report by the Mudgal committee found Srinivasan’s son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan guilty of betting and censured cosy relationships between team owners and their players—an obvious dig at Indian cricket captain M.S. Dhoni who is also captain of Chennai Super Kings, owned by India Cements Ltd, a company controlled by Srinivasan.

The panel, which also included advocate and additional solicitor general L. Nageswara Rao and senior advocate Nilay Dutta, said allegations that the owners of the Rajasthan Royals team were involved in betting and fixing need “thorough investigation".

The committee didn’t buy India Cements’ and Srinivasan’s defence that Meiyappan did not have any official capacity as far as managing the team was concerned and was merely an “enthusiast". Meiyappan was the face of the team, represented it in player auctions, sat in the dugout during matches, and was identified as the “principal" of the Chennai Super Kings.

Allegations against Meiyappan surfaced after the Delhi Police arrested three Rajasthan Royals players for conspiring with bookies to fix specific outcomes—such as runs scored in a particular over—in the last edition of the tournament— IPL 6. This was followed by a crackdown against bookies across the country.

Srinivasan did reluctantly step aside for some time even as a BCCI-appointed panel cleared his name as well as Meiyappan’s, but on 30 July last year, in response to a plea challenging the BCCI panel’s findings, the Supreme Court set up the Mudgal committee. Meiyappan faces a criminal case.

In its report, the committee has also suggested that BCCI proceed against Meiyappan for betting and allegedly passing on inside information without waiting for the conclusion of the criminal case against him. A BCCI spokesperson said the body did not have anything to say.

The BCCI’s Anti-Corruption Code, as well as the board’s code of conduct for players and administrators prohibit the use of inside information or participation in betting activity, and clearly specify that it is against the rules to manipulate a match, net run-rate or otherwise. But it is questionable whether it will be implemented, said former cricketer and commentator Atul Wassan, “considering how powerful Srinivasan is."

“Earlier the onus was only on the players, now we will see teams implement the code of conduct even more strongly, on cricketers as well as administrators," he added.

The Mudgal committee report has also termed the measures undertaken by BCCI in combating sporting fraud “ineffective and insufficient". It added that stringent and effective control on players’ agents is required.

“Before registering player agents, there should be an examination of the agents to confirm their understanding of the rules and regulations of BCCI and IPL. Besides this, the antecedents of the player agent should also be verified so that dubious elements of society with links to bookies or the underworld are not given a registration as a player agent," the report added.

The committee also said that players should not be allowed to own stakes in player agencies or companies involved with cricket unless such interests are in the nature of sponsorship or endorsements. “In particular, employment of the players in the franchise group companies should be avoided," said the report.

Earlier this month, Dhoni was appointed vice-president of India Cements. Last year, media reports said he owned a stake in Rhiti Sports Management Pvt. Ltd, a company that managed the commercial interests of some other India players such as Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja and also provided some services to Chennai Super Kings. Rhiti subsequently issued a statement saying that Dhoni had been a shareholder for a short period of time before selling out.

“Finally, someone has taken the initiative to clean up cricket. The justice Mudgal committee has taken great pains to come out with this report, and it is very reassuring to those who want to see the game rid itself of corruption. The Supreme Court, also took our plea into consideration and has said that the outcome of the match–fixing hearing on 7 March, whatever it is, will be binding on the teams and players participating in the IPL 2014 auction," said Aditya Verma, secretary, Cricket Association of Bihar. The auctions are scheduled later this week.

Srinivasan’s long-time rival and IPL founder Lalit Modi, who is being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate for foreign exchange violations (the Bombay high court last week asked the agency to back up its notices to Modi with documents) and who is in self-imposed exile in London, called for a life ban on Srinivasan (from holding positions in cricket bodies) and a reconstitution of the governing council of IPL.


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