BCCI's new constitution restricting the distribution of complimentary passes to 10 percent of stadium capacity is the sort of micromanagement host associations could have done without.
Even before the constitution has been universally accepted in toto, the conduct of India vs West Indies limited-overs matches has run into rough weather. Three associations, Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA), Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) and Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association (MPCA) have said that the new restrictions fail to fulfill their requirements. MPCA not only rejected the restriction but also the opportunity to host the second ODI at Indore. The match has now been shifted to Visakhapatnam.
The Committee of Administrators (CoA), alarmed by this unexpected fallout, met in New Delhi a couple of days ago and in a bid to give the staging associations more leeway, opted to cut BCCI's share of passes from 1200 to 604. This made available 596 passes from BCCI's pool. These, the CoA believed, would help staging associations tide over their requirements.
"In the spirit of the mandate of the Hon'ble Supreme Court, the CoA has decided to limit BCCI's requirement for sponsor and other free allotments as much as possible from 1200 to 604, so that the number of complimentary tickets available to the hosting association is maximised," the CoA spelt out.
Star India (host broadcaster) and Paytm (title sponsor) are entitled to get a fixed number of complimentary passes as part of the contract with BCCI. The CoA decided that BCCI's share of the passs would be restricted to just that.
Whether this means that BCCI office-bearers and other association representatives would not get passes for matches is not clear at this time.
The CoA also stated that members' tickets would not come under the purview of the 10 percent limit on complimentary passes and would instead be treated as paid tickets.
However, CAB and TNCA which are to host the 1st T20I on 4 November and third T20I on 11 November respectively have expressed dissatisfaction even with this modification. They have legacy obligations, they claim.
TNCA is hampered by three of its stands being unavailable. Its seating capacity is limited to 24,000. On the other hand it is bound to give 1,400 tickets to Madras Cricket Club - jointly in charge of Chepauk - and a further 4,500 tickets to TNCA's club members on a preferential basis. Thus the 10 per cent restriction is wholly inadequate.
CAB says its 18,000 members are entitled to match tickets while a further 10,000 complimentary passes have to be distributed to different quarters, including government agencies.
Here it must be mentioned that the infrastructure fund BCCI provides to its affiliated associations is a recent phenomenon. In earlier times, BCCI did not have the money to do so and affiliated associations had to find ingenious methods to raise money and construct cricket stadia.
Some sold membership of the association which guaranteed free tickets for a certain number of years. Others sold corporate boxes with varied seating capacity to corporate houses. Some built club houses and leveraged that to raise funds. There were those who did a bit of everything, including encouraging stand donors where individual seats in a particular stand was pre-sold for a certain number of years. All these were done with the view to raise money to construct stadia, without which BCCI would not allocate matches.
It is these arrangements made in desperate times that have now tied down old associations. Even otherwise there are other commitments that must be met.
For example, a few years ago Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) tried to clamp down on complimentary passes with disastrous effect. The garbage within the stadium premises was not lifted for days together. Private lorries too were not allowed to clear the garbage, with the result that a putrefying mess greeted spectators on their arrival to the ground.
Then there were other issues like power, traffic, parking, water, sewage, excise. These adversely impacted conduct of the match and showed association officials in very poor light.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court-appointed Lodha Committee listened to flop administrators and brought the passes restriction on BCCI's staging associations.
Meanwhile, the CoA is quoted as saying that if staging associations did not want to host matches on the new terms "they will have to tell the Supreme Court. We cannot conduct the game against Supreme Court direction. Our hands are tied. This 10 percent is not a restriction imposed by CoA. This is imposed by the Supreme Court."
Actually, staging associations or BCCI do not depend on gate collections for survival. Most of the revenue comes from television rights and sponsorship. However, the distribution of complimentary tickets ensures that matches are conducted without a hitch. It also becomes vital for the associations' year-long activities.
Host associations need the support and co-operation of a whole lot of folks throughout the year. These include police, excise, media, corporators, electricity, water, sewage, transport, garbage collectors, other ground owners (a number of state league matches are played on grounds owned by various government and private enterprises, including schools and colleges), local cricket sponsors, legal fraternity, celebrities, bankers, ministers, MLAs, bureaucrats, etc. The only time they can show their gratitude for the year-long support is during big matches. Host associations see the distribution of complimentary tickets as a small price to pay for round the year smooth functioning of the administration.
Even the IPL, run by private franchises, is contract-bound to set aside 15 per cent of the capacity of each stand for the local association's need. This is over and above the members stand and other legacy obligations. BCCI and IPL governing council get a separate set of tickets to deal with sponsors and others. This system ensures smooth conduct of IPL year after year.
Maybe, if the CoA had brought these facts to the notice of the court it would have left the issue of managing passes to each staging association, especially as each has its own peculiar set of issues.
Unfortunately, that was not done and thus it has led to the unheard situation of an affiliated member (MPCA) refusing to host a limited-overs match. Hopefully, the inability expressed by MPCA will not spread to other associations. Otherwise, Indian cricket's season of discontent will stretch further.