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IPL : Game or gambling?

IPL : Game or gambling?
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George Bernard Shaw said cricket is a game played by 11 fools. He didn't expect that some of them could be criminals and that all those watching them...

George Bernard Shaw said cricket is a game played by 11 fools. He didn't expect that some of them could be criminals and that all those watching them are not fools but bookies. Fools watch game in silence and do not look into the real game behind. Three wickets fell to betting and fixing but several invisible wicked players are still playing the game of money laundering.

Sportsmanship lost out long ago to a game with a dominant element of gambling. The thrilling game is just a byproduct of this gambling, which millions admire with undue craze, and that is the main source of gambling. It appears that none can stop this huge money spinning 'game' where wickets of morals fall to wicked bouncers. Though enriched with topmost cricketers of the world with high repute, Bollywood greats, dancing glamour girls and swelling TV audience, they are all playing with the trust of the millions.

A deep-rooted financial crisis in the Indian economy must be lurking within the IPL financial dealings. A big mafia with 'principles and systems' is still operative with connections abroad to top sultans of organized crime. Only those who defy that system and try to enrich themselves in a different way exposed three cricketers and themselves. Though every ball of the match is seen live, betting for each over is invisible and every deal is fixed in dark.

The greed behind it is neither logical nor criminological. Sreeshant's greed guided him to bowl a poor over for US $ 73000 in spite of legal income of US $ 400000 from the contract. There is no team, no cohesion or no attachment to place of birth. Players get auctioned and sell the loyalties. A Earlier, cricket was marred by match-fixing, wherein top cricketers like Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja suffered 'ban' till courts intervened. Now spinners discovered spot-fixing as another method for riches.

The India TV's sting operation exposed cricketers in spot-fixing in 2012 IPL where five players, TP Sudhindra (Deccan Chargers), Mohnish Mishra (Pune Warriors), Amit Yadav, Shalabh Srivatsava (Kings XI Punjab) and Abhinav Bali (Delhi) were fixed. None of the famous cricketers were found guilty. Mohnish Mishra, who was caught on camera, admitted that franchises paid black money; that he had received 15 million(s) (US$270,000) from the latter, among which 12 million(s) (US$220,000) was black money.

On 16 May 2013, Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan & Ajit Chandila of Rajasthan Royals were arrested for spot-fixing. Earlier in 2010 three Pakistani cricketers Mohammad Asif, Mohammed Aamir and then skipper Salman Butt were arrested in England for the same crime.

Its brand value is estimated to be around US$2.99 billion in the fifth season. According to a recent study by a UK-based brand valuation consultancy, the brand value of the IPL has more than doubled to USD 4.13 billion (over Rs 18,000 crore) from USD 2.01 billion in 2009. But the league has been engulfed by scams and controversies. The broadcasting rights of the IPL too fetched billions of dollars. A consortium of Sony Entertainment Television network and Singapore-based World Sport Group secured the global broadcasting rights of the Indian Premier League. The record deal was for US $ 1.026 billion for ten years.

As part of the deal, the consortium will pay the BCCI US $918 million for the television broadcast rights and US $108 million for promotion of the tournament. Sony Entertainment Television signed a new contract with BCCI with Sony Entertainment Television paying 8700 crore (US$1.6 billion) for 10 years. Sony-WSG then re-sold parts of the broadcasting rights geographically to other companies. It was officially broadcast on Set Max, Set Six and on Times Internet. In 2010 ITV secured the United Kingdom television rights for the 2010 Indian Premier League. Several other channels also acquired broadcasting rights in different countries at a huge cost.

Interestingly the Centre granted exemption to International Cricket Council. The Shiv Sena challenged the tax exemption and levelled allegations against Sharad Pawar also. The IT department for some time (in 2011) probed allegations of financial irregularities and criminal activities against some of the franchisees in the IPL. Even the BCCI was not taxed till 2006 when its registration was lost in the Chennai High Court. The BCCI raised Rs 651.82 crore, Rs 1,000.40 crore, Rs 1,387.62 crore and Rs 1,666.84 crore during 2007 to 2011 and paid tax of Rs 118 crore and Rs 257 crore in 2007 and 2008, respectively. In June 2011, the Chennai High Court said it "could not appreciate" the tax exemption to the Indian Premier League.

Sakthi Vasan contended in a PIL that the IPL was selling tickets at exorbitant rates, and the Income Tax Department had abdicated its responsibility of regulating tariff for the entertainment. A The IPL gave huge riches to cricketers and also increased the levels of greed to unprecedented heights. The structure and character of the IPL generated scope for corruption and new ideas of generating bad money or whitewashing black money. Whether designed originally for it or not, it has tremendous scope for corruption as was visible in its third edition. Lalit Modi also admitted that it was a mistake and the game's watchdog has proved to be ineffective. The gambling character is part of the DNA of IPL.

Ed Hawkings (a sports-betting journalist, is the author of Bookie Gambler Fixer Spy: A Journey To The Corrupt Heart Of Cricket's Underworld) wrote that he had information flow suggesting that the rigging started from ball one, and all the matches were fixed. He also wrote: "The IPL has been so rife with corruption because the players have little or no loyalty to the franchises - and that word should tell you all you need to know - they play for, or to those whom they play with. For the rest of the year most of their teammates are the enemy. Teams are made up of dispirit, 'in-it-for-myself' mercenaries who only have love perhaps for the colours of their own team or flag".

The IPL became notorious for multibillion pound sporting scandal revolving around alleged tax evasion, betting and misuse of political influence. One minister, Shashi Tharoor, fell from the post when his 'girl-friend' Sunanda Pushkar, whom he later married, had a stake in a newly created Kochi team. The IPL has turned out to be a huge scam. "I think the worst ever, the biggest ever in this country," said Yashwant Sinha, a BJP MP. Another leader Sharad Yadav called the IPL a "den of thieves". Last year, BJP MP and former cricketer Kirti Azad said, "The only thing which was left in the IPL was rape... It is complete entertainment, not cricket... money laundering, spot-fixing and now rape. BCCI is above law, nothing can happen."

From sourcing to funding the team to auctioning the broadcast rights, there was no transparency at all. Corporate governance was also absent. Auditor reports did not highlight the financial irregularities and consequences of lack of transparency. There is a possible collusion between auditors and IPL team owners. Did auditors comply with norms and accounting standards? Satyam scandal has revealed possibilities of collusion and violation of basic norms.

It was earlier alleged that funds had been pumped from tax havens like Mauritius into these franchises in violation of Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) under which ED has already registered a case against IPL regarding unauthorised transfer of foreign funds. It was also reported years ago that the Finance Ministry had constituted eight enforcement teams to probe into allegations of benami shares involving politicians and their relatives in team ownership.

The IT offices in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Delhi, Kochi, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Pune were asked to source out information about financial transactions, money flows and team ownership across all franchises. The Research team of ICWAI was also supposed to help these teams in revealing shell companies and flow of unaccounted money into them. None knows what happened to these investigations.

The IPL and BCCI do not fall under the controls of Corporate Affairs regulatory of the Finance Ministry; as per the clarification from the latter both of these were not corporate entities. Some gestures during a T20 game that a CBI investigator noticed led to the revelation of spot fixing. This means every huge financial transaction has to be suspected and investigated. Behind every deal there could be an underworld involvement. No tax exemptions should be given and the income tax department, along with the Enforcement Directorate, should keep a watch at every moment. Each franchisee has to be considered as a corporation and its financial transactions have to be regulated to curb money laundering in IPL.

(The writer is Coordinator, Center for Media Law & Public Policy, NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad)

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