CCI initiates an investigation into alleged abuse of dominance by the BCCI*

On June 1, 2018, CCI passed an order under Section 26(1) of the Competition Act, directing the Director General (‘DG’) to initiate an investigation into the conduct of the Board of Cricket Control in India (‘BCCI’) with respect to the organization of professional cricket leagues in India, and the auction of media rights of the Indian Premier League (‘IPL’).

The informant, a company which was a promoter of the Indian Cricket league (‘ICL’), alleged that BCCI held a dominant position in the relevant market of ‘organization of private professional league cricket in India’ and had abused its dominant position by indulging in conduct which led to denial of market access to the ICL, a rival league to the BCCI’s IPL. The informant further alleged that the BCCI, through its coercive tactics, forced players to opt out of their ICL contracts, and also used its persuasive power at the International Cricket Council (‘ICC’) (the governing body for the sport of cricket), to promote the IPL and give it the regulatory sanction. It was alleged that these factors along with the decision in the Surinder Singh Barmi[1] case, gave impetus to the fact that BCCI has abused its dominance and contravened Section 4(2)(c) and 4(2)(e) of the Competition Act. It was further alleged that the BCCI had consistently, and with malafide intention, blacklisted the informant from participating in the bids for allocation of broadcast rights for IPL by issuing a set of highly targeted eligibility criterion for the same, including the non-involvement in any sort of litigation proceedings against the BCCI. The informant, who was involved in prolonged litigation due to the BCCI’s sanctioning of the rival ICL league thus automatically stood disqualified from the IPL bidding process.

CCI determined the relevant market to be ‘organization of professional domestic leagues/events in India’. Further, CCI took into consideration the regulatory control of the BCCI, the powers vested in it by the ICC to approve private cricket leagues and the indisputable market share of the BCCI, to form a prima facie opinion that the BCCI was dominant in this relevant market. With regard to abuse, CCI observed that the virtual blacklisting of the informant by the BCCI through its exclusionary clause preventing bids for the IPL media right by entities who are involved in litigation with the BCCI – IPL, amounted to denial of market access. This, along with the ability of the BCCI to sanction private cricket leagues, was cumulatively observed to be abusive. CCI noted that sports federations engaged in the organization of tournaments/ leagues are put to an advantage if they also possess the authority to grant approval for the organization of similar events by others and set conditions for such organization, and that the BCCI seemed to have taken advantage of such a situation.

In light of the above, CCI concluded that a prima facie case of abuse of dominant position within the meaning of Section 4(2)(c) of the Competition Act had been made out against the BCCI and directed an investigation by the DG.

*Case No.91 of 2013.
[1] Case No. 61 of 2010

Published In:Inter Alia Special Edition Competition Law September 2018 [ English
Date: September 25, 2018