The Power Game: ICC vs BCCI
Updated: Sep 16
This post has been authored by Mr Archit Uniyal.
Archit is a fourth-year student of the BBA. LL.B. (Hons) course at the prestigious OP Jindal Global University. Archit has a deep and fond interest in the field of Sports Law and aims to pursue a vibrant career in the same. He is currently working as a research intern at the JGU Centre for Sports Law, Business, and Governance and also works as a Junior Editor at Global Sports Policy Review.
This blog piece is featured as a part of our new 'Editor's Picks' series and our humble intention is to invoke a healthy debate on this topical issue. Any Comments/Ideas to the Editor can be addressed at firstname.lastname@example.org
Last year, the International Cricket Council (hereinafter “the ICC”) announced that the 2020 T20 World Cup which was scheduled to be held in Australia is to be postponed due to the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. This announcement left the window open for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (hereinafter “the BCCI”) to host the Indian Premier League (hereinafter “the IPL”) which sparked the long going debate of the power struggle between the ICC and the BCCI.
Due to a slew of incidents over the last decade, it is now perceived that the global governing body of international cricket ICC is a puppet to the BCCI, which is merely a national cricket governing body in India. Once Tony Greig, a former England Captain, said that if he were ever to take charge of the ICC, his main agenda would be to end India’s domination over the ICC and claimed that having a window for the IPL is stupid.
WHY DOES THE WORLD BELIEVE THE ICC IS CONTROLLED BY THE BCCI?
There have been several instances where the ICC’s decision making has been critically affected by the gimmicks thrown in by the BCCI. When the Decision Review System (“DRS”) was introduced by the ICC in 2008 as a mandatory technology to be used in matches to ensure on-spot correct decisions, it was firmly opposed by the BCCI. Even though the majority of the cricket playing nations were in support of this technology, the ICC modified the rules of the DRS system because of the stern opposition of the BCCI. The ICC made the use of DRS non-mandatory and claimed that the system shall be implemented in matches only by the mutual consensus of the countries playing a particular cricket-series or tournament.
In the 2008 Sydney Test during the Border-Gavaskar Trophy Series (“BGTS”) between India and Australia, racist abuse was hurled by the Indian player Harbhajan Singh towards Andrew Symonds, addressing him as a monkey, an incident which later became famous as the Monkey-Gate controversy. For this racist tirade, Harbhajan Singh rightfully received a ban for 3 matches, but the interesting part is that the BCCI threatened to pull out of the series. Then the obvious happened. Fearing a huge amount of loss in revenue for the ICC and Cricket Australia, ICC decided to not impose any ban on Harbhajan Singh and thereafter let him off with a nominal fine.
Incorrect decisions by umpires are a part and parcel of the sport of cricket. However, in the same 2008 BGTS, when umpire Steve Bucknor made several incorrect decisions that went against India, he was removed from umpiring in the next scheduled match between the teams. Bucknor said the ban was imposed on him because of the dominant financial power of India in international cricket. In 2011, renowned umpire Daryl Harper decided to retire from the game after he was severely criticized by the BCCI following a slew of incorrect decisions in India’s test match against West Indies.
Lastly, the postponement of an internationally recognized event like the T20 world cup for a domestic T20 league, i.e., the IPL crystallizes the speculation of dominance played by the BCCI. At a time when the T20 world cup has been postponed due to safety reasons, it is extremely questionable that why has IPL got a window to host its 2020 edition.
Haroon Lorgat, the ICC Chief Executive in 2011 once said that having an official window for a domestic event like IPL in the international cricket calendar doesn’t make sense. However, an internal ICC document released in 2017, under which dates of all the major tournaments in the 2019-23 cycle were listed, IPL found its place amongst the international tournaments like the World Cup and Champions Trophy. A domestic tournament getting the same recognition as a World Cup just showcases the power of BCCI in the Cricketing world. IPL is usually scheduled in April/May every year, the time when several places in India, especially Maharashtra are hit by drought. Even after a 2016 decision of the Bombay High Court going against the IPL organizers, in which the court asked them to shift matches from Maharashtra due to constant wasting of water on pitches at a time when the state was hit by drought, the BCCI didn’t moved an inch and thereafter continued to hold matches during that window.
THE POWER STRUGGLE BETWEEN THE ICC AND BCCI
The power struggle between the ICC and BCCI is pretty evident to the world and the reasons behind this can be attributed to a range of factors. Recent developments like the non-inclusion of the BCCI in the newly formed committee that will look into the governance structure of the ICC, introduction of the problematic two-tier test cricket and allocation of more funds (90 million$) to England cricket board for champions trophy compared to funds given to BCCI for the T20 world cup, have created differences between the ICC and BCCI. The treasurer of the BCCI, Arun Dhumal has even gone on record to question the validity and existence of the ICC without BCCI.
