The Competition Commission has ordered a detailed investigation against the Indian cricket board BCCI for alleged abuse of dominant position with regard to running professional domestic cricket leagues in the country.
The decision has come on a complaint filed by Pan India Infraprojects Pvt Ltd (formerly known as Essel Sports Pvt Ltd).
In a 14-page order, dated June 1, the CCI said there is “prima-facie” a case of abuse of dominant position by the BCCI which is in violation of competition norms.
“Thus, it appears that BCCI has abused its dominant position in the market of organisation of professional domestic cricket leagues in India by excluding the informant (Pan India Infraprojects) or any of its group companies from participating in tenders for media rights for IPL,” the order said.
The regulator noted that apart from restraining the organisation of a competitive league (ICL) by Pan India Infraprojects, the BCCI appears to have excluded it from downstream market by disallowing it to bid for the Indian Premier League (IPL) media rights.
Pan India Infraprojects is a promoter of the Indian Cricket League (ICL).
On earlier occasions also, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had come under the lens of the fair trade regulator.
“The sports federations engaged in organisation of tournaments/ leagues are put to advantage if they also possess the authority to grant approval for organisation of similar events by others and set conditions for such organisation.
“BCCI seems to have taken advantage of such a situation,” the Competition Commission of India (CCI) said in the order dated June 1.
For the case, the CCI considered ‘organisation of professional domestic cricket leagues/ events in India’ as the relevant market.
In the order, the regulator also made it clear that nothing stated herein shall tantamount to an expression of final opinion on the merits of the case.
The CCI’s investigation arm Director General (DG) would probe the case.
During the preliminary conference on May 2, 2018, the informant highlighted that the BCCI is continuing with such restriction as a similar/ identical clause is still present in the tenders issued by the BCCI IPL media rights (2018-2022) “whereby the informant and its group companies have been foreclosed from participating in any media rights tenders issued by the BCCI,” the order said.
Pan India Infraprojects had filed the complaint against BCCI in 2013. After hearing both the parties, the regulator was primarily of the view that the informant was aggrieved by the conduct of the cricket body that was already found to be in contravention of Section 4 of the Competition Act in a separate case filed by one Surinder Singh Barmi.
In the Barmi case, violation of Section 4, which pertains to abuse of dominant market position, was with regard to denial of market access to organisation of domestic private professional cricket leagues or events.
Since CCI’s order in the Barmi case was under appeal at that point of time, the regulator opined that if the erstwhile Competition Appellate Tribunal (COMPAT) upheld the order in case, the informant could move an application under the Competition Act and closed Pan India Infraprojects’ matter.
However, aggrieved by the CCI order, the Informant filed an appeal before the COMPAT. In the meantime, the Tribunal set aside CCI’s order and remanded back the case to the regulator for further necessary action.
Subsequently, COMPAT through another order allowed the appeal filed by the informant in the present case and directed the CCI to consider the matter afresh to see whether there is a prima facie case warranting investigation by the DG.
After a detailed investigation in the Barmi case, CCI slapped a fine Rs 52.24 crore on BCCI through an order passed in November 2017.
Subsequently, Pan India Infraprojects moved an application in January 2018 seeking update of the proceedings in its own matter, following which CCI considered it and decided to have a preliminary conference with the informant.