Harbhajan faces conflict of interest allegation
The BCCI ombudsman, Justice AP Shah, has asked India offspinner Harbhajan Singh to respond to an allegation of conflict of interest related to his links to a sports apparel company that sponsors various state teams in domestic cricket. On January 16, Justice Shah forwarded a complaint from Mumbai-based activist Niraj Gunde to Harbhajan and asked the player to respond to the allegation by January 30.
"It is widely reported that Mr. Harbhajan Singh had started a company by name of Bhajji sports, which is a sports apparel company," Gunde wrote in an email to Shah on January 14. The same e-mail, accessed by ESPNcricinfo, was copied to BCCI president Shashank Manohar and Ratnakar Shetty, BCCI manager, game development. "Further, news reports have indicated that this Bhajji sports is sponsoring upto 6 Ranji Teams (Member Associations of the BCCI)," Gunde wrote.
According Gunde, Harbhajan has specifically violated the sub-clauses C and D dealing with conflict of interest in the three-page document prepared by Manohar, in which the BCCI president listed various guidelines that would help administrators, match officials, players and board staff avoid involvement in conflict of interest.
For the current players, Manohar wrote:
A. Current Cricketers shall declare the name and details of his/her Player Agent or the Player Management Company.
B. Current Cricketers shall not have any business interest in a Player Management Company.
C. Current Cricketers shall not have any conflict arising with the BCCI sponsors including the apparel sponsor.
D. Current Cricketers shall not accept any Controlling position in any Commercial Organization having a contract with the BCCI or its State Unit.
"It is very clear from the above context, Mr. Harbhajan Singh is conflicted in C & D of the code," Gunde concluded in his e-mail to Shah.
This is the second complaint that the BCCI ombudsman has received over the last week, with the first one raising an allegation of conflict of interest against former India captain Sourav Ganguly, who has been asked to respond by January 28. The complaint against Ganguly, which was also filed by Gunde, alleged the former India captain has a commercial tie-up with the RP Sanjiv Goenka group, which has a stake in the Atletico de Kolkata football club in Indian Super League (ISL) and, in December, secured the rights to run the Pune franchise in the IPL.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo