IPL broadcast rights process likely to be delayed after Lodha Committee directive

BCCI president Anurag Thakur and secretary Ajay Shirke were asked to submit affidavits of compliance to the Supreme Court by December 3 AFP

The opening of the bids for the IPL broadcast rights is set to be delayed after the Lodha Committee told BCCI president Anurag Thakur to submit a letter stating that the board will "unreservedly comply" with the Supreme Court order of October 21. The Committee, on Monday, said the letter would be necessary before it issues directives to the BCCI to take the tender process forward.

The bids for television and digital rights were set to be opened and finalised on Tuesday in Mumbai. A senior BCCI official confirmed receipt of the committee's email but was non-committal about whether the board would postpone the bidding process.

Last week, the Supreme Court passed an order that limited the financial freedom of the BCCI until the board and its state associations comply with the Lodha Committee's recommendations. One of the directives in the order was that the Lodha Committee would set a "threshold value" for various contracts the BCCI enters into, and all contracts in excess of that amount would need the Committee's approval. The Committee was also asked to appoint an independent auditor to oversee contracts from the tender stage.

Soon after the court passed the order on October 21, the BCCI contacted the Lodha Committee seeking clarification regarding the bidding for the IPL's rights.

"The Committee is in receipt of your email and letter dated 21.10.2016 which refers to the Order of the Hon'ble Supreme Court of the same date," the Lodha Committee's email to BCCI on Monday said. "1. Before the Committee proceeds to issue any directions, it would need to satisfy itself that the BCCI administration is willing to comply with the Order of the Hon'ble Supreme Court dated 21.10.2016. As you can understand, this would be necessary in view of the BCCI's stand concerning the earlier order of 18.7.2016. In this regard, the Committee requires a letter of compliance from the President BCCI duly undertaking on behalf of the BCCI to unreservedly comply with the Order of the Hon'ble Supreme Court dated 21.10.2016."

The court had also ordered the BCCI not to distribute funds to its state associations until they submit affidavits stating compliance with the recommendations to the court and the Lodha Committee in two weeks from October 21. In addition, Thakur and BCCI secretary Ajay Shirke were asked to submit an "affidavit of compliance" in the court by December 3, elaborating on the recommendations the BCCI said it had already implemented, and what it had done to persuade the state associations to adopt the recommendations.

Following its email to the Lodha Committee, the BCCI also sent an email to the 18 prospective bidders on Sunday, saying it was awaiting directions from the Committee. In the note, the board informed the bidders that all the Invitation To Tender documentation related to the process had been sent to the Committee. The bidders were also told that the BCCI would update them of the "future course of action" based on the "advice" received from the committee.

The Lodha Committee had questions for the BCCI in its email, regarding the end date of the current cycle of IPL rights and the start date for the next one.

"In your letter dated 21.10.2016, the first paragraph reads as follows: '1) The BCCI has already declared the process of a global tender for the IPL rights, where the previous ten-year rights contract ended with the end of IPL season May 2016, as it was mandated to do so by the expiring contract.'

"The Committee has 2 specific questions in this regard: a. When did the previous ten-year rights period come to an end? b. When does the next ten-year rights period commence?"

The rights in the current cycle are held by Sony Pictures Network India (SPNI) and will expire after IPL 2017. In September, the BCCI had announced that the next cycle of IPL rights would be sold via an open tender process. Eighteen companies eventually bought the Invitation To Tender document for television and digital rights.

In 2008, the Singapore-based World Sports Group bagged the IPL television rights for a ten-year period with a $918 million bid. It simultaneously signed a deal with Multi Screen Media Pvt. Ltd. (MSM) that Sony would be the official broadcaster. The contract was recast before IPL 2009, with MSM agreeing to pay $1.63 billion for nine years until 2017.