Sourav Ganguly has football club link with new IPL franchise owner

BCCI PRESIDENT Sourav Ganguly is facing new questions of conflict of interest as the co-owner of a football team along with Sanjiv Goenka whose RPSG Ventures Ltd made a successful bid of Rs 7,090 crore for the Lucknow IPL franchise at the high-stakes auction in Dubai on Monday.

According to Indian Super League (ISL) football club ATK Mohun Bagan’s official website, Ganguly is a member of its Board of Directors with Goenka as chairman. “The team was owned by Kolkata Games and Sports Pvt. Ltd. consisting of former Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly, alongside businessmen Harshavardhan Neotia, Sanjiv Goenka, and Utsav Parekh,” the website states.

Speaking to The Indian Express on condition of anonymity, a senior BCCI member confirmed that it was “a clear case of conflict”. “Ganguly is the president, he needs to understand. This is not the first time that he has been in this situation,” the member said.

Goenka and Ganguly didn’t respond to calls from The Indian Express and text messages with queries on the conflict-of-interest issue.

In an interview Tuesday with CNBC TV18, responding to a question on whether his association with Ganguly could raise potential conflict of-interest, Goenka said: “Well, I think he (Ganguly) is going to step down from Mohun Bagan completely.” Asked when that would happen, he said: “I think today.” Goenka then said: “That is for Sourav to make the announcement. Sorry, I pre-empted it.”

Till late Tuesday night, there was no official announcement from the former India cricket captain about his future with ATK Mohun Bagan.

Even if Ganguly steps away from the football club, questions may still be raised over his involvement in the franchise auction process as BCCI president despite his football association with one of the bidders.

Ganguly has been BCCI president since 2019 and has a say in all important decisions taken by the board. In the redrafted BCCI constitution following directions from the Supreme Court, the Justice RM Lodha committee listed several potential associations that came under the conflict of interest purview.

“When the BCCI, a member, the IPL or a franchisee enter into contractual agreement with entities in which the individual concerned or his/her relative, partner or close associate has an interest. This is to include cases where family members, partners or close associates are in positions that may, or may be seen to compromise an individual’s participation, performance and discharge of roles,” it states.

This is not the first time Ganguly has faced questions over conflict of interest.

Last year, he had put out an Instagram post wearing a JSW Cement (Jindal Steel Works) T-shirt and claiming to be “at work” as the company’s brand ambassador. JSW Sports, a wing of the business conglomerate JSW Group, is the joint owner of IPL’s Delhi Capitals.

At the time, Ganguly, who had also been a mentor of Delhi Capitals in the past, insisted that his new role as brand ambassador of JSW Cement did not overlap with his duties as BCCI president.

Later, a formal complaint was filed by Sanjeev Gupta, a former Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association (MPCA) member, but the matter is yet to be heard. The BCCI, incidentally, hasn’t appointed a new Ombudsman and Ethics Officer after Justice D K Jain’s term ended in June 2021.

By William Regal

Used to think I was a tad indecisive, but now I’m not quite sure.

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