PCB, Confusion or Incompetence

By Our Correspondent - July 9, 2020

Ehsan Mani, Chairman of the PCB first takes on Sourav Ganguly, President of the BCCI for prematurely making public the news about postponement of Asia Cup and within minutes confirms news of ACC postponing Asia Cup to the Indian journalists. It reflects the confusion which enshrouds the PCB today.

PCB Marketing Department despite their lucrative hiring have made a mess of the sponsorship contract. As per news, a beverage company that had signed a three year deal with PCB worth up to USD 5.5 million was given the main logo on Pakistan team’s jerseys and kits. The contract expired last month, and the company didn’t show keenness to get it renewed. The matter was discussed during the 58th Meeting of the BOG on June 25th, 2020.

PCB’s Marketing Department led by Babar Hameed started connecting with various multi-national and top brand local companies, the whole exercise ending in an dismal failure. Market reality is terse in the COVID19 pandemic times and shall be worse for another six months to a year before sanity prevails and matters get back to normalcy.

Once the direct approaches made had not worked, the favourite of PCB’s Ehsan Mani and Salman Naseer, Zahid Noorani of Sony Pictures Network India was asked for helping them out.

He picked up the bid documents and as reported and tried negotiating with major media buying house. That too didn’t work. The base price (asking price) by the PCB was Rs 1.2 billion for a three year contract. Only one party, Transmedia came up with a bid quoting Rs 600 Million for a three year deal. Transmedia had already been paying up to Rs 150 Million annually to PCB for being their associate sponsors.

First, PCB decided agreeing to Rs 600 million ahead of Pakistan’s tour to England. However, fearing strong backlash, the board decided to award rights to Transmedia for Rs 200 million on prorate basis only for one year thinking to re-bid in 2021. It is an absolute failure of the board management and their so called ‘state of the art’ marketing department.

In the meanwhile, Sri Lankan Cricket Board has attracted Coca Cola to pick up a three years rights deal whereas the Pakistan Cricket Board couldn’t convince an existing sponsor to continue with them during this time.

The story doesn’t end here. Other persons are making a larger mess at the Cricket Board. The contract with ITW with reference to sublicensing the digital rights of PSL 5 was strangely mishandled. PCB is a governing body in Islamic Republic of Pakistan and messing up, they had allowed the third party to sublicense the digital rights to betting companies in countries where placing bets was legal which was against country’s constitutional recommendations.

PCB could never be part of betting and other such activities even if the permission was to operate internationally and not in countries where it was illegal. Not only this, they had also allowed to have alcohol and other such advertisements run in their feed outside the premise of countries where it was prohibited. This was obnoxious, either deliberate or an oversight, it was a serious matter which the board tried clearing through ambiguous press releases.

Furthermore, Mr. Ehsan Mani and PCB’s senior management have inflicted a loss of up to USD 4.95 million to the organization in terms of favouring Sony Pictures Network India. West Indies toured Pakistan in April 2018 playing three T20Is. The series rights were agreed as part of the parent PCB Media Rights Agreement 2015-2019 as an additional tour and valued at USD 2.2 million.

Sony Pictures Network India ran the series on their channel Tensports in the Pakistan territory and didn’t end up paying the amount to the PCB. State broadcaster (PTV) were equal partners sharing rights equally for the territory of Pakistan. Even PTV didn’t take the matter up showing their apathy or the continuation of so typical ‘status quo’. Whenever this scribe tried contacting PTV for their side of the story, none was interested from their end. PTV it seems just can’t change. An Indian broadcaster was milking them, and they still kept silent thriving on license fee charged from people of Pakistan. In the end, they come up showing losses.

Sony Pictures Network India, purely an Indian company had invoiced the decided amount to PTV while they had gone to the PCB seeking waivers and settlement citing the low quality of the West Indies team that had toured Pakistan as well as not being able to sell it in the market.

PCB unwisely decided to off-set the money due to them from Sony Pictures pressured by their favourite Zahid Noorani and ended up bartering where Tensports were to televise PCB’s domestic cricket for 90 days across three years. This didn’t include the uplinking cost of the tournaments which came to approximately USD 60,000 each year.

PCB had to surmount this expense as well. Most surprisingly, broadcasting entire domestic tournament of up to twenty days hardly costs up to USD 45,000. PCB agreed with Sony Pictures Network India to off-set the due amount of USD 2.2 Million meaning SPNI/Tensports was charging up to USD 45,000 per day. It is a daylight robbery. PCB were benefitting an Indian channel because of their favourite dealing with them while state broadcaster were being fleeced. Why didn’t PTV take the case up with PCB or the Government of Pakistan is equally hurting?

