Uncertainty surrounding Sri Lanka’s Future Tour Programme (FTP) has driven potential bidders for national team sponsorship, ground and media rights of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) for 2020-2023 to seek a guarantee that the schedule – particularly India’s tour of Sri Lanka – will be implemented.
According to SLC, they have reached the final stages of the tender process, having provided answers to clarifications. However, the prospective bidders have expressed concern about the FTP and, more specifically, the scheduled India tour of Sri Lanka in June/July this year, in view of the pandemic. Consequently, bids that were to be closed on Monday are extended again till the end of June as the Board is desperate to host India within the new cricket cycle.
As expected, the Board has announced that India’s limited-overs tour to Sri Lanka will not take place in June as scheduled but are hopeful it will take place in August, subject to the Government allowing the resumption of competitions amidst coronavirus fears.
The Board maintains that their Indian counterparts have confirmed verbally they will make provisions to hold the series during the term if it cannot be held as scheduled owing to international travel restrictions.
The tour’s postponement and uncertainty surrounding its future may force prospective bidders to reconsider before committing to any sponsorships, particularly media rights which is SLC’s biggest revenue earner.
“The uncertainty will not help us in driving up the contract prices,” a senior SLC official said on condition of anonymity.
“But having said that, I must also confess India is committed to honour the FTP commitments. If not in August this year, when we are trying to sneak the short series in, we will certainly play it during the three-year cycle. We can give this guarantee to the prospective bidders.”
The India series includes three ODIs and as many T20s. If played, it will help SLC generate substantial income through sponsorships rights.
According to the FTP in force for the next three years, Sri Lanka is scheduled to host 25 Tests, 60 ODIs and 38 T20 internationals during the new term which began on April 1, 2020.
SLC attempted to close the broadcast deal before the pandemic. But it reached out for a better deal after less money was offered following the withdrawal of Sony Pictures Networks – its long-standing TV partner – from bidding citing lack of transparency. The pandemic may still affect the deal with one insider saying, “We might not even get what was offered earlier.”
SLC’s long partnership with Dialog Axiata as national team sponsor also came to an end this year. The Board is now looking for a new sponsor. An official said a few companies, including their former sponsor, and some Indian companies have shown interest in buying rights. But their concerns with regards to the financial viability remains on top given the uncertainty surrounding the FTP.