Looks like the blues of the Adelaide Test still have not left Indian Test skipper- Virat Kohli, as another new controversy has tailed him. On the eve of the third Sydney Test, a national daily has published a sensational report which highlights the potential conflict of interest that has arisen due to Kohli’s investment in an online gaming company which currently is the official kit sponsor and merchandise partner of Team India.
According to a report in the Indian Express, Kohli was allotted Compulsory Convertible Debentures (CCDs) worth over Rs 32 lakhs in Galactus Funware Technology Private Limited, which owns the online gaming platform MPL. MPL Sports was named as the BCCI’s new kit sponsor and merchandise partner for Team India on 17 November 2020.
The deal is for three years and senior Indian men, women and under-19 teams are sporting the logo of MPL on the arm. The Indian captain had been named brand ambassador of the brand earlier in January 2020. Kohli even represented the brand in several TV ads which aired during the 13th season of IPL.
As per the newspaper, Kohli was allotted a total of 68 CCDs with a face value of Rs 10, each issued at a premium of Rs 48,990 which rounds off to around Rs 33.32 lakhs. The CCDs will be converted into equity shares at the end of ten years following which Kohli will have a 0.051 per cent stake in the company.
The report further adds that Galactus Funware also issued 34 CCDs worth Rs 16.66 lakh to Cornerstone Sports LLP in the same meeting where Kohli was allotted the CCDs. Cornerstone LLP’s CEO Amit Arjun Sajdeh is Kohli’s partner in two other firms – Magpie Venture Partners LLP and Virat Kohli Sports LLP.
As soon as the report came to light, Amit Sajdeh issued a clarification where he refuted any claims of a potential conflict of interest.
“I have said this time and again, Virat and Cornerstone are free to invest in as many businesses as they wish to. There is no conflict whatsoever as long as Virat is not invested in Cornerstone,” the newspaper quoted Sajdeh as saying.
However, sifting through BCCI’s constitution, one can find the definition of Conflict of Interest, and prima facie Kohli looks guilty of being entrapped in one, even though it could be a mere accident. “When an individual enters into endorsement contracts or other professional engagements with third parties, the discharge of which would compromise the individual’s primacy obligation to the game or allow for the perception that the purity of the game stands compromised.”
A few days back, much-like Kohli, questions were raised on Sourav Ganguly the former Captain of Team India and the current President of BCCI for endorsing MyCircle 11 – an online fantasy cricket game. Apart from the issue of promoting such a venture as BCCI president, it was also the case of ambush marketing as Dream11 is an official partner with the board-run IPL and Ganguly was tweeting about a rival company.
The #INDvsBAN series is on fire! The excitement continues in the 3rd match with series levelled. Will #TeamIndia keep up the winning streak or will Bangladesh bounce back? Beat my team on @My11Cirlce & Win Big. Make Your Team Now!
— Sourav Ganguly (@SGanguly99) November 8, 2019
Ganguly, earlier this year, had also clarified about his association with JSW Cement after “Conflict” issues were raised. Ganguly stepped down from the role of mentor of the JSW group co-owned Delhi Capitals before taking up the role of BCCI president. He said he was not holding any influencing power to tinker with the cricketing matters of Delhi Capitals.
BCCI and its rules regarding conflict of interest often get a bit muddled up. It is because of this conflict of interest that Indian cricketing legend Rahul Dravid, who is the current director at the National Cricket Academy (NCA), cannot work anywhere else in Indian cricket or overseas – even as a consultant – and can neither get involved with commentary.
Kohli and BCCI need to sit across the table and sort out the issue so that the unnecessary negative press surrounding the issue could be quashed. And if indeed Kohli is found guilty of the potential conflict of interest, he should quickly recluse himself from any participation or investment in the company.