PBL takes cue from other leagues, sets up Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU)

With the league growing in popularity, PBL has taken a proactive step of setting up an independent Anti-Corruption and Security Unit from this year.

Atul Pande (second from left) — the managing director of Sportzlive, the official license holder of PBL — hopes PBL gains popularity like cricket at some point of time.   -  Nagara Gopal

The Premier Badminton League (PBL) has been witnessing a steady growth. This year, it expanded to include a new franchise – Pune 7 Aces, and began airing regional feeds in Hindu, Telugu and Kannada. The PBL was beamed live in the northeastern region of India for the first time. All this has helped the league register a whopping 124 million viewership in just the first two weeks. There has been interest to create a Jaipur franchise as well. 

With such encouraging signs of growing popularity, the league has taken a proactive step of setting up an independent Anti-Corruption and Security Unit from this year.

"Since the league is becoming big and there is a lot of prize money at stake, we need to have a structured kind of an approach to deal with misdemeanors. So this year, we have created an anti-corruption unit which is run by an independent body, run by former and ICC officer and BCCI anti-corruption unit chief, Ravi Sawani," Atul Pande, the managing director of Sportzlive, the official license holder of PBL, said.

It’s a four-member committee and has two supervisors, a person who travels with the teams and another who looks at the technical aspects.  

"Essentially, we are looking at having a structure through which, in case of any misdemeanours or allegations of people indulging in not very correct practices, we can go to a third party independent agency which verifies and publishes the facts, basis of which the decisions can be taken which is in consonance with BWF and BAI policy,” he explained.

"We have an ACSU hotline (Anti-Corruption and Security Unit), we have an ACSU email. People can make anonymous complaints. There is a process there to address the issue and hand out a decree of sorts," he said.

 “It’s pretty much how leagues are done across the world. We were doing it earlier, but in an unstructured fashion, more like a technical committee. Now, we have structured it,” he said.

"When you have so much prize money at stake and it’s only going to grow, it stands to reason that there will be people who might indulge in practices which might not necessarily be right. Basically, at some point of time, we are hopeful that this could become larger like cricket, so we are setting up standards in place. We, at the management team, felt we had the bandwidth to do this now. We learnt from the other leagues. We learnt from kabaddi league," he explained.  

Players and the team owners had a full briefing in Mumbai before the season began. "We got them to sign a declaration saying 'we have understood the policy and will abide by it to be part of the league'. Only if all the players are on board and signed the declaration are they allowed to participate in a match," he said.

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According to the protocol, players won't be allowed to use phones from two hours before the match.   -  K. Murali Kumar

 

He explained some of the protocols that were put in place to invite unnecessary responses.

The players and the team owners were briefed about the rules and regulations that had to be followed. It starts from no phones two hours before the match. They are all collected and kept in a safe place

"People are not allowed to visit players in their rooms. They are supposed to meet people in common areas. Hotel is completely access-controlled. Player has to sign a declaration saying this is what I want to do and won’t do," Pande said.   

"It’s a bit of a moving target in the sense you can't control movement a 100 per cent as we are dealing with human beings. You can’t and you shouldn’t as well. We are just avoiding unsolicited responses. There are very young guys, a lot of them in the age bracket of 18-19 years. They could have people who approach them, so we are just trying to coach on the responses they should have. Most of them don’t do this. The approach and the way you respond to it could sometimes make you termed a suspect, so we are trying to avoid that," the Sportzlive chairman reasoned.

PBL has reached the tail end of the tournament and the ACSU has so far only received "minor player management area violations", according to Atul Pande. "There were just one or two instances where some player was seen using the phone after the two-hour deadline. We have had no major violations so far," he said.

The winner of PBL 4 will get a prize money of Rs 3 crore from a total purse of Rs 6 crore.

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