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'The ICC wants a yes man'

The big battle in cricket is currently being fought in the board room, with the Indian cricket board making it clear to the ICC that it plays the game of commercial rights by its own rules. The final of the two-part series

November 1, 2006

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The big battle in cricket is currently being fought in the board room, with the Indian cricket board making it clear to the ICC that it plays the game of commercial rights by its own rules. In the final of this two-part series, Sanjay Manjrekar and Tony Greig quiz Lalit Modi, the BCCI's most visible face, on India's role in world cricket



'The ICC actually suffered when they gave it [rights] out to one company [Global Cricket Corporation] for an eight-year-period' says Lalit Modi © AFP
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Sanjay Manjrekar This is something I don't understand: the BCCI and you claim you have a strong alliance, then why can't you dictate terms?

Lalit Modi Because this decision was taken prior to us coming into power and the Future Tours Programme [FTP] has been signed till 2015 unfortunately.

Tony Greig The Indian board is actually trying to say, "Look, just be a bit careful. Can't we come back on that?" And it is sensible to come back on that for two reasons, as I understand and tell me if I am wrong. Number one, we are committing so far down the line and are rights going to be worth hell of a lot more in 2015 on the one hand and on the other hand if we do something more in the short term and whoever wins those rights, wins those rights for a specific tournament. .....

LM I will give a good example. When the last rights were given to the Global Cricket Corporation [GCC] they were given on a fixed number of matches basis and then there was a revenue split 80:20 in favour of the ICC. Now the GCC further went down the line and gave out contracts to its group companies. The GCC actually calculated that it had to pay the ICC $532 million. And I am going on record saying this: in fact then they backwards calculated Sky UK, Fox Australia, Fox New Zealand, Fox South Africa and Direct TV USA - how much money does that come to? Keep in mind Sky only paid only $30 million for eight years. Now they made $30 million in the first bloody series. On the other hand the highest money was paid by Sony Television which was not part of Sky or the GCC platform. So they took that money, calculated the world part; in fact if you look at the underlying revenues of all other broadcasters it would've been in the excess of a billion dollars. So the ICC actually suffered when they gave it out to one company for an eight-year-period and they had a revenue share which didn't materialise because the revenue share actually came from its group companies. Now the group companies are not going to say, "Ok, fine, we are going to give you 100 million dollars." If you actually looked at the Sky business plan, which I happened to look at because I was partner with ESPN in those days, they were actually going to bid $90 million on their own. But now they didn't have to bid 90 million because the parent company of theirs had bought the rights and they got a share of it. Now these are issue which shouldn't have happened but happened because there was no transparency in the system.

TG I happen to think the single-most critical issue is the short-term handling by India of the existing governing body of the game of cricket. Perhaps I feel that because I'm an outsider looking into this. That's why I keep wanting to come back to this: what is the perfect scenario - democracy, equal say ... is it possible? I mean at the moment all people sitting around the table and I assume everyone has the right to put their hand up. And if you've the right to put your hand up then you are in a situation where at least you can get the things that you want passed. If you haven't got the right then it is not democracy.

You've got to read the documents, what is it that you are signing and not signing and what is that you are getting out of it. It would be very easy for India to go out there and bid for the World Cup on its own and we would've won it. But we have decided that it is important to keep the subcontinent together

LM We have the right to put our hand up. That is why when I go out there I'm never at the meeting, I'm always at the hotel and trying to sit with people and explain to them how it is beneficial to them. You've got to read the documents, what is it you are signing and not signing and what is that you are getting out of it. It would be very easy for India to go out there and bid for the World Cup on its own and we would've won it. But we have decided that it is important to keep the subcontinent together and so we have divided the matches between the four countries. We've decided to work with the other countries in the subcontinent.

TG So what you are really saying is the basic structure is there. It's an attitude thing?

LM It is an attitude thing, and you've got to keep in mind something like the Indian cricket board used to be where only one person spoke. And now when you have to get others to speak you have to educate them - it is a departure from the way you used to conduct the game.

