The battlelines are drawn September 5, 2004

ESPN react strongly to TV rights snub

ESPN-Star Sports, who have virtually lost the bid for Indian cricket television rights, reacted strongly to the announcement that the Board of Control for Cricket in India intended to grant the rights to Zee Network.

"I am disappointed to learn that ZEE had been even offered the cricket rights and that the BCCI had changed the entire process of bidding in violation of rules set by BCCI themselves," said Rik Dovey, managing director of ESPN-Star Sports, in a statement.

Several committees of the board met with representatives of both ESPN-Star Sports and Zee Network in Chennai over the last few days. Dovey said ESPN-Star were dissatisfied with several things that occurred in these proceedings. "Yesterday [September 4] we were asked by the BCCI, after they met ZEE, to provide clarifications on our original bid, which we did in light of their statement to us, that such clarifications would be used by the Committee to conclude the process. The Tender Committee had clearly expressed that they wanted the bidding process to stop there."

But, the rights were finally awarded to Zee Networks. "Today we were asked to attend a meeting to provide what was described as further clarification. However, when we met the committee we were informed that the BCCI `Tender Committee' had changed their position from yesterday. We were informed that BCCI had just given Zee the opportunity to increase their bid and that providing Zee met certain conditions, not all of which were disclosed to ESPN-Star Sports, ZEE would be awarded the rights later this week."

ESPN-Star Sports insisted that they were not given enough opportunity to clarify their bid, review their position, or alter their bid. Further ESPN-Star Sports continued to insist that they were the "highest legitimate eligible" bidder. In conclusion Dovey said: "We feel that today's proceedings clearly are a denial of natural justice and a violation by the BCCI of its own tendering process."

You can be sure Zee Networks will disagree with most of this. The battle lines have been drawn, and the action is just heating up. Watch this space.

Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.