Imagine a scenario where you work hard on your job every single day for several years. After all those years of hard work and dedication, you finally buy a home with all your savings; a nice apartment with a good interior and all the facilities that one could imagine for their dream home. Imagine that this new apartment has several rooms, fully furnished and spacious. Now, you and your family decide to shift to your new home. How bizarre would it be if you find that one of the rooms in your new apartment is locked and you have not been given a key to the same? Now, how do you feel if the contractor from whom you bought the house denies you the access to the room by not giving you the key? How bizarre it would be if you paid for something, you invested your blood, sweat and tears for getting something and yet, someone else denies you to right to have full control over that possession? What if the government or the law enforcing agencies also fails to protect your right over something, which you built from your effort and hard work? If you think such situations won’t ever arise, then you are wrong. In fact, almost all Indians are going through such a bizarre circumstance when it comes to the case of Cricket. Though the game is the most popular sport in the country and amidst the fact that it is the fan support that has brought all the glory and fame to the Cricket, the Indian public is denied with the right of ‘owning and knowing’ what they built. The apex organization in the country which takes care of the Cricket, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), is still out of the purview of right to information act, making the organization function just like any other private entity in the country. With the fresh set of proposals by the law commission, the debate whether the BCCI deserves to be a private entity or should it be brought under the government control once again resurfaces.
The cricket board and the State associations have traditionally operated independently, free from any government regulation or public audit. The BCCI was established in 1928 as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), registered under the Societies Registration Act of Tamil Nadu (Source: ipleaders.in). It was the time when Indians wanted to take part in the international cricket events and in order to go abroad to play matches against other clubs and countries, India needed membership in International Cricket Council (ICC). This request from the Indian side was received with a positive response from the international cricket forum, with granting India status of membership. Since then, there has been a sizeable progress in the way the nation plays cricket. Indian cricket, thanks to the efforts of BCCI and numerous State associations, started to grow. It evolved from a game that used to be played by a handful of British to a sport that today has even more popular than the national game of the country, Hockey. In fact, BCCI is the richest national cricket association amongst all other cricket playing countries. The organization has grown into a mammoth size that, today it is in a position to even interfere in the governing matters of the International Cricket Council (ICC). One of the arguments raised by BCCI to defend its status as a private entity is that BCCI conducts regular audits and since that’s the case, there is no question of corruption and mismanagement. Further, the traditional stand of BCCI has been that since it is registered under the Tamil Nadu Societies Act, the Union government have no right to interfere in its matters. BCCI has also been maintaining the position that it is the autonomy and freedom that was granted to the board though this ‘privatized’ way of functioning that helped the game of Cricket to grow and flourish in the Indian subcontinent.
Though the contributions of BCCI is developing and enriching Cricket s both a game and business must be duly acknowledged, there is no reason to allow the cricketing body to stay out of the realms of the Right to Information Act. After all, why the BCCI and its top brass is scared of the RTI if it has nothing to hide? Similarly, though BCCI may be a private organization and may wish to continue so, it controls a sporting event at the national level and even represents the country in various international venues. BCCI also has a monopoly when it comes to domestic cricket, where the future players start their career. The story just doesn’t end there; Over the years, BCCI accumulated several thousands of crores as tax benefits from Union government as well as several State governments to organize the events across the country. According to the report submitted by the law commission to the government, “……To be precise, between 1997-2007, the total tax exemption amounted to Rs twenty-one billion six hundred eighty-three million two hundred thirty-seven thousand four hundred eighty-nine.” (Source: 21st Law Commission Report). BCCI also acquired several plots of land at nominal rates from various governments, which it now uses as stadiums and sports complexes across the country. BCCI also makes use of the government machinery, including the Police and law enforcement while it organizes its matches. In conclusion, BCCI makes use of all perks of available to a government institution while remaining as a private monopoly.
Though the government may permit the sporting body to continue with its private status, the BCCI can no longer keep itself insulated from the right of the general public to know the affairs of the board and its finances. After all, it was the Indian public that made cricket what it is today. It was the Indian public that made the BCCI the most powerful and wealthiest cricket board in the world. BCCI must be pressed to open up its walls to evolve into a transparent organization in the near future.
Picture Credits: Samacharnama