Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) may have been getting flak from all quarters in recent times over various issues and the Sri Lanka cricket team may have lacked consistency on field, but it was proved beyond any doubts that the brand value of the national team has skyrocketed beyond the wildest dreams of any financial expert as the bids for the Sri Lanka team’s sponsorship for the next four years proved yesterday.
Sri Lanka’s largest mobile phone operator Dialog Axiata had made a stunning all-time record bid of Rs. one billion and seventy seven million to sponsor the Sri Lanka team from May 1, 2013 to April 30, 2017 in response to tenders that had been called by SLC.
However, Dialog will not have the right to have their name on the Sri Lanka team shirts in the bag as yet as the government-owned Sri Lanka Tea Board has also submitted a whopping bid of Rs. one billion and two hundred thousand, which is in very close proximity to the highest bid that it has left SLC’s top officials scratching their heads to evaluate the best candidate.
The team’s current sponsor for ICC events Homestead and Madison Media, a multi-national media agency that handles several high profile corporate firms of the country, have also made huge bids.
Interestingly, Sri Lanka team’s current sponsor Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel has not made a bid. Mobitel, Sri Lanka’s second largest mobile phone operator took over as the main sponsor of the national team from April 2010 for a three year period for what now looks like a pittance at 4.85 million US dollars (Rs. 630.5 million).
The National team sponsor has the rights for both the men’s and women’s teams. The women’s team which almost had no commercial value in the past can also claim a right for more attention both commercially and among fans, following their magnificently improved performance at the Women’s World Cup currently in progress in India. This will be added value to the winning bidder.
Plantations Industries Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe had obtained special permission from the cabinet to bid for the Sri Lanka team’s cricket rights in a bid to promote Sri Lanka Tea which is the country’s biggest commercial name internationally, sources told “Daily Mirror”.
Putting the interest of the country first, SLC will seriously consider having Sri Lanka Tea Board as the team sponsor despite it being the lower bid, sources said.
“As Sri Lanka Cricket, we have to consider the country’s interest first. So, we prefer to go ahead with the Sri Lanka Tea Board. There is no rule to say that we have to give the sponsorship to the highest bidder. It is a matter of going for what we consider the best,” an SLC official told “Daily Mirror” last night.
SLC might seek negotiations with Sri Lanka Tea Board to increase their bid before deciding on whom to award the tender.
Sources said that SLC President Upali Dharmadasa and Vice President Asanga Seneviratne were involved in the process of opening the bids yesterday while the other members of the SLC Tender Committee Secretary Nishantha Ranatunga, Treasurer Nuski Mohamed and Chief Executive Ajit Jayasekara were involved in another meeting to discuss the SLC TV rights tender for the next seven years.
The confidence of sponsors is rare good news for the cash-strapped cricket board which has often been plagued in the past with controversies. This obviously comes as a confidence booster for the current office bearers of SLC, the first elected body to govern the sport in the country in seven years after a spate of politically appointed interim committees.
Sri Lanka Mobitel had acquired the national cricket team rights in 2010 from Dialog. The team was also sponsored by Dilmah Tea and Singer in the past years.
Dialog is a subsidiary of Axiata Group Berhad and Dialog was listed on the Colombo Stock Exchange in 2005 and according to Wikipedia currently holds approximately USD 496 million in market capitalisation.
Dialog who launched its services in 1995, presently has the largest number of subscribers and revenue share in Sri Lanka’s mobile networks.
The Tea Board is the apex regulatory and administrative body of the Sri Lankan tea industry. First set up in 1976, it comprises representatives from both private and government bodies involved in the industry, including cultivators and manufacturers, traders, exporters and plantation employees. It performs a wide variety of functions with respect to the industry. (Channaka de Silva)