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BCCI avoids major hit to broadcast revenues amid sweeping governance reform

The Board of Control for Cricket in India has been ordered by the country’s Supreme Court to carry out a series of reforms of its governance structure, but a key proposal that would have severely damaged its revenues from broadcast rights has been rejected.

The RM Lodha panel, an independent committee formed by the Supreme Court in January 2015 to look into the implications of the spot-fixing scandal that hit the 2013 edition of the Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament, delivered its report on the make-up of the BCCI, considered cricket’s most powerful national governing body, this January.

Amongst the governance reforms was a proposal to impose restrictions on television advertisements during the broadcast of matches. The Lodha committee had recommended that television advertising during cricket coverage in India should be restricted to drinks, lunch and tea breaks and not allowed between overs.

The proposal had led to pay-television broadcaster Star India warning that it would seek to renegotiate its rights deal with the BCCI if the proposal was passed. Star has broadcast, online and mobile rights to Indian cricket through to 2018 and also sponsors the India national team.

Star India chief executive Uday Shankar in January said that between 60 and 70 per cent of “monetising in cricket is through advertising revenue” and such changes would have an “impact… (on) the money that BCCI makes.” He added: “If the recommendation is implemented, that revenue share will have to be dramatically revised downwards and in that case (the) BCCI will have to be prepared to live with the lower value. If the rates go down, we will renegotiate the contract (with the BCCI).”

The ESPN Cricinfo website reported that the BCCI argued that reworking or modifying existing broadcasting contracts would result in “serious financial difficulties” and “heavy financial loss.” The Supreme Court yesterday (Monday) requested the BCCI instead take a “considered decision” with regard to the Committee's recommendations and study the possibility of modification in existing contracts.

This was one of three major recommendations made by the Lodha Committee that the Supreme Court did not order the BCCI to implement. The court also said that the matters of bringing the BCCI under the Right to Information Act and legalising betting in the country were subjects for the Indian legislature.

However, a raft of other reforms were approved by the court. Each state will now be provided with only one vote in BCCI elections, while stringent eligibility criteria for the board's office-bearers and limits to their time in office have been set. Ministers and bureaucrats currently holding office will not to be allowed to serve for the BCCI, along with those holding office in their state associations or aged over 70.

The committee's recommendation that there be five elected office-bearers – president, secretary, one vice-president instead of the current five, treasurer and joint-secretary – was approved. A limit of three three-year terms of office was endorsed, along with a ‘cooling off’ period between terms to prevent lengthy tenures.

The BCCI’s Working Committee, its highest decision-making body, will also be replaced with a nine-member Apex Council, which will include representatives from the players' community – including one woman.

The BCCI has been granted between four and six months to implement the recommendations, with RM Lodha, the former chief justice of India and author of the report, appointed to oversee the transition.