BCCI bound by PNA terms, has to field best, says ICC

Published: Saturday, December 28, 2002, 17:44 [IST]
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Bangalore: The International Cricket Council (ICC) welcomed the comments of the Indian Sports Minister that BCCI's contractual difficulties needed to be resolved in the interests of the game. ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed, in an official press release, said the comments by Sports Minister Vikram Verma showed an appreciation that this issue was not simply about India but about the importance of understanding the ramifications on the game around the world if the Board of Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) does not meet its contractual obligations.

"The current agreement between world cricket and the Global Cricket Corporation is in the best interests of the game. It will provide $ 550 million for the sport over the life of the agreement, an injection that will allow cricket to thrive over the coming years," Speed said. "The deal helps ensure that the 85 countries that are part of the ICC have the financial resources to develop and grow the games across the globe. Critical to this is the need for all countries that have entered into legally binding agreements to deliver what they have promised. This includes the BCCI," he stated.

Speed went on to reveal that it had detailed the steps taken by the BCCI through which it has accepted a number of compelling legal obligations in a letter to the president of the BCCI from ICC Chief Executive Malcolm Speed on December 16, 2002. Speed said that recent suggestions by some commentators that the BCCI is not or would not be contractually bound to deliver on these obligations were inaccurate and that it was important to dispel this speculation. "The BCCI has willingly committed itself to delivering its best teams to the ICC World Cup 2003 and to ensuring that this team will agree to the conditions accepted by the BCCI," Speed claimed.

"Following discussion with the BCCI on this issue I carefully outlined the legitimate and transparent process by which the BCCI accepted and committed to its contractual obligations in a letter to the Indian board earlier this month." In the letter Speed highlights the process by which successive agreements were accepted by the BCCI that commit it to a number of obligations to world cricket. The letter begins by highlighting that the BCCI would have been aware from May 2001 of the obligation to provide exclusivity to World Cup sponsors.

"BCCI was well aware of the obligation undertaken by ICC Development (International) Ltd (IDI) to provide exclusivity to sponsors at an early stage," Speed said in the letter. "The cricket events agreement was signed by the BCCI on May 28, 2001. It provides 'inter alia' as follows: "4.1 Member (ie BCCI) acknowledges that IDI's obligations under the WSG/NC (World Sport Group/New Corporation) agreement go beyond ensuring the participation in events of the relevant ICC member and that such obligations extend to avoiding conflict between the commercial rights which are the subject of the WSG/NC agreement (and which WSG/NC will sub-grant to official sponsors, suppliers and broadcasters in respect of the events) and with any other arrangements with sponsors, suppliers, broadcasters or any other third parties in conjunction with hosts, teams, venues and players, or otherwise in connection with any of the events.

"This agreement was signed by the BCCI without comment or query to IDI," Speed stated. Speed then referred to the extensive discussion on the master rights agreement that took place at a meeting of the ICC's cricket committee - management in Melbourne on February 8 and 9, 2002 in Melbourne attended by the BCCI's honorary secretary Lele. The letter moves on to addresses the commitments made by the BCCI through its participating nations agreement (PNA), including the commitments to send its best team and to ensure that its players would be bound by the players terms that are part of the PNA. "The PNA for ICC CWC 2003 was forwarded to BCCI on December 21, 2001.

This document clearly has provisions for exclusive sponsorship and the provisions that are necessary to protect those sponsorships and ensure that exclusivity is granted to sponsors," the letter said. Speed also highlighted the specific opportunity given to the BCCI to object to any aspect of the PNA through the correspondence that accompanied the PNA. This correspondence said: "As a consequence of ICC Development (International) Ltd (IDI) entering into the commercial agreement on behalf of the member countries of the ICC with World Sports Group and News Corporation, it is required that each participating nation in the ICC World Cup 2003 enters into an agreement with IDI containing mandatory provisions to support the commercial obligations of IDI. "...

In the event that your solicitors want to discuss any aspect of the ICC World Cup 2003 participating nations agreement notwithstanding its mandatory nature, please make direct contact with (ICC solicitors details provided)." In response the BCCI provided the signed PNA and the following covering letter to the ICC on March 13, 2002. "I am sending herewith two sets of participating nations agreement between ICC Development (International) Ltd as IDI and Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) as competitor relating to the ICC World Cup 2003 duly signed and sealed by me.

Kindly acknowledge receipt of the same With best regards. Sincerely yours Niranjan R. Shah, Hon Secretary." Speed then noted that at no stage did the BCCI raise any issue with any aspect of the PNA nor take up the opportunity to discuss any concerns with the ICC or its solicitors. "In the intervening period between December 24, 2001 when the PNA was forwarded to the BCCI and the date of its return to IDI, there was no correspondence between the BCCI and IDI or between BCCI's solicitors and IDI's solicitors concerning the PNA," Speed said in the letter. Speed said that the process by which the ICC and the BCCI had entered into their contracts was clear and transparent and each party has willingly accepted the obligations that were detailed in these agreements.

He also noted that any action by the BCCI to avoid its legal obligations will create the potential for a significant claim for compensation against the Indian board. "The reality is that any person or organisation that fails to live up to its commitments risks claims for compensation being made against it and the BCCI is no different," Speed added in the official press release.

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