The biggest share of the total revenue generated by the ICC belongs to India/BCCI. In 2017, when the Big 3 (India, Australia, England) funding model of revenue distribution was retracted the whole model was revamped. India’s share came down from 32% to 23% even though it was still the biggest revenue contributor to the ICC. The contribution is estimated to be around 70% of the total revenue. The importance of India in the revenue generated for the ICC can be seen by comparing the viewership and revenue generated through the 2007 world cup and 2011 one. In the 2007 world cup, India got eliminated only after 3 matches which lead to a sharp decline in viewership. On the other hand, India went on to win the 2011 world cup, playing maximum matches which lead to big bucks being for the ICC and the sponsors alike. Even though India’s participation does attract the maximum viewership (India vs Pakistan World cup 2019 match generated 273 unique million viewers), it cannot be said that people won’t watch cricket at all if India isn’t involved though it may majorly dampen the viewership numbers on the larger scale.
The billion-dollar IPL plays a major role in the ICC vs BCCI feud. Not only has the league helped the domestic talent to come up and shine at the national level, but has also helped foreign players earn a spot in their respective national teams. The league generates a lot of profit and everyone is eager to get associated with the league. To maintain the dominance of IPL in the cricket world, the BCCI doesn’t even permit active Indian players from playing in any league outside the IPL. When two journalists for their documentary “Death of a Gentleman” discovered the biggest cricket scandals ever, their conclusion wasn’t much different, and every finger seemed to be pointed towards the BCCI and IPL for leading to the death of not only Test Cricket but also cricket as a global phenomenon by focusing more on the commercialisation of the sport through any means necessary.
In a recent survey that was conducted by the Federation of International Cricketers' Associations, even though more than 2/3rd of international players believed that the BCCI did indeed have an unfair influence in the decision making of ICC, these players preferred playing in the IPL over their national duty. Many cricket experts have already expressed for years their anger on such mindset of players, as they believe this will lead to players merely participating in the T20 cricket without developing any adequate skill or technique required for formats like the Test Cricket. Tim May who is the Chief Executive of ICC also pointed out that the survey highlights the issues with the current ICC structure and governance. He added that ICC is not only ridden with conflicts and outdated governance structure but also requires some serious review and reformation.
In another such survey conducted by ICC, 87% of people showed their willingness to see cricket in the Olympics. If cricket gets included in the Olympics, it will lead to a massive generation of capital for the ICC, and would consequently aid the small cricketing nations’ growth and development. One of the reasons that cricket is still unable to find a place in the Olympics can largely be attributed to the reluctance of the BCCI. As BCCI earns a lot of revenue through the IPL, they believe that introduction of a similar format in the Olympics will not only shrink their fair share in the revenue numbers but can also marginally affect their autonomy over the sport of cricket. The latter is a viable concern for the BCCI because the IOA (Indian Olympic Association) doubles up as the sole governing body for the Olympic Sports in India and alternatively possesses a significant say in the selection mechanisms of the Athletes as well. Overall, this bifurcation of autonomy may consequentially dilute the hegemony of BCCI over the sport of cricket.
Shashank Manohar who was the chairman of the ICC in 2020 also had his fair share of controversies with the Indian Board recently. In 2020, the ICC repeatedly delayed their final decision on whether to hold the T20 world cup or not. The BCCI accused Manohar of purposely not declaring the ICC’s decision on whether the T20 world cup will take place or not during the pandemic, as it will severely and directly affect BCCI’s preparation for the IPL. The decision regarding the reduction in the revenue share percentage of India was also taken under the term of Manohar.
The ICC vs BCCI feud has even reached a point where they are disputing over the broadcasting rights. Star Sports is the common broadcaster for both ICC and BCCI. Recently the ICC announced its broadcasting rights package and proposed 8 events in the next 8 years from 2023. The BCCI believes this was done to hijack their revenue share from the broadcasters from 2023-2028.
In its 2018 document, titled “A Global Strategy for Cricket - Update”, the ICC had carried out a SWOT analysis in which it labelled the heavy reliance on revenues from India as a weakness and as a threat to the global outreach of cricket. The CEO of BCCI, Rahul Johri claimed that the reports didn’t have any reliable backing and such events are a part of a plan to cut BCCI’s size. He said that last year already the BCCI had to struggle a lot to get a fair share of revenue percentage from ICC and one fact he cannot believe is how even after BCCI generates the highest percentage of revenue for ICC, the ICC is trying to curb the share of BCCI. After the BCCI expressed their annoyance with this, David Richardson the CEO of ICC, made a statement that ICC sees India as a strength towards their global strategy goals and the analysis just tried to convey that other countries also need to make contributions towards the cricket economy.
The whole structure, framework, and system of governance of the ICC need to be reformed. Whether or not ICC is being controlled by the BCCI is still debatable, but it is clear through the aforementioned instances dictated by the author that there exists a continuous power struggle between the two governing boards. For the power of the BCCI to be diluted, more cricket playing countries need to be offered Full Membership as it will make manipulation of the smaller cricketing boards by the BCCI or the big 3, a whole lot difficult. In a world where the game of cricket can be used for passing on a lot of good in society, it looks like owning the sport has become a bigger issue and more important than actually playing the sport.
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Cite as: Archit Uniyal, The Power Game: ICC vs BCCI, Extra-Cover: The Sports Law Blog of India (05th Mar. 2021), Accessed at https://www.extra-cover.org/post/the-power-game-icc-vs-bcci [Date of Access].