India uncomfortable with ICC’s playing contract

New Delhi, October 3:

India’s cricket board is reluctant to accept the International Cricket Council’s contract for participation in global events, but is keen to bid for the worldwide marketing rights.

The Indian board has expressed its reservation to certain clauses in the ICC’s contract for participating nations covering a span of eight years — 2007 to 2015 — that will include two World Cups in 2011 and 2015.

India’s cricket officials are presently debating the terms contained in the ICC contract that every country must sign before being allowed to play in the ICC-run tournaments. On the other hand, the Indian board is planning to make a bid for the media and marketing rights for these global events.

Niranjan Shah, secretary of the Indian board, said on Tuesday that India will make a bid for ICC’s commercial rights. “We’ve done a very good job in marketing the commercial rights of India’s domestic and international matches,” Shah said, confirming India’s intention to make a pitch for the eight-year rights when the ICC invites bids. “We can achieve the same success in selling the ICC’s global rights,” said Shah.

The current commercial agreement between the ICC and its member nations expires after the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies.

Beside two World Cups, the next contract will also cover three Champions Trophy tournaments and the first two editions of the Twenty-20 world championship.

India is among the four South Asian nations which this year won the bid to stage the 2011 World Cup, while the 2015 edition is to be played in Australia and New Zealand. India’s board recently sold its own marketing rights for four years to a Mumbai-based firm for $612 million.

Most of the ICC’s sponsors have a big presence in India, where millions of cricket-addicted fans provide a huge market for their products.

But India’s opposition to the certain clauses in the ICC’s contracts for participating nations seems to have thrown a spanner in the world body’s marketing plans, which it expected to fetch nearly one billion dollars.

The ICC has sought that all countries return the signed contracts soon as it is planning to invite marketing bids from top global firms, but Indian board treasurer N Srinivasan said his board was planning to voice its concern about several clauses. “We’ll only sign the contract after our objections are resolved, there’s a need for some minimum acceptable parameters,” Srinivasan said.

Indian cricket officials claim that its opposition is to the strict clauses that restrict the marketing rights of national boards as the ICC is now planning at least one event per year.

The ICC’s current contract has ambush marketing clauses that restrict teams and players from endorsing any brand that rival the ICC sponsors during the tournament, and also for months on either side of the global tournaments. Four years ago, the Indian cricket board ran into problems with its players, who resented the board agreeing to ambush marketing clauses in the contract.

The Indian cricketers claimed that the contract ceded their image rights, which did not vest with the Indian board, to the ICC. The players struck out objectionable clauses while signing the ICC contract for the 2003 World Cup.