Monday, May 27, 2013

IPL 6 shame gate – Do we need a cricket governance model with a bite?

The sixth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has fizzled out as fast as Pepsi’s new drink Atom (apparently it tastes like a mix of Chyavanprash and Jal Jeera with a shot of cola), thanks to the spot fixing scandal that has engulfed many IPL franchisees. This is the second time the league has been caught in such activity, the first being in 2010 that led to the ouster of Lalit Modi, then chairperson of the league. But we don’t seem to learn from the past, do we? As a nation we are used to reacting with shock/ anger at such incidents followed by apathy and amnesia. Sports governing bodies in India are no different.

(Image Courtesy - CNN IBN)

Post IPL gate (that is what the 2010 scandals were collectively referred to in the media), few provisions have been made to prevent issues like match fixing, money laundering and betting. At best, franchisees were asked to indicate their sources of funding. Knowing well that there is no mechanism to validate the information provided, it makes no sense to disclose this information. Complaints on team funding were taken up by the governing body only after court cases were filed and not suo motu.

Players are allowed to use their discretion outside of the game and one practically has no guidelines on how to conduct their lives off the field. The minute a player starts playing in a major league/ match, he leaves no stone unturned to get himself to endorse any brand that can pay him. I would assume sportspersons would like to endorse brands associated with sports like playing gear, cosmetics, shoes, permitted food supplements, apparel etc. But No. A couple of years ago four leading cricketers including the Indian’s team’s captain endorsed an alcohol brand. Is there any association between sports and alcohol? Ceiling fans, chocolates, cameras, pens, cars, fairness creams, men’s fashion, are all endorsed by sportsmen.

This brings me to a fundamental question – Do players today play for money or the love of the game? Looking at former tainted players like Ajay Jadeja and Mohammed Azharuddin, one cannot help but notice that their lifestyles today are reflective of the riches garnered during their playing days. Little wonder then that players want to grab endorsements because the money earned lets them tide through poor performance and/or scandals. They can perhaps use this money to buy a place in the team to sustain the pipeline of endorsement deals so that they have enough money to last a lifetime.

The very fact that none of this has been discussed so far is an indication that cricket’s governing body wields no real control on ethics and principles. This needs to be fixed so the game restores the dignity with which it started out in India. I feel the following measures can help.

1) Curbing the value of endorsements – Players as well as those associated with the game in any capacity (umpiring, commentary, administration etc) need to have their endorsements curbed to not exceed 20 percent of the salaries they earn from the Board. This measure would be effective in preventing gold diggers to seek places on the team. Consider this – Players over the age of 22 earn a minimum of USD 50,000 (around Rs 25 Lakh) per IPL season. Winning teams earn as much as Rs 7.5 Crore on an average and players in these teams get a minimum of Rs 15 Lakh. Add to this perks from sponsors like cars, lifetime membership/ supply of certain goods, gold etc, in recognition of performance. Most cricketers are employed by private and public sector enterprises and earn a salary, no matter how insignificant compared to the lakhs made on the field. A salary of Rs 40-50 Lakhs a year for a few months of performance is adequate to live a reasonably luxurious life by Indian standards, what with most players stretching their playing years to ten. (Marketers define luxury as having a family income upwards of Rs 20 Lakh a year).

2) Guidelines for conducting oneself off the field during a season – A night of post match partying and debauchery is a distraction from the game. It takes double the effort from the support staff to prep a player post such sessions. Little wonder then that leading sports clubs in countries like UK (football clubs Manchester United and Manchester City) and US have strict guidelines of what players can and cannot do during a game season. The list of banned activities includes partying, drugs, one night stands, wives and girlfriends, car racing/ speeding, meeting/ talking to persons not approved by the management, cell phones, and, food from unauthorized eateries, among others. Anyone caught indulging in such activity is usually not allowed to play and can be banned from the team. This is helpful for younger players who often grapple with new found fame and attention.

3) Compulsory listing for franchisees – IPL franchisees should be listed on Indian stock exchanges and 50 per cent of share holding must be with retail investors. This will accomplish two things: force franchisees to declare their funding and toe the guidelines set forth by various legislations and be governed by SEBI; create a sense of loyalty / community ownership among the public who move from being mere viewers to part owners of the franchisee. Football clubs in the UK follow this model where franchisees are usually homegrown and hence enjoy loyalty from the communities. Considering IPL does not endorse that model, there is less loyalty between franchisees and the crowd. What complicates matters is that in many cases neither players not franchisee owners belong to the cities where these franchisees are based.

Cricket in India has long been a club of sorts run by patrons. The BCCI follows this archaic model where members are often heirs of the erstwhile patrons or political appointees, aspiring for control. But today the game has outgrown itself and taking strong measures can help run it professionally with dignity.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Office-Office: Resignation

It’s the panacea for all ills. At least for the office variety of ills that one puts up with for so long. Bad ass boss (the ‘darling do my work please but don’t expect anything in return’ type), no increments (because the bell curve has to be maintained and someone needs to be screwed and that someone is you), slog house environment (welcome to professional life) , reimbursements (from the finance team to your account) missing credit dates, PPTs peppered with mindless masala about what you can offer (never mind what you commit to), no free lunch, yawn, and no AC after official office hours (The ‘we like you to sweat and since we won’t let you go to the gym, isn’t this better?’ motto), and more such intellectual atyaachaar.

(Image courtesy:

Once you throw in the towel, you have pretty much said ENOUGH. Instead of congratulating you on this monumental effort at your sanity preservation, people grow hostile. Some with a vivid imagination propagate the grape vine that you are joining the competition, when all you are doing is realizing you will be penniless for the next three months (did you expect they would pay you a salary during your notice period? You need to be shot for your naiveté!).

Why do people do this? I have three theories.

1. They are jealous – Because you kicked the system in the gut and are supposedly moving on to a better place. They too want to move on to this better place but don’t have the gumption to repeat your act.

2. They are bored and need a career change but then, no one wants to hire them – Perhaps they want to become fiction writers. Of the torrid romance variety, replete with love, sex, dhoka and glycerin tears. They are just using your situation to see if the novel can be based on you. This is creative license, not malevolence, they will claim when confronted.

3. They are afraid – Surf’s out and you caught them without their pants. Your leaving spells doom because they would actually have to work now. No more forwarding your work as theirs, which means they need to know how to animate slides and how to change the font size and color and aligning textboxes and inserting pictures and providing the content for the deck as well. They don’t have a choice but to work fast towards getting your replacement. Imagine doing all that work themselves!.

4. They are angry – This is technically not an original theory but it could be an outcome of any of the three theories above. In a rare occasion this theory could prove to be original - when you may have, in drunken stupor or plain childish enthusiasm, agreed to a pact with some fellow co-workers saying “we’ll all quit together.” Now, you’ve quit and they haven’t. And they are coming at you with that beer bottle to fulfill their side of the deal.

Ok. Now what? Well, best to be armed with a good answer for every attempt the management makes to keep you on board (assuming they actually care for you). While serving notice period at least you can dream of walking in the greener pastures of the future. If you take back your resignation, you won’t have the time to dream.