20 February 2017 Sports BCCI Secrets

Skeletons In The Board

BCCI mandarins hired and fired at will, turning employees into a group of malcontents
Skeletons In The Board
To The Point
(From left) SC-appointed COA members Vikram Limaye and Vinod Rai with BCCI CEO Rahul Johri
Photograph by Getty Images
Skeletons In The Board

The doors were shut with an emphatic bang. The first thing the committee of administrators (COA), appointed by the Supreme Court to run the BCCI, did on taking charge was to close the offices of debarred Board president Anurag Thakur and secretary Ajay Shirke and send the staff home. Although there were only a few employees at the two offices in Delhi and Pune, the move by the COA, headed by Vinod Rai, the former comptroller and auditor-general (CAG), illustrates it means business. Moreover, even if just a handful, insiders say that some of these employees were drawing huge salaries, much more than many of those working at the BCCI headquarters in Mumbai or at the BCCI Natio­nal Cricket Academy in Bangalore. The COA’s task is cut out. It has to ensure that the Lodha Committee’s recommendations for reforms in the Board of Control for Cricket in India and its affiliates—to bring transparency, acc­ountability and professionalism—are fully executed and elections held soon.

The once-omnipotent BCCI certainly faces uncertain times, most of it largely its own making. Even as the case drags on in the Supreme Court, cricket fans will hope that Vinod Rai’s committee, which includes number-cruncher Vikram Limaye, historian Ramchandra Guha and former India women’s captain Diana Edulji, sets the house in order. The first step could be to set up a human resource department—the Lodha panel has also recommended an HR manager—and frame an HR policy which, shockingly for a body with bursting coffers, the Board never had. This res­ulted in successive BCCI mandarins to hire their own people, qualifications be damned. Conversely, employees were often sacked on a whim.

The absence of a proper HR department and policy allowed top BCCI men to hire their own people without qualifications and sack employees on a whim.

In the last three years, several top emp­loyees were asked to go, or their contracts weren’t renewed, by BCCI office-bearers, not because of underperformance, but mostly due to personality clashes. These departures have often been acrimonious. On a few occasions, email exchanges using uncharitable words by office-bearers about employees have surfaced in the public domain. Naturally, all this has spawned disenchantment and insecurity, even though salary levels have gone up. The BCCI is the richest cricket body in the world—its net worth on March 31, 2016, was Rs 7,847 crore. The Board currently has over 80 employees; the number increases around the money-spinning IPL season. Yet, there has never been a clear policy on hiring or firing.

“There is no employee policy in the BCCI because that suits the office-bearers as that way they can hire people they like,” says a top employee who left the Board in a huff recently. Former first-class cricketer Stanley Saldanha, who was BCCI’s manager (game development) from 2007-2010 and left under unpleasant circumstances, doesn’t mince words. “HR is the core of any company and the department appoints all employees.... Had an HR policy been in place it would have solved many problems in the BCCI. If you put one in place the system will improve,” Saldanha, an economics graduate who represented Gujarat and Maharashtra in Ranji Trophy between 1970-71 and 1981-82, tells Outlook.

Saldanha, who was a top Tata employee before joining the BCCI, says it doesn’t function like a responsible corporate house, even though its turnover is that of a middle-level industrial house. “Had an HR policy been there, the BCCI would have had, for example, a proper IPL governing council and it would not hand over crores of rupees to some well-known players to be part of the council,” he says. Saldanha had to leave the BCCI when he fought a “principled battle” over issues like the composition of committees for umpires, and the grounds and pitches. Former Test cricketer Suru Nayak, who was manager (cricket operations) from 2006-2014 also got a raw deal. He was responsible for the smooth conduct of domestic tournaments, the cricketers regarded him highly, yet his contract wasn’t renewed. A top BCCI official apparently didn’t want him to continue due to internal politics.

The BCCI headquarters inside the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai

Photograph by Getty Images

James Rego, director (broadcast services), another professional, too had to leave after he raised a point about the huge contract amount promised to a certain commentator who was close to a BCCI president. Rego, who had joined the BCCI from Nimbus, had overseen the first-ever Test telecast live by the BCCI’s own production house in 2012. More recently, Sundar Raman, who was IPL COO since the tournament’s launch in 2008, too was asked to go after Shashank Manohar took over as BCCI chief in October 2015.

Present BCCI employees are a scared lot, fearing for their jobs. One former employee says one just needed to know some powerful person in the Board to land a job there.

