The sixth chapter of the Lodha Commission recommendations to the BCCI and its constituents deals with the kicker that began the reforms ball rolling within the cricketing body.
Yes, conflict of interest is the title of chapter six; Shashank Manohar, a lawyer by profession, tackled the matter as soon as he took over as the latest BCCI president.
The Lodha Commission considers resolution of conflict of interest the “underpinning of all governance in the civilized world.”
The commission further remarks the BCCI had “an extremely casual understanding of the concept of Conflict of Interest.”
The members of the panel recognise that there is a lack of understanding in players and officials about the very concept unlike legal professionals who are “attuned to conflict mechanisms and their avoidance on a daily basis.”
Conflict of interest and overlapping interests were treated very subjectively by administrators and players and there was a lack of voluntary disclosure in many an instance.
The commission further damns the BCCI that the advent of the IPL only meant that the BCCI accommodated these ‘inherent’ conflicts.
Conflict of interest issues are central to ethical conduct.
The BCCI’s newly spelt out guidelines on this issue should apply to all individuals connected or employed with the BCCI i.e. every Office Bearer, Player, Councillor, Employee, Administrator, Team Official, Umpire or other person connected to the BCCI, its Members or the IPL and its Franchisees. These include both acts of commission and omission.
Conflicts are broadly classified as tractable and intractable.
An Ethics Officer is to apply the policy for the BCCI.
When the BCCI stated that it would accept the Lodha Committee’s recommendations in toto, few believed it would make any substantial difference to its inner workings and the postponement of any decision about the suspended teams CSK and RR only fueled these suspicions.
The first inkling of sweeping changes in the offing occurred yesterday when the BCCI addressed the issue of conflict of interest in a letter to its members requested them to sign a declaration stating that they have no existing conflicts of interest in their capacities as officials with the BCCI or any state association.
The letter states:
“Conflict of interest is not about beliefs or biases. It is about a person’s roles and responsibilities, and the tendency or apprehension of bias that assumes to exist when duties, decisions or actions conflict. Deciding that someone has a conflict of interest is a description of a situation, not a judgement about the person or their actual beliefs.”
It also asks members to declare the absence of “any personal or family allegiance, bias, inclination, obligation or any interest of whatsoever nature, directly or indirectly which may in any way affect or provide any financial or any other benefit to me, my family or close relations or which may tend to interfere with or affect my objectivity, independence, impartiality and neutrality in any decision making process, acts and conduct relating to or arising out of discharge of my office of President/Hony. Secretary of …”
It is a pity really that the antics of politicians and certain ‘luminaries’ within the BCCI and other national sports federations have tarred all who have been accused of conflicts of interest with the same brush.
The paucity of qualified people especially ex-sportspersons willing to be a part of sports administration is well known and there is always a possibility that there will be some entanglement of private and public roles and responsibilities.
That’s as it is. It should not be sufficient reason to jettison recent developments as non-viable or unworkable in an Indian context. This has been the bane of any attempt at reforms.
Let us revisit the definition of ‘conflict of interest‘ first.
“A conflict of interest (COI) is a situation in which a person or organization is involved in multiple interests (financial, emotional, or otherwise), one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation of the individual or organization.
The presence of a conflict of interest is independent of the occurrence of impropriety. Therefore, a conflict of interest can be discovered and voluntarily defused before any corruption occurs. A widely used definition is: “A conflict of interest is a set of circumstances that creates a risk that professional judgement or actions regarding a primary interest will be unduly influenced by a secondary interest.” Primary interest refers to the principal goals of the profession or activity, such as the protection of clients, the health of patients, the integrity of research, and the duties of public office. Secondary interest includes not only financial gain but also such motives as the desire for professional advancement and the wish to do favours for family and friends, but conflict of interest rules usually focus on financial relationships because they are relatively more objective, fungible, and quantifiable. The secondary interests are not treated as wrong in themselves, but become objectionable when they are believed to have greater weight than the primary interests. The conflict in a conflict of interest exists whether or not a particular individual is actually influenced by the secondary interest. It exists if the circumstances are reasonably believed (on the basis of past experience and objective evidence) to create a risk that decisions may be unduly influenced by secondary interests.”
Conflict of interest is best understood in the judicial context. It’s probably no surprise that Shashank Manohar, a lawyer by profession, was and is one of former BCCI supremo N Srinivasan’s staunchest critics.
“Judicial disqualification, also referred to as recusal, refers to the act of abstaining from participation in an official action such as a court case/legal proceeding due to a conflict of interest of the presiding court official or administrative officer. Applicable statutes or canons of ethics may provide standards for recusal in a given proceeding or matter. Providing that the judge or presiding officer must be free from disabling conflicts of interest makes the fairness of the proceedings less likely to be questioned.
In the legal profession, the duty of loyalty owed to a client prohibits an attorney (or a law firm) from representing any other party with interests adverse to those of a current client. The few exceptions to this rule require informed written consent from all affected clients, i.e., an “ethical wall”. In some circumstances, a conflict of interest can never be waived by a client. In perhaps the most common example encountered by the general public, the same firm should not represent both parties in a divorce or child custody matter. Found conflict can lead to denial or disgorgement of legal fees, or in some cases (such as the failure to make mandatory disclosure), criminal proceedings. In the United States, a law firm usually cannot represent a client if its interests conflict with those of another client, even if they have separate lawyers within the firm, unless (in some jurisdictions) the lawyer is segregated from the rest of the firm for the duration of the conflict. Law firms often employ software in conjunction with their case management and accounting systems in order to meet their duties to monitor their conflict of interest exposure and to assist in obtaining waivers.”
