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This article is written by Pratap Alexander Muthalaly, from the Government Law College, Trivandrum. This is an in-depth analysis of the spot-fixing and betting scandal of 2013, specifically with regard to its legal impacts. The findings and recommendations of both the Mudgal and Lodha committee are also discussed in detail.  

Introduction

Cricket is without a doubt India’s most popular sport, it has a following of one billion people worldwide, with over 90 percent of those fans being from India itself. In recent years the Indian premier league has captured the hearts of fans and has also accounted for over 90 percent of BCCI revenue. It was at the peak of all this glamour that the IPL witnessed a fall from grace, an event that greatly tarnished its reputation and threatened to end the fast-growing cricket league.

Overview

The 2013 Indian Premier League spot-fixing and betting case came to the fore with the arrest of three cricketers representing Rajasthan royals, S Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila, and Ankeet Chavan, on the charges of spot-fixing.

The IPL Governing Council then met and decided that the cricketers would be dealt with severely. With all three of the parties suspended pending an inquiry. The next major incident following this was the arrest of Gurunath Meyappan (son-in-law of then BCCI chairman and CSK owner N Srinivasan) on allegations of betting. Rajasthan Royals owner, Raj Kundra too was arrested on similar charges. This was followed by the setting up of the Justice Mukul Mudgal Committee to look into the allegations of corruption against Meyappan and Kundra among others. This was soon followed by the Supreme Court of India asking N. Srinivasan to step down from his position as BCCI president in order to ensure a fair investigation into the betting and spot-fixing charges levied against his son-in-law (Gurunath Meyappan).

Mukul Mudgal Commission report

The Mudgal commission was a four-member panel set up to investigate the allegations of corruption against Meyappan and Raj Kundra among others. The committee report found Gurunath Meiyappan guilty of betting and passing on team information during the IPL matches. The committee also recommended further probes against Raj Kundra and Shilpa Shetty, then part-owners of Rajasthan Royals.

The committee also put forth the following recommendations:

The present measures undertaken by BCCI in combating sporting fraud are ineffective and insufficient

The committee expressed the view that the functioning of the various anti-corruption bodies and committees of the IPL were largely dissatisfactory and ineffective.

Need for stringent and effective control on Player’s Agents

The committee pointed out that there were often issues regarding conflict of interest in relation to agents and that this led to the BCCI often turning a blind eye on issues pertaining to their conduct.On this basis, the committee advocated the need to institutionalize a mechanism of selecting agents and also set proper regulations to govern them.

Conflict of Interest and Amendment to Clause 6.4.2 of the Regulation for Players, Team Officials, Mangers, Umpires and Administrators and BCCI Code

The committee also highlighted there was an amendment to Rule 6.4.2, which enabled BCCI officials to own IPL teams. It questioned the reason for this amendment and also conveyed that many people of regard in the Cricket fraternity viewed this as a threat to the effective functioning of the IPL and led to the conflict of interest.

Other than this the committee also expressed the view that:

  •  Senior players should ensure that younger players are aware of the perils and dangers of spot-fixing and other activities that tarnish the collective image of the sport as well as their own reputations as professionals.
  • The game should be made clearer and more transparent.
  • More free flow of information between various BCCI departments.

Lodha Commission report

The Lodha commission was set up to further investigate the allegations of corruption against Meyyappan and raj Kundra and also decide on the punishment that was to be meted out. Its other purpose was to look into and suggest possible reforms in relation to cricket governance in India. Some of its suggested reforms are:

Structural Reforms

  • The committee recommended that a nine-member apex council replace the existing 14 member BCCI working committee.
  • Each of the office bearers was to have a three-year term, with a cap on the number of times they could contest (three terms).
  • The committee also suggested the division of governance into two cricketing and non-cricketing (Non-cricketing management would be handled by six professional managers headed by a CEO, meanwhile cricket selection, coaching, and the evaluation of player performance would all be handled by former players).

Restrictions on Office Bearers

  • As stated earlier, each office bearer was afforded a 3-year term and could only contest for a maximum of three terms.
  • There was also a mandatory cooling-off period after each successive term, thus no office-bearer could hold office consecutively in a row. (The Honorable Supreme court however ruled against this, instead opting for two consecutive 3-year terms before a mandatory break kicked in).
  • No BCCI office-bearer could be a Minister or a government servant.

One vote for all cricket associations

The committee recommended that one association should represent an entire state and there should only be one vote per state. The SC however ruled against this and instead opted to keep the existing system, as in many cases there was more than one cricket board in a state. Many of these cricket boards would have contributed a lot to the development of Indian cricket and hence stripping them of their membership rights would negate all the future good they were capable of.

Indian Premier League

It recommended a separate governing body for the IPL and BCCI. It also suggested a 15 day gap between the IPL season and the national calendar.

Betting

It made a strong push for the legalization of betting, with all people except cricket players, officials, and administrators.

Fixing

The committee urged for match-fixing and spot-fixing to be designated as criminal offenses.

