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Modi planned 1.2bn pound `Project Victoria` in England: Clarke

London: A 1.2 billion pound sterling plan called "Project Victoria", allegedly conceived by Lalit Modi to launch a rebel Twenty20 league in England, is set to be at the center of a libel case filed by the sacked IPL chief against ECB boss Giles Clarke, according to a report.

Clarke is being sued for libel over an e-mail he sent last May to Indian Cricket Board warning of an alleged plot by Modi and international sports marketing firm IMG to "destroy world cricket`s structure, especially in England" and the case is being heard in the High Court in July, `Daily Telegraph` reported.

The England and Wales Cricket Board chief faces two separate libel actions -- one from Lalit Modi and another from IMG -- with both of whom denying they were involved in any plan to set up a rebel T20 league in England.

Clarke has alleged that IMG and Modi held discussions with leading English counties over a secret plan to introduce an IPL-style T20 competition involving franchises rather than counties and projected to be worth more than 1.2 billion pounds.

Three months before the meeting with the counties, Modi and IMG produced a document entitled `Project Victoria`, a working model of how franchise cricket could work in England, according to the newspaper.

Clarke alleged that `Project Victoria` proposed setting up a new corporate governing body, separate to the ECB, to run the league, and that this body would sell franchises on behalf of counties involved.

"IMG and Modi developed the plan because they "believed that the ownership of counties by members was anachronistic and the counties could be exploited," Clarke had alleged. These franchises - "contemplated to be the existing IPL
franchise holders" - would be allowed to be owned by corporate bodies and individuals and would receive the majority of revenue from the media rights, central sponsorships and gate receipts, he said.

According to the newspaper, IMG would own 50 per cent of the equity in the league and had employed an American consultancy firm called Raine Consulting to assist with the project. Over 11 years Raine estimated the value of the league to IMG would be 369,700,000 pounds with 700 million pounds flowing to the franchises, and the counties receiving 200million pounds.

The newspaper said IMG will argue before the High Court that `Project Victoria` was a private brainstorming project and that contained within the document was the acknowledgment that the new league could become a reality only with the full permission of the ECB and Clarke. It will also claim the project has never, at any point, been discussed with counties.

IMG denied there was any attempt to work outside the remit of ECB. It accused Clarke of making false statements in sworn court affidavits. It dismisses his claim to have taken legal advice before sending his e-mail to the Indian board on May 2 and accuses him of resending a doctored version of the e-mail, deliberately backdated, six days later.

"In a desperate attempt to exculpate himself, the defendant has even lied in his defence, despite verifying it with a statement of truth, by falsely claiming he had
conducted various discussions with and obtained confirmatory advice from a number of officials in the 51-minute period between receiving Mr Regan’s email and sending his May 2 e-mail," said the latest documents lodged at the High Court and quoted by the newspaper.

IMG also stated Clarke had been "well aware" of the lunch where the counties met IMG and Modi and had been briefed. It also states that he had discussed it with Indian officials and had at no stage made any attempt to contact IMG.

Both Modi and IMG claimed the meeting with the counties was casual and that it was stressed to them that "such a tournament would have to have the approval of the ECB and other governing bodies of cricket".

Clarke wrote the email to BCCI chief Shashank Manohar after receiving minutes of a meeting in Delhi on March 31 between IMG, Modi and three county representatives - Stewart Regan, the then chief executive of Yorkshire, Colin Povey, chief executive of Warwickshire, and David Hodgkiss, the Lancashire treasurer. Regan circulated the minutes in an e-mail, a copy of which was later sent to Clarke.


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