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Scandal rocks Indian cricket league
IPL boss suspended amid allegations of corruption in multi-billion-dollar league.
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2010 08:03 GMT
Modi was suspended from his post hours after Sunday's IPL final in Mumbai [AFP]

The head of India's Premier League cricket has been suspended amid allegations of corruption in the country's most lucrative sport.

Lalit Modi is being investigated over accusations of money-laundering and match-fixing in the tournament.

Modi's suspension followed days of mounting speculation over his future and was announced just hours after the IPL's dramatic showpiece final on Sunday, which saw the Chennai Super Kings beat favourites Mumbai Indians in their home city.

A statement from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which owns the IPL, said the allegations against Modi had had "brought a bad name to the administration of cricket and the game itself".

He now has 15 days to show why disciplinary action should not be taken against him.

Indian Premier League


 Founded in 2008 based on a shortened, made-for-TV format of cricket known as Twenty20

 IPL teams feature some of the world's top cricketers, with average salaries of around $3.8m a year

 For comparison the average salary among players in the US NBA basketball league is around $4m

 IPL has estimated brand value of around $4bn, with TV rights for the last season fetching $1.9bn

Modi has been a key figure in building the IPL from its launch in 2008 into a multi-billion dollar commercial juggernaut followed by millions of fans in India and beyond.

Market analysts currently put the tournament's brand value at more than $4bn, well in excess of more long-running sports brands such as English football team Manchester United.

The seeds of the current crisis originate in a Twitter post by Modi two weeks ago when he revealed the ownership details of a new franchise set to join the glitzy and globally popular IPL in 2011.

In the posting, he embarrassed a high-profile member of the government, Shashi Tharoor, a junior foreign minister, by leaking how his girlfriend had been given a free stake in the new team.

The revelation ultimately forced Tharoor to resign from the government amid opposition accusations that he had been misusing his office for personal benefit.

Since then, the Indian finance ministry has launched a wide-ranging tax probe into the IPL, the BCCI and the owners of its teams - including powerful business leaders and stars in the Bollywood film industry - with many blaming Modi for bringing the tax man to their door.

Kickbacks alleged

In turn that has sparked a media frenzy, with Indian newspapers and TV news networks reporting several as yet unproven allegations over Modi's unpaid tax liabilities, general corruption and kickbacks, and even possible match-fixing.

The latter is seen as a particularly serious offence in India after a 2000 scandal revealed widespread illegal betting and corruption by Indian bookmakers and some leading players.

Tharoor resigned amid controversy over ownership of a new IPL team [AFP]

Modi himself has been defiant in recent days, refusing calls to step down despite losing the support of several of his colleagues and pressure from the government.

"People pressurising me to resign - I can tell you will not happen. Let them remove me then," he posted on Twitter on Saturday.

"Wait for the IPL to finish - I will reveal the men who have tried to bring disrepute to the game and how we stopped them from doing it," he added.

Gideon Haigh, a cricket writer based in Melbourne, Australia, told Al Jazeera that the pre-conditions of scandal and corruption have always existed within Indian cricket.

"It looked all along like an Indian Enron in the making," Haigh said.

"Opaque finances, negligible regulation, a lot of related party transactions, asset evaluations being plucked from thin air, an over mighty chief executive, some pretty dozy and self satisfied directors and politicians already with their hooks in.

"To fail to grasp that you needed to be either ignorant or implicated and I'm afraid there were too many broadcasters and journalists who were just that."

Transparency 'impossible'

Haigh said transparency within the IPL was impossible from its inception because of its adoption of a private ownership model.

"The reason they call it that is because it's private. You might not like that but it is the way of business," he said.

"If Modi is history, in a sense it will be a great shame because he does represent a genuine entrepreneur in a sport that has been run chiefly by administrators and managers.

"He has brought vision and a common touch to cricket ... because he comes from outside crickets traditional bureaucratic circles.

"I think senior politicians and administrators are more culpable - allegedly wise heads who pandered to Modi's ego and ambition because it suited their particular purposes."

On Sunday a twitter posting said Modi planned to chair an emergency meeting of the IPL's governing council in Mumbai, although that came shortly before news that he had been suspended from his post.

The president of the BCCI, Shashank Manohar, said he had waited until after Sunday's IPL final before announcing Modi's suspension.

"I have waited for IPL 2010 to conclude in order to respond to the situation as I did not want the event to be disrupted in any manner," he said.

Source:
Agencies
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