Global TV rights for overseas ODIs to be announced today April 6, 2006

Sahara bid leads to protests

Cricinfo staff

Three of the four bidders for the lucrative global television rights for 25 offshore ODIs to be played by India over the next five years have complained to the Indian board against irregularities in the tender process.

Nimbus, ESPN-Star Sports and Zee Sports have alleged that Sahara's tender was accepted by the board despite the bid being delivered after the 11 am (IST) deadline on Wednesday, which clearly violated the guidelines. They further alleged that the bid was not delivered in a sealed envelope as the rules stipulate.

Nimbus and Zee Sports immediately sent out letters to the BCCI while ESPN-Star indicated that they reserved the right to take action if necessary. Meanwhile, Lalit Modi, the board's vice-president, dismissed their claim and maintained that the bidding process was done in all fairness. "Sahara had deposited the money of five million dollars yesterday itself and its representatives were waiting at the reception whereas the other bidders had gathered in the boardroom," he was quoted as saying by the Times of India.

Himanshu Mody, the business head of Zee Sports, in his letter wrote, "We believe that the new BCCI administration has conducted the earlier tender process with complete transparency and fairness. There have been instances in the past, where companies have been disqualified on technical grounds. Keeping these facts in mind, we trust in all fairness, the Sahara financial bid should not be considered. We are hopeful the BCCI will take a fair decision on this occasion as well."

The BCCI is expected to announce the results of the bidding at Mumbai on Thursday. They have also fixed a reserve price of US $5 million per match and the bid is likely to fetch a minimum of $100 million.

In his letter to the board, K Digvijay Singh, Nimbus' CEO, said, "In line with the strict and uniform concurrence to BCCI policy, Sahara's technical non-compliance with Clause 10 (b) of the Invitation To Tender (ITT) should render their bid subject to rejection according to the BCCI's strict policies.

"It may be noted that Nimbus has a positive working relationship with Sahara. Nevertheless, in the interests of equity and a constant policy that the present BCCI committee have taken pains to exemplify, we respectfully maintain that the Sahara bid should not be permitted to qualify herein."

The offshore television rights include the two India-Pakistan matches to be played in Abu Dhabi on April 18 and 19.