Wikipedia also lists the following methods for mitigation of conflicts of interest:
N Srinivasan, in an attempt to retain his position as BCCI president, has placed his CSK shareholdings in a ‘players’ trust‘. This, however, did not cut any ice with the Supreme Court since the remaining 71% shares were still owned by India Cements in which he and his family members hold a controlling interest.
Disclosure and recusal sometimes go hand-in-hand where the (usually prior) disclosure of a conflict of interest may lead to the official abstaining himself from any deliberations where a personal stake could affect the outcome.
The stakes are high. The aforesaid letter is just the beginning.
The next step would be for the BCCI and state associations to set out code of ethics and conduct for players, office bearers and umpires.
Will N Srinivasan see the writing on the wall and step down from the ICC?
What he said:
"I don’t see any conflict of interest here. The positions with the KSCA and NCA are honorary jobs, and I have to look after myself. At this stage of my career, I have to do that. Otherwise, you’d have to become like Gandhi and give up everything."
Kumble is director and owner of player management firm, Tenvic. He is additionally president of the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) , chairman of the National Cricket Academy and mentor to IPL franchise, Royal Challengers Bangalore. In the latter three capacities, the former leg-spinner could favorably influence the fortunes of his Tenvic wards.
What he really meant:
“I’m not well-versed in perception management. Besides, Gandhi was no cricketer. No real comparison there. N Srinivasan’s my guru.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“Money, Money, Money. It’s a rich man’s world.”
“No man can serve two masters.Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”
That’s what the Good Book states.
An article in Outlook India highlighted the inherent conflict of interest in the job profiles of Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri when they (supposedly) provide unbiased, expert comments on games involving India while at the same time they are contracted directly to the Board for Cricket Control in India (BCCI).
What he said:
“The BCCI is a banana republic, it answers to no regulatory body.”
Santosh Desai, a social commentator, is under no illusions about how the BCCI conducts business. He was commenting on the conflict of interest inherent in Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri contracted to the BCCI while offering their opinions for Sky Television.
What he really meant:
“The BCCI is a banana republic; working with it is akin to trying to retain one’s balance while treading a banana skin.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri endorse plantains for the BCCI.”
I can’t fathom what’s more comic or tragic— depending on your perspective.
Saurav Ganguly fans, who keep hoping for some miracle that will enable their hero to participate in the IPL this year.
Or the split verdict announced by the Supreme Court on a petition filed by former BCCI President A C Muthiah challenging amendment of clause 6.2.4 allegedly promulgated to allow BCCI Secretary N Srinivasan to continues as an office-bearer while owning a stake in the Chennai Super Kings franchise.
At least, Dada fans’ hearts are in the right place—in Ganguly’s opinion.
But what can you say about a clear conflict of interest? Should N Srinivasan govern as an interested party?
Sunny Gavaskar hits the deadlines once more; this time it is his links with the Kochi franchise that have drawn flak from all quarters.
The Indian batting legend , the first cricketer to score 10,000 runs and surpass Don Bradman’s 29 tons, is mulling over an offer from the Gaikwads, the Rendezvous group owners, to handle all matters cricketing.
The news comes as a bit of a surprise and there exists speculation about Gavaskar’s role in the bidding process as a possible conflict of interest ; the master batsman was then on the IPL governing council.
(The fallout between Lalit Modi and Shashi Tharoor was the result of allegations that Tharoor sought Modi’s interference in the bidding process to ensure that the Kochi group’s bid would be successful.)
Gavaskar is no longer a part of the IPL set-up; he quit the re-constituted governing council citing differences with the BCCI.
Was the conflict of interest a reason for the differences? If yes, why then was just the super accumulator penalised?
In the wake of events that have transpired recently namely the Pak match-fixing scandal and the IPL mess, the BCCI (on advisement from the ICC) has decided to combat the malaise on a war-footing.
In addition to Anil Kumble mentoring the current Indian team, outside consultants are being invited to deliver seminars that will address the ills that plague Indian cricket.
These seminars are to be held under the auspices of the newly formed BCCI Institute whose mission is to provide and foster the continuous growth and education of its stakeholders.
The twists and turns in the sordid IPL drama get hairier, by the day!
Readers might be aware that Mr. Lalit Modi is currently in London and refuses to return to India fearing for his life.
His weapon of choice against any and all charges is his Twitter account. Talk about social media pressure!
The IPL witch-hunt is truly on!
The BCCI terminated their contracts making it clear that irregularities were not to be tolerated any more. If this signals a move to a more professional setup, the move is welcome.
But if it is seen as another move to further isolate Modi and his supporters, it will be just another instance of intense politicking and jockeying for power in the richest sports body in the country.
The Kochi franchise lives on – for now. It has a ten-day reprieve. And with the reduction in the number of franchises, the Pune and Kerala-based franchises may be profitable sooner than later.