TG Can you work with Malcolm Speed to implement what you are saying or do you think it has gone past that?

LM We can work with Malcolm but he is retiring in a few months. The new CEO who will take over from him, we hope that will take the lead and try and democratise the whole process and have a lot more people involved. Workshops should be conducted with all concerned about the ability.... I did a marketing workshop for the ICC a few months ago in June and explained to them where the value is and how they can also turn on the value. We shouldn't rely on middlemen and broadcasters to advise us. In fact the ICC should be helping other members to streamline their processes. We should help each other - we are not a large number of us in helping each other to do the same thing going forward.



'While the Packer organisation had a war with the Australian cricket board they are now at one. They look upon their product as vital to both of them' says Tony Greig © Getty Images
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TG That definitely is something that happens in Australia. I can tell you that while the Packer organisation had a war with the Australian cricket board they are now at one. They look upon their product as vital to both of them. Firstly, cricket obviously needs its broadcaster and on the other hand the broadcaster values that product so much that it's up to him to market that product...

SM Why is the BCCI a little late or is it averse to a professional set-up?

LM We are waiting for our new offices to get ready - we had no place to put the people but the process is on.

SM There is a feeling that some of the senior members in the board do not want to shift the limelight on to a face that will become the face of Indian cricket, someone like the CEO?

LM I don't think so. Our constitution has a problem with appointing a CEO so we need a two-third majority to have a chief executive; On the other hand we have a secretary who is like a chief executive working full time. Apart from that we have appointed Mr Ratnakar Shetty as chief administrative officer of the BCCI which is like a CEO in any other organisation. He is a paid employee. Then every committee chairman has been given the responsibility of hiring the right people.

TG Another question which I always wanted to ask: Sharad Pawar, Lalit Modi and N Sreenivasan - all important members of the board, who have a lot on their agenda. How can they give enough time to run Indian cricket which is a full-time job?

LM You ask any of my CEOs, my family I spend eight to 10 hours on cricket every day because I love the game and I have dedicated myself and I have fought so hard for 10 years to get where I am. I need to get it right. Now I attend my office one day every two weeks for my own work. People like myself, Sreenivasan, [Inderjit Singh] Bindra and Mr Pawar spend hours and hours knowing that if we don't give our time the system will collapse. But to make sure when we are not there our legacy continues and that is why we are hiring people who will learn form us and be able to carry on the legacy forward.

TG Talking about your executive team, talking about your commitment, talking about the fact that you have spent too long, 10 years, trying to get to this position and how you are going to make it count I keep thinking to myself "What's the problem?" How come ICC isn't saying "This is wonderful."?

LM I will tell you what the problem is: The ICC wants a 'Yes' man. That is the actual problem. They want somebody that they can deal with and who is going to listen to them. In our case he has to deal with the whole committee - the decision-making process which was one person is not there anymore.

SM When you say ICC - is this about an individual or the body?

LM No, it is the body. I have been asked this many times as to why doesn't anyone come to the ICC meeting and take a decision. We say that when we get the papers we need to collectively as a board decide "Yes" or "No" because it affects every member of the BCCI. If we don't sign on it there will be a problem like the host/venue agreement this time around - Rajasthan and Punjab haven't signed this agreement because if the executive board of the BCCI may sign on it without the concurrence of the others then the others are not going to sign it.



Last days in office aren't easy for Malcolm Speed as BCCi refuses to sign the MPA in its existing form. 'Without the MPA I don't think the ICC can go out and market their rights for the next eight years. And we have serious issues with the MPA', says Modi © AFP
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TG You have got some serious meeting lined up with the ICC which will actually impinge on the world of cricket...

LM Yes, the single biggest issue is going to be the Members' Participation Agreement [MPA] because without the MPA I don't think the ICC can go out and market their rights for the next eight years. And we have serious issues with the MPA and we are not going to sign the MPA in its existing form. We have already given out exhaustive comments to the ICC. They now have to send their people down and have a meeting with us to take this forward.

