Shashank Manohar and Sourav Ganguly
MUMBAI: The long-standing matter involving the tax dispute between the International Cricket Council (ICC) and BCCI, one that has led to unpleasant exchange of emails between the two organisations, became the central talking point as members of the governing body met via a teleconference on Thursday for a pre-scheduled board meeting.
The meeting began at 3.30 pm IST and concluded in less than two hours with certain members suggesting “the entire matter surrounding the tax solutions, email exchanges between the ICC and the BCCI and the media coverage around the whole episode needs to be revisited in all seriousness”.
The meeting has now been adjourned until June 10 with ICC’s statement saying there needs to be an independent investigation led by ICC’s ethics officer into the matter surrounding the World Cup tax solutions. ICC CEO Manu Sawhney will update the board on the matter on June 10.
The matter was first reported by TOI on May 25.
The ICC had said in one of its emails that ICC Business Corporation (IBC – ICC’s commercial arm that is made of its directors) members are not prepared to agree to the BCCI’s request for an extension of the deadline to provide tax solutions “to June 30 or 30 days after the lockdown is lifted, whichever is later”. This led to a huge controversy that took centre stage in the meeting on Thursday.
“Who are the IBC members who have said that? Are there documents to prove it? Is there evidence?” individuals related to the matter asked.
The first email from the ICC to the BCCI was on April 7, exactly two weeks after India’s Prime Minister announced a 21-day national lockdown that is still in effect. “… Clause 10.20 expressly requires BCCI to provide the IBC with an unconditional confirmation (on tax solutions) no later than 18 months prior to the start of the event (T20 World Cup in 2020),” the letter said.
“Eighteen months prior to the event (in Oct-Nov 2021) meant April 17. BCCI replied to the email and said there’s a national lockdown and nothing’s moving in the country and therefore requested an extension to the deadline. Where’s the problem? What’s more important right now, cricket or dealing with Covid?” sources said.
The ICC then said that the IBC has denied BCCI’s request for extension but did not share who in the IBC was saying so. Further, the governing body did not provide any document to share such a claim made by the IBC.
At a time when lives are at stake, hospitals in India have become the centre of all emergencies, health ministry at the centre and state struggling to accommodate patients and chaos surrounding the grief-stricken migrants, the ICC wants the government of India to look into cricket and the prospect of a highly unimportant World Cup.
“Are they questioning the intentions of the Indian government here? When India is saying that a solution will be provided after the lockdown ends, where’s the problem? Or has it reached a stage where BCCI’s word doesn’t carry in international cricket circles anymore? This is aimed at the government and it’s not correct, especially given the extreme circumstances,” sources said.
“First of all there’s no confirmation yet that India is hosting the 2021 event. Read Cricket Australia‘s request. Instead of clarifying that, the ICC is demanding answers from India. Isn’t the ICC answerable to cricket fans?” he added.
As far as the IBC is concerned, TOI spoke to four directors and they all denied being in the know of any such information related to tax solutions. In fact, one director said: “I have no idea what this is about. All I can share is that some days ago, I received a call from one of the board directors who said he was calling to inform me that the tax solutions matter is going to become a very serious issue. Until then, I hadn’t even heard about this”.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) Board met via teleconference today with all agenda items deferred until 10 June 2020 following a discussion, led by chairman Shashank Manohar, around the issue of confidentiality.
A number of Board members had raised their concerns over this issue recently and felt it required immediate attention to ensure the sanctity and confidentiality of Board matters in line with the highest standards of governance.
There was unanimous agreement to immediately initiate an independent investigation led by the ICC’s Ethics Officer and supported by global experts. The Board will be updated on this by the ICC CEO at its next meeting on 10 June 2020.
The Board also requested the ICC management continue with their discussions with stakeholders in exploring various contingency options in light of the rapidly changing public health situation caused by the COVID-19 virus.