The IPL mess November 30, 2010

Arbitrator stays Rajasthan Royals expulsion

The judge hearing the arbitration case between Rajasthan Royals and the BCCI has issued a stay on the franchise's expulsion from the IPL that will continue up to six weeks after his final order is passed, effectively allowing the team to continue to function as a part of the league for that period of time, ESPNcricinfo has learnt. The team will now take part in the players' auction, which is scheduled for January 8 and 9 next year, casting a potentially devastating cloud over the IPL's fourth season.

While the stay order is in place, the BCCI is also prevented from doing anything that might prejudice Rajasthan, for example changing any of the league's rules. "There will be no interference with them [Rajasthan] exercising rights under the franchise agreement," Justice BN Srikrishna, the designated arbitrator, told ESPNcricinfo. "They will be allowed to participate in the auction."

The BCCI, however, will contest the decision by moving court - possibly as early as Wednesday - as a cautionary step. A top board official told spoke of how the BCCI already feared the worst. "This is a major and significant development," the official said. "This could go anywhere now."

The arbitrator's order is an interim relief order, which is often granted to allow the party claiming it has been wronged - in this case Rajasthan - the opportunity to keep doing business while the case is heard. There is also a provision for such an order to be challenged in the High Court, and Justice Srikrishna said the BCCI would probably appeal to the High Court and the matter could even reach the Supreme Court based on appeals and judgements. These appeals are independent of the arbitration hearings, which will continue under the judge.

Rajasthan welcomed the latest development. "We have received the interim order passed by Justice BN Srikrishna, the learned arbitrator who has been appointed by the both parties. We are extremely grateful for the speed and urgency shown by him, and we are reviewing the order and assessing it's full implications," Raghu Iyer, the franchise's spokesperson, said.

The BCCI decided, on October 10, to end the franchise's IPL affiliation on charges of transgression of shareholding and ownership norms that threatened to "shake the very foundation of the tender process", as the notice put it. The two sides then decided to settle their dispute over the termination through arbitration on November 15 after Rajasthan had filed a case in the High Court challenging the board's decision to take the step unilaterally.

Both parties argued their case before Srikrishna, the agreed-upon arbitrator for the case, for three-and-a-half days.

The arbitration hearing of the Kings XI Punjab franchise, the second team in the IPL to be summarily terminated along with Rajasthan, will begin tomorrow, also being presided by Justice Srikrishna. A Punjab spokesman said the Rajasthan development could benefit their hearing. "This is a good piece of news for us," he said. "It is probably what may be the outcome of our abritration hearing as well."

The Rajasthan hearing began on November 24 and given that Srikrishna announced his stay within a week, Punjab were expecting a result "within three-four working days". This, the official said, meant that the BCCI could have nine, if not all ten teams participating in the player auction on January 8-9. "What will happen to the players if teams that sign them up are suddenly out of the IPL? Then they could well go to court and the IPL could just sink into court battles."

This had happened he said, due to the BCCI's "mismanagement" of the IPL's internal difficulties.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo; Tariq Engineer is a senior sub-editor