The chaotic situation at Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) reached crisis proportions yesterday, just a fortnight ahead of a near-two-month full tour of England as the country’s national players who are rebelling against the establishment delivered another decisive blow.
The players who are presently without a central contract due to a simmering issue of a disputed payment, attended the training at Premadasa Stadium yesterday without wearing the Sri Lanka national team’s official clothing and chose instead to wear clothes of their own choice.
The players have to wear the team’s official practice gear at training when they are under contract with SLC, and the official clothing displays the commercial logos of Sri Lanka team’s sponsors Dialog.
A top official told “Daily Mirror” that the latest move by players would put SLC in serious trouble with their generous and accommodating sponsors and predicted that things could turn much worse if players choose to wear clothing that promotes their own individual sponsors, some who would directly clash with the interests of Dialog.
“This definitely is a crisis because SLC has no control over the players who are at the freedom to do as they please at the moment. They have an issue with SLC, so I would not be surprised if they make the maximum out of it and try to inflict the biggest pain they can on SLC. It also gives them the opportunity to showcase their might, especially at a time when the whole country is behind them after a world title win,” said the official.
“Things would turn even worse if players turn up for practices wearing clothing that display their own sponsors. For example Mahela (Jayawardene) is sponsored by Mobitel and Kumar (Sangakkara) is sponsored by Airtel. Both of these companies clash directly with the interests of Dialog as all of them are in the same business. That is a situation no sponsor wants,” he added.
Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews and his deputy Dinesh Chandimal met national selectors last evening at a special selection meeting but the contract issue still remained unresolved and the chaos and uncertainty are obviously not the best preparation for an important tour that features as many as seven ODIs, a T20 International and two Tests.
Yesterday’s blow came to SLC in the background of another sponsorship issue involving Dialog who have decided to hold back a Rs. 10 million sponsorship they offered for last year’s SLC annual cricket awards till SLC were able to sort out a sticking issue of rights for Sri Lanka team merchandise products with fellow national team sponsor Sri Lanka Tea Board, as revealed in a management committee document.
SLC’s Head of Marketing Vajira Dassanayake however claimed that their partnership with Dialog was far stronger to be shaken by a minor issue.
“This is completely a peripheral issue which Sri Lanka Tea Board is finding difficult to finalise. It has not affected our rapport or our strong partnership with Dialog at all. They are generous and warm and the bond between the two firms could not be better. Dialog even threw in an additional sponsorship of Rs. 18 million for the team’s sponsorship for the Asia Cup as ICC events and ACC events were excluded from the original agreement. Then they hosted a massive welcome party to the team when they returned from the ICC World T20 and I am sure that a party of that scale would definitely have cost them much more,” Dassanayake said.
Dialog and Tea Board have both completed the first instalment of their sponsorship fee upon signing the agreement last year, with Dialog paying 40 percent of their Rs. 753 million sponsorship while Tea Board paid 33 percent of their Rs. 550 million sponsorship. The balance two instalments are due in May this year and May next year from both sponsors.
In the initial agreement, SLC had awarded rights for official merchandise to Dialog, but Tea Board had later demanded joint rights to which Dialog had agreed but asked for a tripartite agreement rather than having an addendum to the original agreement.
However, the Tea Board has been dragging its feet on the issue for more than three months which has made life difficult both for Dialog and SLC.
SLC’s turbulent period was further marked by team coach Paul Farbrace’s shocking exit of which came in the wake of another controversy when the two senior players Jayawardene and Sangakkara slammed Board officials upon their arrival in the country from their victorious ICC World T20 campaign. (Channaka de Silva)