The Australian Cricket Board (ACB) is seriously considering calling off Australia’s proposed tour of India in October if the series is not telecast live. This follows the impasse in Bombay High Court on the dispute over telecast rights between Zee and ESPN Star Sports.
At the hearing in the Bombay court on Monday, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) counsel K K Venugopal said ACB has sent a communique to the Indian cricket board, saying that the Australian board was liable to be sued by its series sponsor, Travelex, if there’s no live telecast. Indian cricket team sponsor Sahara may take a similar action if the dispute is not resolved soon.
According to Mr Venugopal, if the rules for bidding were strictly adhered to, neither ESPN Star Sports nor Zee would have been eligible to participate in the process. He said a fresh rebidding was a possible way out to end the dispute though Zee was not in its favour. Agencies add that in case of a rebidding, all players could be invited again. Also the clause in the BCCI tender document referring to sport telecast experience could be removed, Mr Venugopal added.
While the case comes up for hearing again on Tuesday, it is apparent that BCCI may run out of time.
As per the affidavit filed by BCCI last week with Bombay High Court (details of this were published in FE in its edition dated September 20), the decision for the award of telecast rights will necessarily have to be finalised 15 days before the commencement of the series. Effectively, this means that a decision will have to be taken by September 21 at the latest.
“We need at least two weeks to prepare ourselves for the tour. By now, the equipment should have come in,” said Mr Venugopal. At the Bombay High Court on Monday, Zee’s counsel Harish Salve concluded his arguments. Pointing out that ESPN Star Sports’ production facilities were based in Sing-apore, he emphasised that ESPN Star Sports’ allegation that Zee did not possess the required two years of sports broadcasting experience was not valid.
The bench maintained that it was important for Zee to demonstrate its eligibility.