Dhoni's real midas touch

New Delhi: Following the IPL spot-fixing scandal, came the revelation that Mahendra Singh Dhoni has a 15 per cent stake in Rhiti Sports Management — a marketing firm that not only takes care of the interests of players like Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja and Pragyan Ojha, but also manages Dhoni-led IPL team Chennai Super Kings.

While it is a clear case of conflict of interest between Dhoni the skipper and Dhoni the businessman, news of Dhoni’s business association with Rhiti Sports Management has also thrown the spotlight on other top sports management firms which have Indian cricketers among their clients.

But while Rhiti Sports Management was formed by Arun Pandey in 2007 to cash in on Dhoni’s stardom, some of the other top sports management firms — Gaames Unlimited, World Sports Group (WSG) and Cornerstone — have had a very professional approach towards their clients.

These firms stress that there is no such conflict of interest in their dealings, a fact that would be verified once BCCI goes ahead with an accreditation process for all official player-managers in the country.

While Gaames Unlimited manages Umesh Yadav, R Ashwin, Ajinkya Rahane and Parthiv Patel from the present crop of India players, WSG boasts of names such as Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir and Cheteshwar Pujara.

Cornerstone too can’t be taken lightly as they manage talents like Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Rohit Sharma and Yuvraj Singh (to an extent).

Atul Srivastava, managing partner at Gaames Unlimited, admits that while it is obvious for people to think that even other sports management firms have celebrities holding stakes in the company, it is an backed by facts.

He believes that once BCCI’s policy of regulating players’ managers comes into effect, the picture will be much clearer.

“I am actually waiting for BCCI to provide accreditation to players’ managers as that will clarify the whole picture as to what are the shareholding patterns, what role each employee plays in the firm and what exactly is the contract between the player and the company,” Srivastava told MAIL TODAY. He goes a step further and discusses the difference between a manager and an agent.

“Managing a player is a professional job. Agents don’t bother about players. They are only concerned about their own cut. We as managers sometimes also have to play the role of father, friend, motivator and critic."

“We play a much larger role and look into all aspects of a player’s life. Be it their public appearances or their investments, we take care of every single move. It isn’t very prominent in the Indian context and is often looked down upon,” he said.

Pragyan Ojha, who was part of Gaames Unlimited, is with Rhiti Sports since March. But Srivastava has no hard feelings.

“If he gets a better deal in Rhiti Sports, I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t get attached to them. It is a professional world,” he said.

 Srivastava made it clear that players don’t hold stakes in the company and that getting accredited would bring stakeholders in the company and other details into the open.

His opinion is echoed by Harish Krishnamanchar — country head and senior vice president of WSG. “We look at each player as a brand and arrive at attributes of a player that the marketers would be able to leverage. We also advise them with respect to all sponsorship opportunities and creative usage by the brands that they endorse. Where required, we support them in communication and event management as well,” he told MAIL TODAY .

Krishnamachar also believes that BCCI trying to get all players’ management companies accredited is a step in the right direction as it would stop shady elements from getting close to players.

“I believe in the principle of player representatives getting accredited. It can only help in bringing clarity of representation to the business of player management,” he said.

While some sports managers believe that friends and associates should be stopped from introducing themselves as players’ agents or managers, Krishnamachar’s has a different opinion.

“There are many player representatives who have led the way as individuals and I do not think it hurts in any way. We need to accept what is in the best interest of athletes and the credibility of the business. If individuals have the expertise and capability there is no need to keep them away,” he said.

One of the employees of Cornerstone, involved in managing quite a few cricketers, believes that once the BCCI has exact details of players’ relations with their management companies, all questions of conflict of interest would be put to rest.


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