The desperate attempt by Chennai Super Kings to distance itself from Gurunath Meiyappan may not save the franchise from potential termination if one takes a close look at the agreement between the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and individual franchises.
When CSK owner India Cements claimed on Friday that Mr. Meiyappan was neither its owner nor its CEO/team principal, it was seen as a move to avoid termination under Clause 11.3 (c) of the Franchise Agreement, which says a franchise may be terminated with immediate effect if “the Franchisee, any Franchisee Group Company and /or any Owner acts in any way which has a material adverse effect upon the reputation or standing of the League, BCCI-IPL, BCCI, the Franchisee, the Team (or any other team in the League) and/or the game of cricket.”
A standard copy of the Franchise Agreement is available with The Hindu.
By describing him as just one of the members (honorary) of the management team of Chennai Super Kings, the franchise may have believed that any allegation of misconduct by Mr. Meiyappan may not attract the termination clause.
However, this may turn out to be a quite simplistic view. Schedule 3 of the Agreement sets out the franchisees’ obligations, and Clause 2(i) asks the franchisee “not to engage in any activity or practice which may be reasonably anticipated to result in public criticism of or to reflect badly on BCCI-IPL, the League, BCCI, the Team and/or the game of cricket.”
Further, the next sub-clause says the franchise should ensure that “all Players, Team officials and/or employees, or any other person acting for or on behalf of the Franchisee and/or the Team comply with the Regulations during each Season and that the Team complies with the Laws of Cricket during matches.” The term ‘regulations’ used here is explicitly defined as all rules and regulations of IPL, BCCI and ICC and includes any regulation relating to anti-corruption, match-fixing and gambling. This, in effect, incorporates the BCCI’s anti-corruption policy in the agreement itself.
The Indian Premier League, being a ‘special subcommittee unit’ of the BCCI, is bound by the board’s Anti-Corruption Code and a joint reading of clauses in the Franchise Agreement and the Code clearly shows that the conduct of Mr. Meiyappan, even without being the owner or CEO or team principal, renders his team vulnerable.
It may be not be easy for CSK to wriggle out of the problem by saying Mr. Meiyappan is not an ‘owner’, as he may still fall under the definition of ‘Participants’ in the Code. Under Clause 1.3 of the Code, all participants are bound by it, and some instances of cricket corruption listed in Clause 2 are: fixing or influencing the result or progress or conduct or any other aspect of a match or event, betting and misusing inside information.
And a ‘participant’ is defined as “any Player, Player Support Personnel, Umpire, Match Referee or Umpire Support Personnel.” Further, “player support personnel” is defined as “any coach, trainer, manager, selector, team official, doctor, physiotherapist or any other person employed by, representing or otherwise affiliated to a playing/touring team or squad that is chosen to represent a National Cricket Federation in any Domestic Match or International Match or series of such Matches.” And IPL matches fall under the term ‘domestic match’, as it is part of the Indian domestic season, run by the BCCI.
Of course, there is a legal difference in the consequences of violating the Franchise Agreement and breaching the anti-corruption policy. In the case of the agreement, a franchise may attract termination if it adversely affects the league’s reputation, but a corrupt act under it will only attract disciplinary action under Clause 5 of the Code. The maximum sanction envisaged in that clause is “a period of ineligibility” or a ban for specified periods, including a life ban. In effect, violating the anti-corruption code may not attract termination of a team’s participation, but only a ban on the individuals concerned.
It is here that a joint reading of both the Franchise Agreement and the Code becomes relevant: can the Board or the franchise claim that Mr. Meiyappan’s conduct does not attract the termination clause merely because he was not the owner? Should it not consider the nature of his role and the importance of the information that he may have been privy to in his now-disavowed capacity as the ‘team principal’? Especially, when the game’s reputation, not merely that of BCCI or IPL, has been brought into disrepute by something as serious as betting or misuse of inside information for betting?
However the Board chooses to answer those questions, it cannot lose sight of the fact that when the Franchise Agreement and the BCCI Anti-Corruption Code are read together, the case for CSK’s termination appears stronger than ever before.