NEW DELHI: Cricket officials on Monday suspended the co-owner of an Indian Premier League (IPL) team and announced plans for a major clean-up of the sport after an illegal betting and spot-fixing scandal.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) held an emergency meeting in New Delhi into the Rajasthan Royals IPL franchise and its co-owner Raj Kundra amid the ongoing scandal.
“Mr Raj Kundra has been suspended, pending an inquiry, from all cricketing activities,” BCCI interim head Jagmohan Dalmiya told reporters after the meeting.
Kundra, the businessman husband of Bollywood actress and former contestant on UK show “Celebrity Big Brother” Shilpa Shetty, has admitted illegally betting on his own team, according to police.
Three Royals players, including Test fast bowler Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, and numerous bookmakers have been arrested over allegations of spot-fixing during the recently-completed edition of the IPL.
After Monday’s meeting Dalmiya released a blueprint called “Operation Clean-up” aimed at stamping out “sleaze” and corruption in the multi-billion dollar Twenty20 tournament.
Under the plan, IPL players, team owners and support staff face a “strict code of conduct”. Owners’ movements in team dugouts and dressing rooms during matches will be restricted.
“Removal of sleaze; no cheerleaders, no after-match parties for players and support staff,” the 12-point plan reads.
Cellphone towers will be jammed during IPL matches, and players will have to “disclose all financial transactions they are carrying out with any particular organisation or person”.
A timetable for implementing the plan, which also includes a ban on players using microphones and earplugs during matches, was unclear.
“If we are able to clean it, it will be a great service to the game,” Dalmiya said.
Sreesanth, along with his teammates Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan, were arrested last month over allegations they deliberately bowled badly in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars during IPL matches.
Police say the trio were acting under orders from international crime syndicates to give away a specific number of runs in certain overs after striking deals with bookmakers.
The players have denied wrongdoing.
The BCCI suspended Kundra pending an internal inquiry after the businessman was interviewed at length last week by senior police over illegal betting.
Kundra, who owns 11.7 percent of the franchise, said he was shocked by the suspension, saying “accusations were made against me without proof, by people in powerful positions”.
“I am shocked and upset at the unilateral decision taken today by the BCCI and will fight the grounds of suspension,” he said in a statement.
The internal inquiry is already probing Gurunath Meiyappan, the son-in-law of India’s cricket chief, who is part of the management of another IPL team called the Chennai Super Kings.
Meiyappan was arrested last month over accusations that he also bet on IPL matches. His arrest forced the cricket chief, N. Srinivasan, to step aside pending the outcome of the inquiry.
According to an agreement between the BCCI and IPL sides, if any franchise group or owner acts in a way which has a “material adverse effect” on the reputation of the BCCI or the league, then their agreement will be terminated.
The Rajasthan Royals, who won the inaugural IPL edition in 2008 under Australian spin legend Shane Warne, have previously been thrown out of the IPL because of ownership problems.