SM How seriously do you think is the threat that if the BCCI doesn't sign the paper the World Cup would be taken away from them?

LM One individual is saying that, but it is not up to him to decide. The World Cup was not given to us by one individual, it was given to us by 75 percent of the collective voting, which is 97 members of the ICC. Only they have the right to take it away from two-thirds of the majority. So if they need to take the World Cup away from us they need to call back the general body and decide to take it away. We are very confident that what we are asking for is not against the general body members. It is not that what we are asking is only in favour of India. What we want is also applicable to other members - a lot of the members haven't seen the problems or haven't hosted a big event to understand the problems.

TG The populists are of the view it is really all about India wanting to keep a bigger slice of the pie...

There shouldn't be deals like the GCC deal. The GCC deal was done based upon 12 matches for the Champions Trophy; there are 21 games in all in the Champions Trophy. Did the ICC get higher revenue? No

LM It is not true. I will tell you why we threw the hat into the ring. The real reason was that there should no side deals. The money should come to the ICC. There shouldn't be deals like the GCC deal. The GCC deal was done based upon 12 matches for the Champions Trophy; there are 21 games in all in the Champions Trophy. Did the ICC get higher revenue? No. Did transparent contracts get signed between subsidiary companies? No. Now when India throws its hat in the pool that means India is going to put a big number on the table. We may not win. I'm doing my homework right now of what each match is worth and I'm going to put a number on the table. But I'm sure the others will be also knowing that we are going to put a number on the table and India doesn't do something without looking into it anymore. And they will be cautious about it. I will be very happy if somebody else wins it. Who is going to be the biggest beneficiary which nobody is looking at this. The biggest beneficiary is the ICC because they make all the money. If I am saying I am going to bid in the excess of a billion dollars so others will be very careful about it. Don't undermine the revenue of the ICC. Simple thing: if you think you are going to win the ICC rights for peanuts, forget about it.

TG What about the criticism that you are very good at running the game but now you are trying to be a television station?

LM We are not a television station. We are going to give it out to a television station. The ICC is saying that conditions that we are imposing on the MPA are so stringent that we will lose revenue. That is the underlying crux of the problem. ICC is saying that India is demanding things in the MPA which will undermine the ICC's revenue; India is saying "Sorry. Listen to me. On one hand we are telling you this is our problem with the MPA because it is better for the game." And secondly we are ready to bid with those conditions and we will offload it to a broadcaster who'll have no problem dealing with us. But they have a problem that it will undermine the value. I will give an example: We give out our rights for 72 hours to a broadcaster. The ICC wants to give it out for five years. But the same broadcaster has no problems signing with the Indian cricket board for 72 hours and has a problem with the ICC signing on for 72 hours. How is that possible? Simple as that. That's the crux of the problem.

TG What happens when it comes to Australia-New Zealand's turn to bid?

LM They have the same advantage as we do. We are going to go out there and re-implement it... we will bring the broadcaster, we will bring in the ground sponsors... it'll be the same sponsors and broadcasters. We are ready to work with them [Australian and New Zealand cricket boards] and I have no problem in a consortium with them to build it up. We want no money out of it; we will offer our services free of cost. I'm ready to sit in Australia from months on end to help them to build a system as far as marketing is concerned.

SM Does it hurt you when the media is being unfair to you, personally, or the BCCI?

LM I think the media is only talking about the revenue side of the business, it's an interesting story. Everybody asks, "How much money have you made?" they are not looking at the problems we have, and what we have we done in terms of logistics, infrastructure and how we are able to run these world-class tournaments with the skeletal staff that we have....and how many hours go into it on a day-in day-out basis. Yes, there are controversial issues. When we do something wrong, the media is right to take us up and criticise us, but at the same time they should also be looking at the different aspects of the game apart form the monetary aspects. It is because they keep breaking the monetary issues that they are always upfront.

SM Your vision for Indian cricket?

LM The vision for us is to have world-class infrastructure and a great grassroots programme all across India which will sustain us for the next decade or so.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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