Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) has decided to cancel the money spinning Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL) for this year.
A top SLC official told “Daily Mirror” that this decision was taken last evening at an emergency meeting between SLC office bearers and SLPL’s organiser Somerset Entertainment Ventures (SEV) at SLC headquarters. SEV was represented by its Chief Executive Sandeep Bhammer and Karan Mehta.
Lack of interest by prospective buyers to invest in the franchises has been the reason for the cancellation, he said.
The decision taken at the meeting will be officially ratified today that the SLC Ex-Co meeting and will deliver a crippling financial blow to SLC.
The inaugural SLPL produced a stunning Rs. 289 million profit which will be badly missed by SLC this year which has already been marked as one of the worst ever financial years for SLC in recent memory with only a very few international tours lined up.
SLPL Director Ajith Jayasekara declined to make a comment and said that the tournament would be taken up for discussion at today’s SLC Ex-co meeting.
The SLC official said that both SEV and SLC had been in constant dialog with franchise owners and everything was going smoothly though the investors showed a strange reluctance to honour financial commitments.
“The ownership period for a franchise was cut back last year to seven years from the originally agreed 25 years due to a controversy over the time frame. However, when the franchises raised concern this year saying that seven years was not enough to make it a profitable investment, SLC changed the clause again to make the ownership period a 25-yer term. We were very flexible and did so much to accommodate all kinds of their requests. In short,we bended backwards to them. It is really unfortunate that they decided to sabotage it,” said the official.
He also revealed that three investors had confirmed with SLC that they are interested in continuing with the tournament this year as well but had indicated that they will not meet the financial commitments till other franchises also confirm their participation. Two new buyers from Dubai had also expressed interest to buy franchises this year.
“We had so many discussions and negotiations with the franchises and were extremely flexible with them. But we felt we had to draw the line somewhere and implement deadlines to ascertain how serious they were” said the official.
SLPL had thus set 12 noon yesterday as the deadline for franchises to deposit their payments and also guarantee fees for the players. But no franchise had met this commitment leaving the SLPL organisers with no option but to cancel the event for this year.
“We were really concerned that they did not deposit the bank guarantees for player fees by today’s deadline. If they can’t show that they are genuine, how can we trust that they would honour the payments of players? We have to think about the players above all. Even the FICA (Federation of International Cricketers' Associations) is adamant on the bank guarantees for player payments” he explained.
Earlier last week, SLPL decided to postpone the player auction which was scheduled for July 14 by six days to July 20.
SLPL which was mired in controversy from the beginning received a huge blow in may this year in the fall out of the IPL match fixing scandal when Indian police told media that one of the SLPL franchise owners was involved with the Indian bookie ring.
Then earlier this month Delhi Police Special Cell commissioner of police S N Srivastava said Jitender Jain alias Jeetu, a bookie arrested by Delhi Police Special Cell from Ahemdabad has been involved in betting for a decade and had even tried to make deals with players from SLPL franchise Uva.
Indian media also quoted disgraced Indian actor Vindoo Dara Singh, arrested in the IPL betting racket, has allegedly told the Mumbai Police Crime Branch interrogators that wanted bookies Sanjay and Pawan Jaipur have stakes in a team playing in the Sri Lanka Premier League on benami basis.
Uva franchise which won the SLPL last year, refused to send their players to the Champions League tournament in South Africa citing financial difficulties and SLC had finance this tour for the squad captained by Thilina Kandamby at a cost of more than US $ 300,000. The franchise did not pay back the money to SLC and in return SLC held back their prize money of
US $ 100,000 but suffered an obvious loss.
Several franchises were also accused of defaulting other payments such as hotel bills while the Uva franchise was also involved in a match fixing controversy during last year’s tournament when a tape of an alleged fixing discussion of SLPL matches was leaked to the media by one of the team owners. Uva had also defaulted payments of more than Rs. 65 million to their suppliers.
The tournament cancellation also comes as a cruel blow to the SLC which last year requested and obtained a cancellation of three Test matches against South Africa during the world’s number one team’s current tour of Sri Lanka, in order to secure a window for the SLPL. (Channaka de Silva)