Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo
The BCCI has asked the IPL's Kochi franchise owners to register themselves as a company or risk being scrapped. The ultimatum was delivered following the board's AGM on Wednesday by its president Shashank Manohar, who said the franchise had broken down into two factions that made it difficult for the board to communicate with any one legal entity.
"We will issue them a show-cause notice and give them a timeframe that you have to incorporate your company within this timeframe," Manohar said. "Otherwise we are going to cancel this franchise because we can't work with groups within a franchise."
He also had strong words for the Punjab and Rajasthan franchises, which, he said, had also been issued notices "for various irregularities committed by them during the period of their contract".
Officials at Punjab and Rajasthan said they would comment only after receiving the notices, while nobody at Kochi was available.
Rendezvous Sports World, a consortium of five companies, became the tenth IPL franchise in March after a successful bid of US$333.33m but almost immediately ran into trouble over the composition of its ownership, after the IPL found out that there were a few "secret partners" in the consortium. A reviewed agreement was then signed by both the parties but fresh controversy broke out for Kochi, when Lalit Modi, the then IPL chairman, made the ownership details public on his Twitter feed.
Those tweets, ironically, set in motion a chain of events that led to Modi's own ouster from the IPL. The break-up of the Kochi consortium, according to Modi, included 25% free equity to Rendezvous. "Why is 25% of Kochi team given free to Rendezvous sports for life," Modi asked. "The same equity is non-dilutable in perpetuity. What does that mean?"
Though Modi is no more part of the Indian board or the IPL - his ouster was confirmed today - the BCCI has now assumed the role of interrogator. "The bid was given by individuals who came together and formed a consortium. Now there is no legal entity as such that is incorporated," Manohar said today. "So we asked them to incorporate a company, a joint venture company and then come to the BCCI. They haven't incorporated a company and they have a recent dispute between the five persons who are there in the consortium with regards to the shares, sweat equity and other things. Therefore they are not able to resolve those issues. Both the groups have sent letters to the Board saying. 'Don't recognise the other group, recognise only me.' The Board cannot work with such a franchise."
Manohar did not mince words when asked if the BCCI would scrap the franchise if Kochi did not get its act together. "We might play with nine teams or eight teams, we don't know," he said.
The same fate could await Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals, who have been under a cloud since April when the BCCI questioned their ownership pattern in their chargesheet against Modi. At the time the board said it was perturbed by the different ownerships at the two franchises, a stand it apparently has not changed.
Asked if there was a definitive deadline by which the three franchises needed to respond, Manohar said it would be soon, because the BCCI wanted to be well prepared for the IPL player auction scheduled for November, which he said would be held in Mumbai. "We will do it immediately because the auctions will come up and before the auctions we have to finalise the action against them. We will take all decisions before that."