Corruption and incompetence brings Sri Lanka's SLPL T20 tournament to its knees

This tournament is unlikely to be anything like the IPL
By Gavin Van Hoff | June 19, 2011

IPL
Don't expect the glitz and the glamour of the IPL in Sri Lanka's version. AFP PHOTO/Saeed KHAN.

The poorly thought out Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL) was handed over to the previously unheard of Singapore-based Somerset Entertainment Ventures – a company that has no apparent prior record of planning or managing any event. That decision has caused the inaugural tournament to hit yet another snag, with India now unlikely to send any players for the league.

The financially struggling Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) had hoped to replicate the successes of the money-making Indian Premier League (IPL). But with 30 days to go before the start of the tournament, the media is in the dark, an official website has not been created, and the squads have not yet been announced.

Rather worryingly, Somerset Entertainment Ventures does not even possess a website.

At a meeting on Saturday by of the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s tours, programme and fixtures committee, it was decided that “no Indian will play in the [SLPL] competition,” India’s Deccan Herald reported yesterday.

Along with scheduling conflicts, SLC’s decision to handover the handling of player contracts to Somerset Entertainment Ventures will prevent Indians from playing in the SLPL.

“What has also not gone down too well with the BCCI, it is learnt, is that the contracts for the SLPL aren’t being handed down by Sri Lanka Cricket but by the event managing company, which could make the resolution of any potential dispute extremely contentious,” the report said.

Last week, a press conference at Lord’s to announce the launch of the SLPL was cancelled on short notice, after a row between the MCC and ECB erupted over an unrelated incident.

And the news that India may not send its players for the SLPL couldn’t come at worse time for SLC, who are in a financial crisis, and had hoped the T20 tournament would be as lucrative as the IPL.

Interestingly, however, just last month, sports minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage claimed that SLC was not in any financial difficulties. “There is no financial crisis,” he told parliament in May.

But speaking to the BBC, earlier this month, SLC treasurer Sujeewa Rajapakse admitted that the governing body of cricket on the island was indeed seeking a bailout from the government.

Sri Lanka Cricket“There have been allegations that the widespread corruption by the senior officials involved in the construction of venues and the World Cup has been another major reason for the crisis,” the BBC said in the same report.

A week after the treasurer’s admission, the sports minister informed reporters in Colombo that there was a crisis at hand.

“Sri Lanka Cricket ran out of funds after hosting the World Cup and sought government help to settle some payments,” he admitted, backtracking from his earlier remarks.

During a recent cabinet meeting, ministers had not looked favourably upon the request for a bailout, according to a report on Sri Lanka's Daily Mirror newspaper.

“They refused to even discuss the memo saying there were other priorities for the government to attend [to] than using public funds to give adrenaline to the corrupt and inefficient SLC,” the paper quoted an unnamed source, as saying.

In a rare first, the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) has said that it will now summon SLC officials to investigate the allegations.

COPE chairman, minister of human resources, D.E.W. Gunasekara recently revealed to the state news agency Lankapuvath that SLC accounts had not been audited for five years.

Since COPE announced its intentions to investigate SLC, and with the recent allegations in the media of corruption and fraud, hard drives with crucial financial data pertaining to the World Cup have been stolen from SLC offices.

"It has to be an inside job. A robot didn't come and steal the hard disks," Aluthgamage told reporters on Tuesday.

“Sri Lanka Cricket had backed up the data and we don't need to worry about losing the information,” he added.

But you can’t blame the public for not taking the minister’s word, or for questioning if the backed up data isn’t an outright fraud; since his appointment, the minister has done little to prove his credibility.

SLPL team logosFurthermore, after seeking an exorbitant US $2.75 million (Rs. 290 million) for TV rights for the SLPL, and the state broadcaster Rupavahini being unable to afford the sum, the contract for local TV rights was handed to a Carlton Sports Network (CSN).

The Sri Lankan paper Daily Mirror has revealed that SLC secretary Ranatunga “is the CEO of the CSN Channel”.

It is unlikely that the SLPL will resemble the IPL, and it is highly doubtful that the tournament will generate any income to benefit Sri Lankan cricket. The five-year contract awarded to Somerset Entertainment Ventures has effectively placed the entire tournament, much of the profits included, in the hands of a little known organisation.

No record of SLC advertising the call for tenders, prior to handing the tender to Somerset Entertainment Ventures, has been found to date.

Meanwhile, SLPL tournament logos and team logos have been circulated on social networks by cricket fans. But neither SLC nor Somerset Entertainment Ventures has officially released graphics related to the event.

The incompetence of SLC's IT department, which handles their currently very amateur web presence and social media activities, becomes further apparent when numerous Twitter accounts and Facebook pages are currently making the claim that they officially represent the SLPL tournament.

© Island Cricket

Comments

Anonymous's picture

Incompetence and corruption of Sri Lanka Cricket [SLC] may all turn out to be accurate. But Gavin don't forget to see the bigger picture.

The SLPL may look like a damp squib today but India sees our league a major attention grabber and in affect a threat to the IPL 10 years down the line.

For example players / sponsors who may not agree with IPL terms and conditions maybe attracted to the SLPL and don't forget Somerset Entertainment would be gone in 5 years and with 5 years experience a future SLC Administration would be in a better position to call the shots and even have a city based franchise system. That would be India's biggest worry.

It appears a provincial based system as opposed to a city based system is not feasible in the long term and who knows a Mumbai Indians could theoretically set up shop in Sri Lanka for a lower cost if a shrewd operator like Thilanga Sumathipala comes on board and broadbase the SLPL into a Pan South Asian City League. Indian Board has no copyright over city names as Mumbai or Chennai or any other name of Indian cities and the trend is for players to spurn Central Contracts and act as free agents. Considering the strong judicial system in India it would take just one act of litigation to force BCCI from backing down on Central Contracts.

Anonymous's picture

Indians need not worry about the planned SLPL if they want to stop it all they will do is threaten ESPN/Star Sports/TEN or SET Max that they will not give them contracts for relay. They can kill it without even crossing boundaries

realist's picture

The main problem slpl has is that it has no income. No tv contracts other than nishanta's csn, no sponsor income, no franchise sales. This has "cancelled" written all over it. Stupidest move was to bring in Lalit Modi's partner in multiple businesses onto the Somerset board - of course the BCCI weren't going to help.

Anonymous's picture

@anonymous 1, SLPL a threat to IPL in 10 years time? You must be crazy. You can dream about this if SLPL still exists after 2 years.

And regarding MI setting up shop in SL, all I can say is that you don't understand anything about business and cricket.

Sharown de Thomian's picture
Member since:
23 December 2010
Last activity:
2 years 37 weeks

The latest news is that Lalit Modi has some involvements with Somerset ventures...

Marcian's picture
Member since:
8 December 2010
Last activity:
1 day 6 hours

Good read, Gavin! SLPL is going to self-destruct, the clock is ticking...

Patte's picture

Just do a little research and any person of basic intelligence will be able to tell you who the people behind somerset entertainments network are. The CEO is a senior at the TEN network.

If Carlton are also involved in this God Help SL cricket

Hilal's picture
Member since:
20 November 2008
Last activity:
6 hours 41 min

The tournament has been called off.

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