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Chennai Super Kings has been accused of misleading the probe along with Meiyappan, who was indicted for allegedly betting on his own team during the sixth edition of the IPL. Photo: AFP
Chennai Super Kings has been accused of misleading the probe along with Meiyappan, who was indicted for allegedly betting on his own team during the sixth edition of the IPL. Photo: AFP

IPL verdict: Chennai Super Kings, Rajasthan Royals suspended for 2 years

Lodha committee suspends Gurunath Meiyappan and Raj Kundra for five years from association with BCCI and for life from all cricket matches

New Delhi: A Supreme Court-appointed panel on Tuesday suspended Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Rajasthan Royals (RR) from the Indian Premier League (IPL) for two years, in the climax to a two-year-old betting scandal, throwing the future of the popular Twenty20 tournament into uncertainty.

The panel headed by former Supreme Court judge R.M. Lodha suspended Gurunath Meiyappan, team principal of CSK, and Raj Kundra, co-owner of Rajasthan Royals, for life from all cricket-related activities for betting and bringing the IPL and the game of cricket into “disrepute".

“He (Meiyappan) is declared ineligible for participation in the sport of cricket as explained in the anti-corruption code for a maximum period of five years under article 2.2.1. Two: He is suspended for life from activities as explained in article 7.5 under level 4. And three: he is suspended for life from being involved in any type of cricket matches under section 6, rule 4.2," read the verdict.

The same verdict was read out against Kundra. Both Meiyappan, son-in-law of International Cricket Council (ICC) chairman N. Srinivasan, and Kundra were found to have bet on matches in the 2013 edition of the IPL, which has been dogged by controversy since its inception in 2008.

The suspension of CSK, two-time champions led by Indian captain M.S. Dhoni, and RR, which won the inaugural IPL in 2008 and was runner-up in 2013, casts a shadow over the future of the tournament, particularly next year’s edition, and threatens to undermine the brand value of the IPL.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is “committed to honour and respect judicial decisions", said board president Jagmohan Dalmiya.

The board is “committed to ensuring transparency, accountability and cleansing the sport in order to restore the faith and confidence of millions of cricket loving people in the glorious game of cricket in general and IPL in particular", he said.

Justice Lodha did not rule out further criminal action against the two franchises as the criminal liability of the teams has not been examined by the committee he headed.

“We understand that financial loss is inevitable to the players with these two franchises. If cricket is bigger than the individuals who play the game, then the loss is insignificant in our opinion," Lodha said.

The three-member committee, comprising Lodha and former Supreme Court judges Ashok Bhan and R. Raveendran, was constituted by the apex court on 22 January, mandated to determine the punishment that Meiyappan and Kundra and their franchises should receive.

“This is an unprecedented verdict but in the positive direction. Everyone will feel the pinch, from broadcasters to sponsors and the BCCI," said Kapil Bellubi, director at American Appraisal, a brand valuation and tax and finance advisory services company, which valued the IPL format at as much as $3.5 billion in 2015.

Mint learns that the overall brand value of IPL is likely to dip by 15-20%.

A sports marketing expert, who did not want to be named, said the number of matches would have to be reduced from 59 in the last season to 33 in the next if only six teams play in the league.

“There is a commercial hit for everybody, but the IPL will be the worst hit," added this person.

The BCCI is bound to accept the verdict, said Niranjan Shah, a member of the board.

“At the moment, it looks like IPL’s next season will have six teams, but we need a minimum of eight teams to play the season. A new tender needs to be floated to invite bids for two new teams. After two years, when the ban is over, we could play the tournament with 10 teams. I think there is an urgent need for the BCCI to call for a special governing council meeting," Shah said.

According to a person in the BCCI familiar with the development, the IPL governing council will meet on 19 July to discuss the implications of Tuesday’s verdict. Also on the agenda are the options before the BCCI and how it intends to structure the league for the two editions in which CSK and RR won’t be participating.

Beverage maker PepsiCo India Holdings Pvt. Ltd is the title sponsor for the IPL for a five-year period till 2017.

“We remain committed to ethical conduct in sport and expect that issues surrounding IPL are adequately and swiftly addressed. The faith of cricket fans is important and needs to be restored in the interest of the game." said a PepsiCo India spokesperson.

“With reference to your query on the ban on the two teams as reported in the media, we will discuss it with BCCI and are hopeful they will be able to find a solution, which is in the best interest of all stakeholders."

The official broadcaster of IPL, Multi Screen Media Pvt. Ltd (MSM), which operates the Sony set of channels, declined to comment. “It’s too soon to say anything. We would not like to speculate," said Rohit Gupta, president (network sales), MSM.

Ajay Shirke, a member of the IPL governing council who resigned as BCCI treasurer in 2013, said in a phone interview from Portugal that the BCCI had brought the verdict upon itself.

“It is sad that things have reached a point where we might destroy a beautiful product (the IPL)," he said. “For the last two years, the BCCI almost felt that they were invincible, and engaged the best lawyers in the world to defend their case. I hope the BCCI accepts the verdict in all its humility, rather than circumvent or challenge it. The ramifications for what was being done over the last two years is now being felt."

CSK has been accused of misleading the probe along with Meiyappan whose-father-in-law Srinivasan is also the vice-president and managing director of India Cements Ltd, which owned the franchise at the time. In February this year, India Cements transferred the ownership of CSK to subsidiary Chennai Super Kings Ltd.

“India Cements argued that they have done a lot to grow the game of cricket. But it cannot be a mitigating factor because they as franchise owners did not punish Gurunath, who was clearly identified as a team official, after he was found guilty of betting," Lodha said.

“Jaipur IPL (which owns RR) claims it is highly celebrated as a nursery of players. But three of its players have been accused of alleged spot-fixing. This shows that all is not well in their handling of affairs. The position of Raj Kundra with the Rajasthan Royals franchise—part owner and team official—means his actions brought the game, BCCI and IPL into disrepute," he added.

India Cements declined comment.

“It is too early to react on the matter. The verdict has just come out. We will consult our legal counsel and decide what is to be done," said a spokesperson for the company.

India Cements shares fell 3.66% to 90.75 on the BSE on a day the benchmark Sensex fell 0.1% to 27,932.90.

“I have nothing to say on this issue. I am not involved with the CSK anymore," Srinivasan, who was president of the BCCI when the scandal broke, told Mint on the phone from London. “This issue doesn’t involve me."

The IPL scandal first came to light in 2013, when three cricketers from Rajasthan Royals—S. Sreesanth, Ajit Chandilya and Ankeet Chavan—were arrested by the Delhi Police for alleged spot-fixing.

A week later, the Mumbai Police arrested CSK’s Meiyappan and actor Vindoo Dara Singh for betting-related activities.

Sreesanth, a former Indian national team player, who denied any wrongdoing, was later banned for life by the Indian board.

The verdict comes at a time when now-defunct franchise Kochi Tuskers Kerala (KTK) is seeking re-entry into the IPL. Earlier this month, the promoters of the Kochi consortium won a court-appointed arbitration process, wherein the BCCI was asked to pay KTK a compensation of some 550 crore.

According to a report on the cricket website ESPNCricinfo, “the owners of the Kochi franchise are believed to be seeking re-entry into the league as opposed to a cash reward". With CSK and RR now suspended for two years, the BCCI may accept Kochi’s re-entry.

BCCI officials are confident that despite Tuesday’s verdict, the tournament will go on. “We are definitely confident of the IPL happening next year. We are all for the tournament to take place," said a senior BCCI official, who didn’t want to be named.

Apurva Vishwanath and PTI contributed to this story.

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