Cricket: Indian board fined US$8 million by country's anti-trust panel

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India's competition watchdog on Thursday (Nov 29) fined the country's powerful cricket governing body US$8 million over a multi-billion dollar broadcasting deal for the Indian Premier League.

The Competition Commission ruled that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the world's wealthiest national cricket body, abused its position by agreeing to broadcasters' demands that it would not allow a rival to the IPL.

The commission ordered the BCCI to pay 520 million rupees (US$8 million) within 60 days.

Sony Pictures Networks has held the rights since the IPL started in 2008.

But in a major coup, Rupert Murdoch's Star India channel in September bought the rights for 2018-22 for US$2.55 billion - a 150 per cent increase on the previous deal - confirming the league as one of the world's hottest sports properties.

The anti-trust commission made an initial ruling in 2013 that the BCCI's deal with Sony was illegal because of a clause which prevented the BCCI from allowing any other 20-over league to compete with the IPL.

The cricket body won a court order forcing a review of the case.

But the commission's new ruling came to the same conclusion and ordered the same fine.

The BCCI had pleaded that bidders for the television deal had insisted on the no-competition clause.

"BCCI has not provided any justification as to how this self-imposed restriction of not organising, sanctioning, approving or supporting another T20 cricket event that will be competing with IPL, is connected to the interest of cricket," the competition commission said however.

The commission said that "in the absence of any plausible explanation" it had found that the clause was intended to "enhance the commercial interest of the bidders of broadcasting rights" and the revenues received by BCCI.

In addition to the fine, the commission said the BCCI must not place any "blanket restriction" on the organisation of professional leagues to rival the IPL.

The BCCI made no immediate comment on the fine. But the ruling is a new blow to the body that has been managed by a panel appointed by the Supreme Court in 2016 to reform it.

The BCCI has in recent years been riven by infighting and allegations of shady dealings.

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