Prajjal Saha

ESPN cries foul over ZEE grabbing BCCI rights

ESPN STAR Sports managing director Rik Dovey says, Sunday’s proceedings clearly are a denial of natural justice

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) could find itself in a messy legal battle, if ESPN STAR Sports has its way.

Soon after BCCI announced that ZEE Telefilms has bagged the four year cricket broadcasting deal, ESPN STAR Sports managing director Rik Dovey said, "I am disappointed to learn that ZEE had been even offered the cricket rights and that the BCCI had changed the entire process of bidding in violation of rules set by BCCI themselves. "

An ESPN STAR Sports spokesperson said that the channel was in touch with its lawyers and was exploring whether the BCCI decision could be challenged in the courts. ESPN STAR Sports had quoted $240 million for the BCCI rights.

Dovey alleged that following BCCI's meeting with ZEE executives on Saturday, ESPN STAR Sports was asked by the Indian cricket board to provide clarifications on its original bid. Dovey said the channel followed BCCI's instructions in good faith as BCCI had allegedly said that such clarifications would be used by the BCCI Tender Committee to conclude the bidding process. "The Tender Committee had clearly expressed that they wanted the bidding process to stop there," Dovey said.

According to ESPN STAR Sports, the BCCI Tender Committee had also confirmed that it was very impressed by ESPN STAR Sports' credentials and that the channel's track record was impressive, and that the BCCI and ESPN STAR Sports had successfully partnered in the past. "Pointed questions and queries raised in respect of our production capabilities were also asked by the committee, and the BCCI was completely satisfied," he added.

"Today (Sunday), we were asked to attend a meeting to provide - what was described as - further clarification. However, when we met the committee, we were informed that the BCCI Tender Committee had changed its position from Saturday. We were informed that BCCI had just given ZEE the opportunity to increase its bid and that provided ZEE met certain conditions - not all of which were disclosed to ESPN STAR Sports - ZEE would be awarded the rights later this week," Dovey explained.

ESPN STAR Sports, Dovey continued, was not given any opportunity for discussion, or further clarification, or to alter its bid. "In the few minutes we had with the committee on Sunday, we stressed that we continue to be the highest legitimate eligible bidder," he said

"We feel that Sunday's proceedings clearly are a denial of natural justice and a violation by the BCCI of its own tendering process. ESPN STAR Sports will review its position," Dovey concluded - hinting another meeting at a court room soon.

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