Ownership module in state-run T20 leagues need to be examined: ACU chief Ajit Singh

Gautam and Kazi were arrested by the Central Crime Branch of the Bengaluru Police for their role in fixing the KPL final between Bellary Tuskers and Hubli Tigers.

Ballari Tuskers' CM Gautam plays a shot during a match in Karnataka Premier League.   -  Special Arrangement

Ajit Singh, the chief of the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) Anti-Corruption Unit, feels there is “a need to examine (the) ownership module” of franchises in state-run Twenty20 leagues to safeguard them from corruption.

The arrest of two first-class players in the Karnataka Premier League (KPL) match-fixing scandal, he says, will act as a “deterrent.”

Former India A and Karnataka wicketkeeper C. M. Gautam and Mizoram first-class player Abrar Qazi, both of whom have been part of Indian Premier League (IPL) teams in the past, were arrested by the Central Crime Branch of the Bengaluru Police for their role in fixing the KPL final between Bellary Tuskers and Hubli Tigers.

The KPL fixing came to light with the arrest of Ali Ashfaq Thara, who owned the Belagavi Panthers team.

READ| CM Gautam, Abrar Kazi arrested on KPL spot-fixing charges

“These teams have been bought through open auction and they have not been auctioned by the BCCI but by the state association. I presume whoever was the highest bidder owned the franchises. So now whatever has been the module of owning these franchises need to be examined,” Singh said.

Asked if police verification of potential owners can be a way out, the former director-general of the Rajasthan Police said it was easier said than done.

“I am sure nobody amongst them (potential state league franchises) would be having a criminal record. Even if somebody has a criminal record, he may have a front person bidding for a team. That sort of a thing doesn’t work,” he explained.

For Singh, strong personal interactions and a thorough check of financial records of the owners from time to time would be a much better idea.

“You have to have a very strong personal interaction with them and it has to be drilled regularly that there will be zero tolerance for corruption. Also, you can examine their financial records before allowing them to bid and even afterwards.

READ| CM Gautam's Goa contract terminated after arrest on spot-fixing charges

“I am not a finance expert, so somebody belonging to this field will be able to decide doables and non-doables. But some sort of a monitoring is also required there,” said the retired Indian Police Service officer, who took charge at the ACU after the 2018 IPL season.

However, Singh doesn’t endorse the idea of banning state-run leagues. That’s not an ideal solution for him.

“My opinion is it’s a call that the board has to take. When a person falls ill, you don’t kill the person, you try to cure him. We have already been investigating the KPL fixing case and we have been exchanging information with the police. We have been passing on whatever information we have,” he said.

Singh believed that working in coordination with the police also helps nab people like Gautam.

READ| Shakib's IPL 2018 anti-corruption matters were handled by ICC: BCCI ACU head

Singh added that the strength of the ACU has increased with new recruitment last year and it is in the process of hiring more people.

He firmly believed that a law with regards to sports fraud, criminalising any such dishonest acts could make matter easier for everyone.

“There is a law in the Indian Penal Code and it depends on the circumstances of the case. They can register it as a case of cheating. Now it’s for them (police) to collect evidence of cheating. Obviously there is a party that has been cheated in this case.

“How they go about it and how they collect it, its for them to decide. But as I said, there is no specific law regarding sports corruption. Many other countries have that. If that happens, then that’s going to make things easier,” Singh said.