STAR sports is worried. Anxious. With less than four weeks for ICC Champions Trophy to start, STAR India has shot a letter to the ICC. The official broadcaster for CT 2017 has raised concerns over the uncertainty on India’s participation, which is causing a severe setback to STAR’s advertisement revenues.
InsideSport has certain information that STAR India till last week has managed to get only four major sponsors – Airtel, Nissan, Oppo and Cricbuzz. The sponsors, despite having executed contracts, were adopting wait and watch approach to honour their commitments. The values are based around India’s participation in the quadrennial tournament.
The broadcaster had acquired the ICC rights for the 2015-2023 eight year cycle for US$ 1.98 billion (Rs 11,880 crore). This was 80% more than US$ 1.1 billion (Rs 6,600) STAR paid to ICC for the previous eight year cycle (2007-2014). The current rights involve 18 ICC tournaments, including two World Cups in 2019 and 2023, two Champions Trophies in 2017 and 2021, and two World T20s in 2016 and 2020.
STAR India in a polite manner had asked the ICC to make an official statement on India’s participation in the tournament. That was important to regain sponsors’ confidence as STAR is struggling with its inventory sales. The broadcaster is targeting at least 12 major sponsors to sustain its business model around the tournament. For STAR the sponsorship values will decline by up to 80% if India were not there.
It is believed that ICC has immediately swung into action. The Indian cricket board is approached by the ICC. Sources in the BCCI told InsideSport “The CoA chief had issued the diktat to immediately call a meeting to select and announce the Indian squad for Champions Trophy after receiving a call from ICC Chairman Shashank Manohar”.
The BCCI is expected to take a final decision at a special general meeting (SGM) in Delhi on May 7. A part of the board, including its acting president CK Khanna, acting secretary Amitabh Choudhary and treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry, was in favour of revoking the Members Participation Agreement (MPA) signed with the ICC.
The BCCI had missed out the April 25 deadline to announce its Champions Trophy squad. The BCCI said at the time that the delay was due to “operational” reasons, but the issue is also linked to the board’s unhappiness over events at the ICC Board meetings in April.
If the BCCI does revoke the MPA, then India will not be able to play any ICC tournaments until 2023, when the cycle of rights held by Star end. That is the technical aspect. The ground realty supports Indian interest. The faction favouring to revoke the MPA says “ICC cannot generate sufficient revenues to even meet its commitment to member boards. There is no way ICC can sustain itself without India money”.
The BCCI was outvoted 13-1 at the ICC board meeting where the new constitution, governance changes and financial model was approved. The BCCI’s biggest grouse was with the financial model, because according to the new one it stood to receive a significantly smaller share of ICC revenue. Since then there has been talk of the BCCI using the Champions Trophy as a bargaining chip to get a greater share of the financial pie.
However, Star’s concerns seem to be addressed to some extent now. After the CoA has sent an email to the board’s acting secretary Anirudha Chaudhary to convene a selection meeting immediately to pick the squad for the Champions Trophy, there has been no voice of dissent over this. The CoA has also made it clear to the BCCI that the vote at the SGM needed to be unanimous, and if any decisions were not in the ‘interests of Indian cricket’, it would ask the Supreme Court to intervene.
A senior official in the BCCI had told InsideSport after the CoA notice, that the move had dealt a severe blow to India’s negotiation powers in the ICC.