Despite being the biggest driver of cricket’s popularity, the BCCI treated players less like assets and more like employees, the Supreme Court said on Monday, giving legal shape to the formation of a players’ association which will have a say in cricket management.The SC ensured the formation of players’ association at national level with funding from BCCI and at the state level through permanent and associate members of the board.Importantly, it said two persons – a man and a woman – from the players’ association would become part of the BCCI and state associations at national and state levels to have a say in management of the game. CJI T S Thakur and Justice FMI Kalifulla said, “Players’ association, it is obvious, would represent a very significant and important segment of the stakeholders in the game. Those who have played the game are, therefore, better equipped to understand its nuances, its challenges and concerns relevant to its development and promotion, and cannot be left out of management.”Keeping in view the numerical strength of the apex council, two nominees representing the players’ association will not unfavourably tilt the power balance within the apex council nor bring in any undesirable or extraneous element into the management of BCCI.”It noted with concern the report of the panel headed by ex-CJI RM Lodha on shabby treatment of players and accepted its recommendation for formation of players’ association to curb the high-handed approach of those at the helm of board affairs. The BCCI and state associations had no qualms about Lodha panel’s recommendation for players’ association but had objected to funding these associations at the national and state level.The court found a middle path. Leaving the discretion of funding for players’ associations to the BCCI and state associations, the court said, “We do not see any merit in the objection raised by the BCCI that such support need not be given or would unduly burden the BCCI. An association of cricket players would doubtless give to the crickeing community not only an opportunity to contribute to the promotion of the game but a sense of participation also, so very important for the promotion of a game that brings so much joy and feelings of nationalism among our countrymen.”Writing the judgment for the bench, Justice Thakur said, “Financial support, to the extent possible, having regard to the resources available with the BCCI and its financial commitments in other areas relevant to the game is not therefore an unacceptable idea.”The recommendation requiring financial support to the players’ association cannot therefore be rejected especially when the extent of such support is left to the BCCI to be decided on a fair and objective view of its financial resources and commitments.”