Mysterious cricket company registrations puts governing bodies on alert

Any attempt to compete in the international cricket business is likely made with an interest in TV broadcast rights.
Fairfax NZ

Any attempt to compete in the international cricket business is likely made with an interest in TV broadcast rights.

The mysterious registration of companies in test-playing countries by Indian business giant Essel Group has left cricket authorities wary about what they believe could be plans for a new rebel league or even an extraordinary takeover bid for global cricket.

The International Cricket Council and national bodies are endeavouring to uncover the motives behind Essel, the conglomerate behind the ill-fated Indian Cricket League, setting up company names across the international playing landscape.

In New Zealand they have attempted to register the name New Zealand Cricket Limited, in Australia Essel have registered the company Australian Cricket Control Pty Ltd, and in other full and associate member countries they are understood to have similarly established company names.

It is a development that has left cricket chiefs concerned about a potential move against the establishment, and intrigued about other figures who may be behind such a plot.

"We're certainly aware of the registration," a Cricket Australia spokesman said on Friday.

"It is a concern, but the ICC has been informed and the matter is being investigated. It's difficult to say more until we have more information."

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Sources understood that Essel, which is led by billionaire media baron Subhash Chandra, have contemplated attempting to make a re-entry to the cricket scene six years after the demise of the unofficial ICL, the rebel precursor to the Indian Premier League.

Whether that would constitute the creation of a new, ramped-up version of the ICL or a challenge to the establishment itself has been unclear, but the formation of companies has been enough to have cricket authorities on their toes.

Australian Securities and Investment Commission records show that Australian Cricket Control Pty Ltd was registered on December 17 last year, but the subject is understood to have been discussed at a meeting of ICC member executives in Dubai last week.

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Much like Kerry Packer's revolutionary World Series Cricket nearly four decades ago, if any bid to unseat the game's governing bodies was to eventuate it would have a lot to do with TV broadcasting rights.

Essel owns Zee Entertainment Enterprises, whose subsidiary, Ten Sports, has international cricket broadcast rights in South Africa, West Indies, Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, but does not have a foothold in the Indian market, where Star Sports has the rights for international cricket and the Champions League, and Sony televises the IPL.

Players from countries outside the three dominant nations in terms of financial might – India, England and Australia – would be easier to convince to join any rebel organisation. In contrast to the cricket scene in 1977, however, the world's leading players are phenomenally well paid and would be enormously difficult to win over even if the suitors were bankrolled by an entity with such deep pockets as Essel.

And while there is disillusionment in many quarters with the financial structure of the ICC, Essel's track record in cricket is controversial. The ICL wound up with players complaining of being out of pocket and later, like the IPL, was the subject of corruption headlines.

Former New Zealand player Chris Cairns has pleaded not guilty to charges of perjury and perverting the course of justice over allegations of match fixing related to his time as captain of the Chandigarh Lions, an ICL team in 2008. Cairns' former Chandigarh team-mate Lou Vincent has admitted rigging games.

 - Sydney Morning Herald

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