Indeed, employees have dropped off, often with every change of regime in the BCCI. Some left assuming that they would be asked to go anyway by the new dispensation, while others were explicitly told to leave. Interestingly, three of the well-qualified BCCI employees who left within two years—Sundar Raman, James Rego and Ankit Baldi, who handled IPL hospitality, operations, ticketing and logistics till July 2015—have joined Reliance Sports. All these episodes have scared those still in the BCCI, impelling them to completely clam up before the media. “BCCI was never a professional organisation. It’s surviving because of the few professionals that have worked there. Even today, there are a bunch of good professionals who ens­ure that the sport continues. Whether it is Professor Ratnakar Shetty (general manager, game development) or Suru Naik, or M.V. Sridhar (general manager, cricket operations) or Hemang Amin (finance), they have ensured during their stints that the show goes on. And I am sure CEO Rahul Johri must be doing a good job,” says a high-ranking employee who left under acrimonious circumstances. He admits he was well aware of the BCCI’s internal politics and faced favouritism when he joined, but didn’t realise it could plumb such depths.

Not only are the present employees a scared lot, fearing for their jobs, several former employees who have left the Board also requested not to be named. They say that over the years, whoever the BCCI president, secretary or treasurer wanted to hire, was taken on board. “No interviews used to be done. You just needed to know some powerful person in the BCCI,” says one of them.

It’s not that no effort was ever made to usher in professionalism. After Sharad Pawar took over as president in 2005, he commissioned a report from Tata Con­sultancy Services on how to overhaul the BCCI set-up and make it professionally sharp. The BCCI paid about Rs 60 lakh to TCS but, except for hiring Saldanha, no one was recruited. So that effort, and the money, just went down the drain.

The TCS report had also recommended hiring a CEO. Finally, a CEO was recr­uited last year, when Rahul Johri was appointed. But the employee exodus continues due to a stifling air of suspicion and the uncertain future of the org­anisation. And with the COA now sacking the staff attached to the president and the secretary’s office, the atm­osphere has got more vitiated, as the remaining staff cling on to their positions and the fat pay cheques.

However, till 2007, it was a poor pay master. The salary structure shot up north only after the launch of the IPL, with IPL chairman and commissioner Lalit Modi playing a pivotal role in bringing in multi-crore sponsorship deals for the league as well as the  national men’s team. In 2005-06, the BCCI paid only Rs 7.96 lakhs as salaries. Ten years on, in 2015-16, it spent Rs 6.87 crore on salaries and allowances; the corresponding budgeted amount for 2016-17 is Rs 7.40 crore.

Random increments and promotions continue to vex employees. Like in hiring, these too depend on whims of the treasurer, secretary or even the president.

However, vexatious issues like random increments and promotions continue to haunt Board employees. “Increments all too often dep­end on the whims and fancies of the secretary or the treasurer, or at times of the president too. Quite often, the most conscientious worker would get the least increment. There’s a person, one of the oldest employees, in the Board headquarters who still works perhaps the hardest, but would get the least increment,” points out someone who quit the BCCI in the recent past. “There’s no standard increment and promotion policy for employees, like say everyone would be given 10 per cent or 20 per cent increase. Nothing like that. And, at times, regional affinity is also ref­lected in appraisals,” he alleges.

Former employees also complain about the ex-gratia payment it used to hand out till about two years ago, which was stopped in April 2015. This payment was equivalent to 12 months’ salary and used to be paid around Diwali. Often, the ex-gratia was delayed as it was given only after approval at the annual general body meeting in September. In recent years, the AGM was postponed several times, and that delayed the ex-gratia payment as well. An official of the treasurer’s office says that decision was taken for two reasons. “The ex-gratia was merged into employees’ basic salary. Suppose, if someone was getting Rs 50,000 a month, then his salary was increased to Rs 1 lakh. So, no employee has lost anything,” he claimed. “Now, everybody is getting it on a monthly basis, so they are able to do their financial planning much better.”

However, an employee contests the claim that everyone’s salary was doubled. “The BCCI stopped the ex-gratia, saying employees were already well paid. That’s why all employees were not happy,” he said. As Vinod Rai’s COA tries to regulate the BCCI’s finances, a top official says that sooner or later some Board employee would bring the problems of their lot to the committee’s notice. “I have a hunch some of them would surely inform the COA, in confidence, the problems they are facing,” he says. And perhaps for the first time, employees wouldn’t fear losing jobs or facing vindictive and capricious office-bearers.

Good At Their Jobs, Hounded Out Of The BCCI

Sundar Raman, (IPL COO)

  • Backed by president N. Srinivasan, he enjoyed great power. After becoming president, Shashank Manohar asked him to leave.

James Rego (Director, broadcast services)

  • Believed to have questioned contents of the contract of an ex-India spinner-turned-TV commentator close to Srinivasan, paid with his job

Suru Nayak (Manager, cricket operations)

  • Known for organising the domestic season without a glitch, he fell prey to favouritism. His contract was not renewed in 2014.

Stanley Saldanha (Manager, game development)

  • Asked to leave after trying to stop ‘biased’ postings of umpires for matches, composition of pitches panel

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