The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI's) decision, conveyed to the Bombay high court today, brought to an abrupt end the fortnight-long legal imbroglio surroundingthe award of telecast rights of the matches to be played in India from October 2004 to September 2008.
Accordingly, ESPN-Star Sports withdrew its petition challenging the decision of the Cricket Board to award telecast rights to Zee Telefilms. Zee Telefilms, however, has not given up and its CEO Subhash Chandra told reporters outside the court that they were aggrieved and might challenge BCCI's decision.
BCCI told the court they might produce live telecast of three upcoming series including the India-Australia test series starting October six. Or it may call for fresh bids, one for the three upcoming series from October 2004 to April 2005 and the other for the next four years thereafter.
Zee Telefilms contended that they were asked to make arrangements for production and had paid an initial amount of 20 million U S Dollars. Though they were accepted as eligiblebidder by the 14-member marketing committee of BCCI, the latter told the court that the tender had not concluded. The Zee Telefilms argued that the tender had been concluded and only a few negotiations remained to be completed.
BCCI urged the court that they may be allowed to call for a fresh bid, provided both Zee Telefilms and ESPN-Star Sport agreed to the proposal. ESPN-Star Sport agreed to it but Zee Telefilms refused to go for a fresh bid saying that the suggestion was a repeat ofthe earlier proposal of the court on BCCI's submission.
Following Zee Telefilm's refusal, BCCI told court that they were cancelling the tender and thereafter, ESPN-Star Sports withdrew its petition. The matter had till now hinged on the "production" capability of both the parties.
Earlier, ESPN-Star Sports insisted that Zee telefilms was not eligible as it did not possess the required two year experience in "producing" live international cricket matches. It also said that Zee Telefilms lacked the "in-house" production facilities required for such an event.
The matter, however, took an interesting turn after Zee Telefilms pointed out to the court that ESPN-Star Sports similarly lacked the requirement which they had been holdingagainst the entertainment major.
The court then observed that if strict adherence to eligibility criterion was made, both the parties would be ineligible. The BCCI told the court that it had proceeded on the basis that both were qualified. Zee Telefilms also raised its "Indianness" and said ESPN-Star Sports was trying to monopolise the business by trying keep out a new entrant in the form of Zee telefilms.
Earlier, BCCI informed the High Court that the Australian Cricket Board (ACB) was "seriously considering" to withdraw from the four test cricket series commencing in Bangalore from October six if the matches were not telecast live.
BCCI counsel K K Venugopal read out a letter written by ACB to its Indian counterpart which said that it may get into legal trouble with their sponsors if the condition of livetelecast of matches was not met.
Emphasising that BCCI had powers to cancel the existing tender, Venugopal argued that if the matter is not resolved soon, BCCI would have no alternative but to go in for a freshbid by inviting tenders.
Two parties, 24 hour channel SAB TV and Consumer Action Network (CAN) had intervened in the matter. SAB TV said that ESPN-Star Sports had failed to satisfy the consortium criteria as mentioned in the tender bids called by the Cricket Board for telecast rights.
SAB TV and CAN also said ESPN-Star Sports should show whether they are themselves qualified and then question Zee Telefilms over eligibility. SAB TV also raised the "foreign origin" issue of ESPN-Star Sports.
The other application by CAN said that the court should ensure telecast of matches on free to air channel irrespective of who gets the rights. The Union Government, also a party to the case, filed an affidavit saying it had no role to play as BCCI was an autonomous body and hence award of telecast rights was solely within its jurisdiction.
Opposing ESPN's contention, a government affidavit said there was no question of withdrawal of recognition to BCCI as it had not come across any breach of conditions under which the sports federations were given recognition.