27 Jul 2015 19:33 IST

Why the BCCI is in such a mess

Despite huge growth in revenues and viewership, it failed to reinvent itself organisationally

Think of an organisation with 45 members. Its main purpose is to organise cricketing events for a handful of teams affiliated to it. There is the odd foreign tour by a team comprising players affiliated to clubs represented by this 45-member community. There are visits by foreign teams as well, from time to time.

It doesn't have much money, except what the erstwhile princes or rich merchants among this 45-member community choose to unbelt from time to time. Post India's Independence in 1947, the number shrinks to a total of 30, which remains so to this date. There is a promise of few more being admitted with full rights as members at some vague future date.

In course of time the cricketing events increase in frequency and public following for the game too expands so dramatically that marquee events involving a representative Indian cricket team attract a viewership on television of more than 30 crore Indians.

Broadcast rights

Thanks to television broadcast rights, the financial support from princes become less and less important. Which is just as well, as the capacity of these princes to bankroll cricket too, diminished drastically in the years since Independence.

It is now a huge operation with an annual income in excess of ₹1,100 crore and cricketing activities spread throughout the year. But the organisational structure remains unchanged, with the same 30 members overseeing it.

You would have guessed by now that I am referring to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The question is: From the first principles of management theory, is the organisational structure right for BCCI? Recent events seem to suggest that the answer is no.

For a business to thrive and prosper in the market place it needs a good product. It must also put in place appropriate business and operational plans to take on the competition successfully. But what is often not recognised is the nature of the organisational structure that is consistent with the scale and scope of its operations at any given point in time.

What works when the business is small and managed hands-on, by its owner-entrepreneur might not be appropriate when the business expands manifold. Even a decision on whether to keep the organisation privately owned or expose it to a wider and a more diffused public ownership may be just as important for the long-term viability of the organisation.

Cricket administration

Administration of cricket in the country might not be an activity with a profit motive in the conventional sense, although the income-tax department certainly thinks the former should share a portion of its surpluses. But principles of organisation structure apply just as well to not-for-profit organisations as they do for those set up with a commercial motive.

Cricket as a product is in perennial demand. The BCCI is the sole monopoly provider. But it might have missed a trick in keeping the organisational structure of Indian cricket in the same form as the one that existed (a narrow preserve of a few) in 1927.

Had the structure undergone suitable changes in keeping with the burgeoning popularity of the game among the masses, so that it provides for participation by a far wider community of stakeholders, BCCI might have avoided the predicament it finds itself in, in the context of the betting scam involving certain 'team officials' of two franchisees of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Misconduct

Let us review the recent turn of events. The Supreme Court appoints a special committee headed by Justice Lodha to decide on the quantum of punishment after it had earlier found that the conduct of the team officials in placing bets on the outcome of IPL matches amounted to misconduct.

It also leaves it to the committee to decide on the nature and quantum of punishment for the franchisees involved, for their omissions and commissions with regard to the officials’ conduct.

Accordingly, the Committee imposed a lifetime ban on Gurunath Meyyappan and Raj Kundra, ‘team officials' of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals respectively, preventing them from being involved in any cricket activities of the BCCI. It also ruled that the two franchisee teams cannot participate in the IPL league for two seasons.

Loss of revenue

The Supreme Court had earlier said that ‘the order (of the Committee) is binding on the BCCI and parties concerned, subject to the right of the aggrieved party in seeking redress in appropriate judicial proceedings in accordance with the law'.

It cannot be denied that the BCCI is clearly aggrieved by this order as it stands to lose revenue from the suspension of two franchisees from competing in the IPL for two seasons. But the irony is that, as things stand now, the BCCI is neither able to swallow the bitter medicine administered by the Court appointed special committee nor ignore its order.

After all, what are the prospects of any substantive relief in a situation where the Supreme Court had clearly endorsed the findings of a probe committee which investigated the issue of betting by ‘team officials'? Practically nil.

The right structure

This is where an appropriate organisational structure plays a part. Think of it this way. Had the BCCI transformed itself, over the years, into a very large organisation with perhaps many million stakeholders, the situation could well have been different. These millions of stakeholders, at a meeting of the general body, could themselves have voted to appoint a special committee to probe the conduct of team officials.

The same Justice Mudgal, who did it on behalf of a mandate from the Supreme Court, could well have been tasked by this large body of stakeholders. The BCCI office-bearers too, would have had no option but to cooperate with the investigation team as the latter enjoyed the confidence of the supreme decision-making authority for cricket in India, namely the millions of cricket-lover stakeholders.

Wider participation

True, it would have been an extremely complex democratic structure. But, then, when India has successfully demonstrated a capacity to conduct elections involving 60 crore citizens or when large corporates with millions of shareholders can ascertain their views on important matters affecting the company there is no reason why critical issues affecting cricket in India cannot have a wider participation.

After all, the Supreme Court ruled as early as in January 2015 that any entity that has such pervasive control over the game and its affairs, and possesses such powers as can make dreams of players and public alike go up in smoke or come true, is not undertaking a private activity that need concern only some 30 private individuals.

Now, what kind of alternative structure provides ample room for greater collective participation is a different matter. But a start has to be made by recognising that the present structure is ill-suited to meet the aspirations of millions of stakeholders of the game of cricket in India.