By Hilal Suhaib | January 21, 2012
Sri Lanka’s contracted cricketers, who have been without pay since March last year, are "dead broke", according to a report in a local newspaper.
The island’s cricket board has been unable to pay salaries after exceeding their budget for the construction and renovation of stadiums for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, which left Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) in $69 million in debt.
"We know how rich the senior players are. So, they don’t feel the effect of missing salaries and have not taken up the matter seriously so far. As long as the seniors don’t make a fuss about it, the SLC is not going to take a serious view of the problem," the Daily Mirror quoted an unnamed source as saying.
"However, it has now gone beyond [the] tolerance level of junior players who have taken loans. But unless they get the support of their seniors, they hardly can do anything. You have to feel sorry for the young blokes."
"The moment seniors feel like taking a stand for their less affluent colleagues, the problem will explode," the source added, suggesting that a strike by the players could not be ruled out, as the situation was dire for some.
"A junior player’s mother had recently made an appeal to the Sri Lanka Cricketers Association (SLCA) to help the family financially, as they had been living on the US $1000 earned by the player and they had felt the loss of [that] income severely," the report said.
Financial institutions from which the players have borrowed loans for vehicles and property are now said to be breathing down their necks, because they have been unable to pay their monthly instalments.
In spite of the fact that the players remained unpaid for the last nine months, sports minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage recently referred to SLC’s financial crisis as a temporary setback and denied the situation was a crisis. Similarly, secretary of SLC Nishantha Ranatunga told ESPNCricinfo earlier this month that the issue was merely a "short-term liquidity problem".
According to Ranatunga, the newly constructed stadiums in Pallekele and Hambantota, along with the R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo are "assets" valued at nearly $62 million.
"At present SLC owns assets worth Rs 7 billion Sri Lankan rupees [$61.6 million] in the form of new grounds, where as the liabilities amount to Rs 1.5 billion Sri Lankan rupees [$13.2 million]. How can you call it a bankrupt situation then," Ranatunga asked, in an interview with ESPNCricinfo.
Last month, the committee on public enterprises (COPE) submitted a report to parliament on SLC’s finances. According to the report, SLC is three billion rupees [$26 million] in debt.
In addition, due to the lack of funds, SLC has handed the the task of maintaining the stadiums to the country’s military.
In 2010, SLC announced that it was increasing the number of contracted cricketers and awarded contracts to 99 players. Only 16 of those contracted cricketers – members of the World Cup squad – recently received part of their World Cup fees from the ICC. A majority of Sri Lanka’s professional cricketers with SLC contracts have seen no remuneration from their main source of income for nearly a year.
© Island Cricket