Conflict of Interest and Corruption 

  • One individual was to hold only one post at a time, in regard to cricket administration. The office bearers would have to make a choice between positions in state bodies and the BCCI.
  • A former high court judge should be appointed as ethics officer by the BCCI to govern issues pertaining to conflict of interest, misdemeanour, and corruption.
  • Appointing a former supreme court judge as an ombudsman to resolve internal disputes.

Increasing Transparency

The commission also recommended that the parliament should seriously consider bringing the BCCI under the Right to Information act.

Player interests

It recommended the setting up of a players association to safeguard player interests.

Women’s Cricket

The court also advocated the formation of a separate Women’s Cricket Committee along with a Women’s selection committee.

Analysis

The scandal came as a huge shock to cricket fans in India, with there being a 14% drop in viewership after news broke. Many started questioning the credibility of the IPL and whether all matches were in fact fixed. It essentially halted the long-held idealistic view of cricket as a gentleman’s sport. It also brought some of the fewer glamour elements of the IPL to the fore. That is, it showed that the excessive amounts of revenue brought in by the cricket league had the potential to destroy cricket as a sport, if not properly regulated.

It also exposed the lack of proper regulation within Indian cricket and more specifically the IPL, with there being numerous cases of conflict of interest and even possible nepotism. Furthermore, the need to legalize and regulate betting was made clear. In fact, this was an opinion reiterated by Justice Mudgal (rtrd) on a number of occasions. Similarly, the Lodha committee reiterated this viewpoint in its report as well. While this is yet to be truly implemented, something similar has been initiated in the form of dream 11 which has generated a lot of revenue in recent times. The main positive of the match-fixing case is of course the fact that it kick-started the push for greater reform in sport. Quite a few of the Lodha committee’s suggestions have been taken into consideration in spite of delays. While the Cricket framework still isn’t perfect there is more than enough foundation for a proper solid framework to be built in the future.

Further areas of reform

In spite of the majority of the suggestions of the Lodha commission being adopted, there are still areas in cricket that need reform.

Anti-doping laws

The national anti-doping agency was set up in 2005. The Anti-Doping Rules place a strict responsibility for athletes to be aware of what substances enter their bodies. The problem with this is that in India, most athletes are not educated to the same level as in other countries and lack adequate access to resources that help them distinguish between material that is banned and those which are legal. Furthermore, there is a problem with training camps, athletes especially cricketers often spend long periods at training camps. They have no control over what is served to them and thus cannot be held responsible if a banned substance enters their body. Also, if we look at the case of Prithvi Shaw who had unknowingly consumed terbutaline, which is found in cough syrup to treat a respiratory tract infection. It is therefore clear that the rules need to be more flexible in the Indian context and that instead of an immediate ban, first-time offenders should simply be given a warning with increased surveillance.

Alternatively, if NADA is to continue with such stringent provisions, it is of the utmost importance that the necessary infrastructure is set up to test the food given to athletes at camps and also provide better information to coaches and other support staff of the perils of consuming banned substances.

National Sports tribunal

The career of a sportsperson is relatively short compared to other professions. Any unfortunate incident or delay could cause huge upsets in terms of their chances for success. This is especially true in the case of cricket which is undoubtedly India’s most competitive sport. This is why there should be a separate system in place to adjudicate disputes pertaining to cricketers and other sportspersons. 

Ideally, the Tribunal would be responsible for looking into:

  • Anti-doping rule violations.
  • Disciplinary matters.
  • Selection and eligibility issues.
  • Bullying, harassment and discrimination.

Mental health and player counselling

Cricket is a high tempo, high-pressure game. All it takes for a batsman to be out is one ball. Similarly, it doesn’t take much to ruin a bowler’s confidence either. Given the pressure and stress that comes with cricket, it’s crucial that there should be better service for cricketers in areas like mental health. It would be ideal if all Ranji teams are required to have a personal counsellor and a sports psychologist to provide the necessary mental support to the players Given that this is the norm in other sports like football and many of the American sports, there is no reason why cricket should shy away from this. If anything mental support and counselling can truly help players perform better and reach their highest potential with minimal stress.

Holistic development 

In order to ensure that the sport reaches its highest potential in India, it is crucial that there be a more holistic form of development in the sport, rather than simply working on maximizing revenue. That is support should be given to places without adequate infrastructure. Furthermore, there is a need to disseminate information on the best sports practices in terms of diet and also risks of consuming banned substances as mentioned earlier. 

Conclusion

While the IPL spot-fixing and match-fixing case remain an unpleasant memory in the present day, the good that has unknowingly been brought about as a result of it is undeniable. It helped shake off the growing corruption that had emerged in Indian cricket with the inception of the money rich IPL. It also highlighted the weaknesses in the existing structure. Significant issues like illegal betting, lack of transparency, ambiguity in election procedure, and the role of agents in cricket were all brought to the fore. The task at hand now is to address the problems that have been revealed to us and also unearth other issues hidden away. This will involve framing new legislation and also working hard to investigate and find other hidden problems in the system before it is too late.

References


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