The BCCI's ombudsman Justice AP Shah has asked Sourav Ganguly to respond, by January 28, to an allegation of conflict of interest relating to his role on the IPL governing council. The allegation, received by Shah from a member of the public, is that Ganguly 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 ownership rights to run the Pune franchise in the IPL.
Shah has also written to BCCI president Shashank Manohar and general manager (game development), Ratnakar Shetty, seeking a BCCI response by January 27.
"This letter is a formal complaint against Mr Sourav Ganguly, an administrator who is currently the President of Cricket Association of Bengal and also member of IPL Governing Council," Mumbai-based activist Niraj Gunde wrote in an emailed letter to Shah, comprising 19 pages where he has given details of the ATK structure.
"According to Wikipedia, Atletico de Kolkata (commonly abbreviated as ATK), is an Indian Super League football franchise, based in Kolkata, West Bengal. The team is owned by Kolkata Games and Sports Pvt. Ltd. which consists of former Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly, Spanish La Liga club Atletico Madrid, alongside businessman Harshavardhan Neotia, Sanjiv Goenka and Utsav Parekh. This means the RPG group are partners with Mr Sourav Ganguly in another commercial venture. It is a clear case of conflict of interest which was not disclosed by Mr. Sourav Ganguly when RPG group bid and won the IPL team Pune Franchise for 2 years during October/November 2015," Gunde wrote to Shah, accessed by ESPNcricinfo.
This is the first high profile case filed with Shah, who was appointed by the BCCI last November as part of reforms initiated by Manohar.
In his email to Ganguly, sent on Thursday and which was also accessed by ESPNcricinfo, Shah wrote: "The Office of the Ombudsman has received an application from Mr Niraj Gunde (cc-ed) on 13.01.2016, making certain allegations regarding conflict of interest against yourself. A copy of the application, numbered Application No 1 of 2016, is attached. Please provide your response to the same within two weeks from today, i.e., by 28.01.2016."
A similar note was dispatched to Manohar and Shetty, via an email, asking them to respond the day before the deadline set for Ganguly expires. Incidentally, Manohar had defended Ganguly when the new franchises were announced last year stating that, "According to me there is not [a conflict of interest] because this is a transparent bidding concept."
Gunde's accusation comes close on the heels of the Lodha Committee report, which laid heavy emphasis on getting rid of various conflict-of-interest situations prevalent within the BCCI as well as state association. The report detailed, across five pages, conflict issues and its various forms, and illustrated with various examples where the BCCI and state association administrators, employees, players, selectors and commentators could be in breach of the various rules.
A case of indirect conflict, the committee said, could be: "C is a Member of the IPL Governing Council. The IPL enters into a contract with a new franchisee, the Managing Director of which is C's partner in an independent commercial venture. C is hit by Indirect Conflict of Interest."
That example matches Gunde's allegation that Ganguly could fall under this definition of conflict of interest. Both Goenka and Ganguly brushed off any suggestions that this is a case of conflict of interest.
Incidentally Gunde was one of the people interviewed by the Lodha committee before it submitted its report to the Supreme Court. Last year, Gunde had revealed a picture of BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur in the company of suspected bookie Karan Gilhotra. That had prompted the ICC CEO David Richardson to write a letter to then BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya over an allegation that Thakur was spotted with Gilhotra, who "appears on the ICC ACSU database… following rumours … about his involvement in betting on cricket." Thakur retaliated through a letter to the then ICC chairman N Srinivasan, alleging a "counter offensive" from the latter, following Thakur's election as BCCI secretary.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo