Ehsan Mani says PCB's television rights deal was transparent

Ehsan Mani has recently supervised the awarding of broadcasting rights for Pakistan’s home series against South Africa and Sri Lanka in the UAE © Getty Images

By Amir Husain

Ehsan Mani spent his early life in Pakistan playing for the Rawalpindi Club and Government College Lahore XI from 1959 to 1965 as a right-hand batsman and a left-arm fast medium bowler.

From 1989 to 1996, Mani represented the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) in the International Cricket Council (ICC). For the 1996 Cricket World Cup, he was on the advisory committee as the PCB representative. He was also on the same committee during the 1999 Cricket World Cup played in England. In 1996, he was elected by the ICC member nations to the position of Chairman of the ICC Finance and Marketing Committee. 

He held on to this post until it was dissolved in June 2002. After that he took over as the Vice-President of the ICC Executive Board. He has also served on a number of ICC Committees, such as the Chairman’s Advisory Committee, set up to advise Lord Cowdrey and Sir Clyde Walcott during their stint as ICC President. Other committees he has been a part of are the Rules Review Committee and the Governance and Organisation Committee. In June 2003, he became the ICC President.

He has been involved in awarding of broadcasting rights on behalf of PCB since 1993 and it is in this capacity that he recently supervised the award of broadcasting rights for Pakistan’s home series against South Africa and Sri Lanka in the UAE.

In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Ehsan Mani shed light on his role in awarding TV broadcast rights and also answered queries regarding criticism leveled by certain quarters on perceived anomalies during this process.

Excerpts:

PakPassion.net (PP)What was your exact role in choosing a broadcaster for awarding a license? 

Ehsan Mani (EM): PCB has two series coming up against South Africa and Sri Lanka. Mr Sethi, the acting Chairman rang me up [the day after becoming Chairman] to ask me to help out with the procedures around sale of these two rights. To be honest, I was very surprised that these rights are still not sold because they really should have been sold six months ago. To leave it so late was something which was quite strange to me. 

Anyway, I met them and they asked me to be involved but in doing so, I also ensured that there were certain processes and procedure in place which I had insisted on in the past — not only with the PCB, but also with the ICC. One of which was that it should be a totally transparent process. So, I spoke to them on how it should be done and then they asked me to chair this committee. In summary, my main role in this process was to chair the committee that was marketing the rights for the Sri Lanka and South Africa series.

PPThere were a few concerns raised in some quarters about your suitability for this role — How would you answer those critics?

EM: I have sold every right that PCB has been ever been involved in a Television since 1993. I also lead in the sale of the ICC rights in the year 2000 which was sold for 500 million Dollars and also after I finished my presidency in 2006-07, I was asked to sell the media rights for the ICC events which I sold for over 1.1 billion Dollars. So, I think my credentials are quite sound for this role.

PP: What exact steps did you take to ensure that it was a fair process? What guidelines were followed? 

EM: We setup certain standard operation procedures of how this committee would operate. First of all, I was there as an independent member. I asked for one other independent member to be on the committee and the PCB appointed a retired Judge, Justice Shabbar Raza Rizvi. So, there was two of us who were there as independent members of the committee. There was another lawyer who was involved in this process and there were two people from the PCB, their Finance Director and their Chief Operating Officer as well. 

To oversee all of this, PCB appointed Ernst & Young who would make sure that the whole process was transparent. We didn’t favor anyone, we gave the same information to every party who was bidding and that the same letters and same documents went out to all the bidders. Ernst & Young sat in every meeting and looked through everything we did even to the extent that when we were opening the bids, they were there. When we met the bidders, we spoke to the bidders they [Ernst & Young] were present. Another important point that I must stress here is that in this whole process — and this is something I have always insisted on in the past — the Chairman of the PCB was totally excluded from this process. He had no part to play here.

PP: During this process, was any party disqualified or prevented from entering their bid? 

EM: No, not at all. We drafted an invitation to tender. An invitation to tender was very specific of what was required as in what was required for the bidders to submit etc and all the parties complied to that. On this point again, Ernst & Young oversaw the process. They were comfortable that we didn’t cut any corners and the committee didn’t overlook any short comings in any particular bid.

PP: Why were two broadcasters chosen? Why was this separation done? Would it not have been easier to just have one broadcaster than two separate ones?

EM: It was up to the bidders. My role and the committee’s role was to provide a way to maximize the revenues for the PCB. One of the choices we had was if among the bidders one offered more money for one of the series not more than the others overall, then we were free to pick and chose the two best offers we had and at the end of the day the best offers were to actually split it into two different broadcasters.

It was purely a commercial decision. But, let me say this — The role of the committee was to go out and tender the rights, negotiate with the bidders, get the best offers but they could not award the rights to anyone. Awarding the rights were done by the governing board of the PCB. All we did was to, at the end of the process, submit the report to the PCB and the board of governors saying that this is the process we have been through and these are the best offers we have received and this is what we recommend. Along with our report and the report from Ernst & Young with their observation of the whole process.

The bidders were totally free to bid for both the series. We had a option to pick and chose the highest offer which was our only criteria if the he bidder complied with our requirements in terms of security and other formalities. Because really we had two concerns here, one was to get the highest offer and second was to make sure the PCB gets paid. 

So to summarise all of above, those are the two key elements in this decision and we made sure we were comfortable in both respects and we recommended the best offer to PCB for acceptance.

PP: There has been some criticism about the whole process, specifically from Mr. Arif Abbasi — how would you answer that?

EM: Arif is a very old friend of mine. If he had any serious concerns, he would have spoken to me directly. So, I don’t know where and how the media has attributed these comments to him. I have great respect for Arif. He hasn’t ever discussed this with me. He knows me very very well. If he had any concerns of any sorts I’m sure he would have spoken to me. All I can say to you is what I know, that the Television rights deal was transparent and above board. It was independently assessed and observed by one of the largest accounting firms in the world. One can’t get involved in pettiness and people’s agendas but I can assure you that whatever Arif has said has been attributed by, what I suspect, people who are using his name for their own selfish benefit.

PP: Thank you very much for your time. 

EM: You’re welcome.

(Amir Husain is Senior Editor at PakPassion.net)