It also so happened in 2016, Tensports was sold out to Sony Pictures Network India and PCB readily signed the novation agreement deciding to continue the rights with SPNI. More worrying was the Pakistan Television also deciding to sign the novation agreement with an Indian company. The parent right agreement signed in 2015 expired in December 2019.

Sri Lanka series was the last on the added tour list. PCB as expected hadn’t done their homework and once they contacted SPNI to take up the production and broadcast of the Bangladesh tour to Pakistan in January 2020, they refused to comply. PCB negotiated with SPNI and eventually it was decided SPNI shall produce and broadcast the series however both the parties agreed on USD 3.75 Million instead of the USD 6 Million. There were many ambiguities and slips between the cup and the lips. State broadcasters (PTV) were ignored as ascertained form a source and Zahid Noorani dealt with the PCB on the pretext, they had signed a MOU with Tensports/SPNI in 2015 which allowed them to negotiate on behalf of PTV.

Interestingly, the MOU between PTV and Tensports/SPNI had also terminated in December 2019 with the expiry of the PCB MRA 2015-2019. Why PTV didn’t seek clarity from the PCB and why did they agree showing the series is also mysterious. PTV should have been proactive taking up the matter to their board and the PCB. They didn’t, and as expected were unconcerned.

In working paper of 57th BOG Meeting of the PCB, it is clearly mentioned that SPNI/Tensports had maintained Bangladesh tour to Pakistan in 2020 wasn’t part of the parent agreement and they weren’t obliged to broadcast or produce and how the two parties had negotiated reducing the price of USD 6 Million down to USD 3.75 Million. It was also endorsed and approved by the BOG of the PCB during their 57th meeting at Peshawar and was duly minuted, leaving PCB wrong-footed.

If Bangladesh tour to Pakistan was part of the parent PCB 2015-2019 contract, then price could never be negotiated. And if the series was dealt outside the parent MRA, then PCB couldn’t award the rights directly to SPNI/Tensports and needed to call for fresh bids or issue addendums having all the parties on board. It never happened and PCB ended up losing USD 4.95 Million. It is still not ascertained all the muck created was deliberate to side a ‘friend’, or it was a result of lack of homework and incompetence.

Why PTV has been silent is also a mystery. Why an Indian network (SPNI) is being allowed to operate within the territory of Pakistan is equally disheartening? On one end the Government has suspended trade and work relations with India, at the other PCB is nourishing an Indian broadcaster within Pakistan.

Why PTV have allowed Sony Pictures Network India to work in Pakistan is also strange. Tensports/Sony is PTV’s direct competitor and despite all the restrictions on Indian content and enterprises to work in Pakistan, they are still silent is not understandable. It seems since PTV owes money to Sony Pictures Network India keeps them quiet? Why shouldn’t Pakistan’s state broadcaster take a lead having one of the better channels aired in Pakistan (PTV Sports)?

If one gets to the production of PSLV and its opening ceremony, Tower 2 Zahid Noorani’s company was given the rights and they produced (production was of extremely low quality) and opening ceremony messed up was directed by an Indian while 95% of the production staff was hired from India.

There were rumours, PCB wanted to complete the PSL V matches despite the COVID19 threat still a change in policy by Government of India to have people quarantined for 14 days at the airports resulted in a chaos. The production team wanted to return home.

Initially, PCB tried facilitating the production team to travel by road through Wagah but it was denied. The production team reached on time however PSL V wasn’t completed. As reported, some of the franchises didn’t know PSL V matches have been suspended. It seems PCB management has a soft corner for Indian broadcasters and production teams despite having lost millions of dollars in a court case against the BCCI for not living up to an agreement signed with reference to the bilateral series between the two countries.

PCB had hastily called for the bank-guarantee of the PSL rights holders Blitz Advertisers. Blitz had picked up the PSL rights for three years (2019-2021) at an exorbitant price. Reportedly, PCB demanded Blitz to make payments. Blitz got back to the PCB telling them PSL V hadn’t been completed and the payments due were at the conclusion of the tournament. PCB having back-ended issues with Blitz and obviously keen on ‘looking after’ interest of their favourite Indian broadcaster had decided taking the party on. Blitz moved to the court getting a stay order.

PCB under Mr. Ehsan Mani, Wasim Khan and Salman Naseer have been working lately. There are reports PTV shall not be televising Pakistan versus England series 2020 since the ECB rights are with Sony television. If PTV is blacked out during the series, it will endorse claims that having owed money to the Indian broadcasters they won’t be given the rights to televise an important series. It will also be an interesting spectacle. Indian broadcaster taking money from Pakistan to India, showing Pakistan series and state broadcaster owned by the government will be dry. Such is the plight.

By Our Correspondent

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