India news December 8, 2015

Conflict of interest doubt hangs over Ganguly

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Ganguly faces the conflict question

Sourav Ganguly's association with one of the new IPL franchise owners has been questioned as a possible case of conflict of interest. Ganguly is a member of the IPL governing council and is also a co-owner of the football franchise Atletico de Kolkata; a fellow co-owner is Sanjiv Goenka, who heads the New Rising consortium that today won the Pune IPL franchise.

The matter was raised at the press conference that followed the auction procedure and BCCI officials present denied it was a case of conflict but said it would be for the newly appointed ombudsman to decide. Ganguly, when contacted by ESPNcricinfo, laughed off the suggestion of conflict, saying football and cricket are two different sports.

Shashank Manohar, BCCI president and a lawyer himself, offered a more nuanced defence. "According to me there is not [a conflict of interest] because this is a transparent bidding concept," Manohar said. "Basically I get questions everyday [about conflict of interest]. People have not understood the meaning of the word conflict. Conflict means where there could be an obvious bias with regards to the decision-making process. When a person can influence the decision-making, then only there is conflict. You can't extend it to absurdity levels. I am a lawyer, if there is a client of mine, unless it can be shown I have influence, there is no conflict if he bids for a team."

Manohar, though, said his assessment of the Ganguly situation was his own personal view. "Everybody has a right to disagree with me. I am not going to be the judge. The board has appointed an independent agency."

Manohar's point was that nobody knew the bid amounts while walking into the meeting. They didn't even know who all were going to bid. The bidders made walk-in offers, which ruled out any knowledge to anyone as to who was going to bid how much. "It was a closed bid submitted at the bidding time," Manohar said. "Sourav Ganguly has nothing to do with that. Even if somebody has an objection now, we have appointed an ombudsman to look into these cases."

New Rising made two bids in this reverse-bidding process, both in minus. Both were lower than any other bid, but they could get only one franchise according to IPL rules. Every other bidder made at least one positive bid.

Manohar did not, however, address the issue of a situation that could arise going forward, where the IPL's governing council - of which Ganguly is a member as a "cricketer" - might have to decide on matters directly related to the Pune franchise. Though his role is seen as largely ceremonial, it could be argued that he would have influence over decisions taken.

It could also be argued that Ganguly is partner with Goenka in a separate entity, and might not have anything to gain financially from New Rising as a co-owner of Atletico. Such a defence has not been put forward by any of the parties involved, although Ganguly's cryptic reply to ESPNcricinfo might have hinted at that.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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