By Gavin Van Hoff | July 24, 2012
Brian Thomas, the former media manager at Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), has questioned the purchase of cricket equipment worth millions of rupees from a store owned by the treasurer of the cricket board and the awarding of television rights to a company in which the SLC secretary Nishantha Ranatunga is the CEO of.
The former SLC employee has called into question the awarding of local television rights to Carlton Sports Network (CSN) for three years, claiming that the tender process was not widely-publicised and rigged to suit CSN.
“I was the sports director of a leading electronic sports channel. I assure the public that during the past era we were written to by the SLC secretary to send in our bids tour by tour,” Thomas wrote on The Island newspaper on Monday.
“The three-year rights awarded to the current broadcaster was advertised through a government print media and on the SLC website which is hardly logged into by the public. This was done to facilitate [Ranatunga] to carry the baton and run the race himself.
“What a shame. Is this transparency? Can anyone name a ruling body in [the] world employing a CEO of a media organisation as its secretary?”
The current SLC secretary was also the secretary of the previous interim-administration responsible for cost overruns while constructing stadia for last year’s World Cup, as well as other blunders that have left the board in millions in debt and near bankruptcy.
Ranatunga however was permitted to contest in the SLC elections this year and he was elected uncontested in January. Several candidates, including Michael de Zoysa, who was running for the position of secretary, withdrew from the race at the very last minute. Interestingly, de Zoysa is now an SLC-approved television commentator.
According to Thomas, Ranatunga “forced his way in by bullying his competitors to withdraw.”
“The same theory was used for the television deal in depriving others from competing,” he further wrote.
After a cabinet decision last June, it was decided only private broadcasters “exclusively dedicated to sports” will be allowed to bid for local television rights. By only allowing sports channels and state media to bid for rights, opposition lawmakers say the government cleared the way for CSN to be involved in the bidding process, while preventing other private broadcasters in Sri Lanka from bidding.
In addition to the controversy surrounding broadcast rights, Thomas claims the cricket board purchases cricket equipment from a retail store owned by the SLC treasurer Nuski Mohamed.
“Apparently, a fat cheque of Rs. 1,600,000.00 was paid to The Cricket Shop by SLC for the supply of cricket equipment,” Thomas wrote.
“I wonder how some of the other sports shops in the country feel about this. I presume they would simply say we have no chance of getting an opportunity, since the treasurer of SLC is the owner of The Cricket Shop. One does not need a rocket scientist to convince the public that SLC is the biggest client that any cricket sports shop would dream of supplying to.”
While the cricket board, according to Thomas, delayed “signing the cheque to pay salaries to its own employees”, they were quick to pay a caterer.
“The caterer had voting rights at SLC elections,” he alleged.
Thomas, whose contract was not renewed earlier this year, served as the media manager at the cricket board from 2009.
Sri Lanka trapped in a whole new ball game
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