Sri Lanka board eyes tighter control over player contracts
Arjuna Ranatunga, the chairman of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), has said it is "unfair" the national board does not gain any money for releasing its players for the IPL . The SLC, he said, will now ensure it becomes the sole representative of its players and earns revenue from any future contract they sign with other organisations, he said.
Speaking in Colombo, Ranatunga refused to react to reports of a breakdown in ties with the BCCI following a recent meeting between Indian officials and Lankan representatives in Bangkok to negotiate a US$70 million deal. "I am waiting till I get a report [on the meeting] before I take up the matter," he said. Ranatunga has been a vocal critic of the IPL, comparing it once to instant noodles, and the BCCI has reportedly conveyed to Lankan officials that it will not negotiate with them on the deal as long as he is in charge of the country's cricket.
He made it clear the SLC would soon move to minimise the role of players' agents in the game, especially when it comes to signing IPL contracts, by amending players' contracts from next year.
"The issue with some of the players is that through their agents they go and sign with certain organisations unknown to us and eventually get into a conflict with SLC," Ranatunga said. "One thing the players should remember is that they are employees of SLC. Every year, we sign about 40 cricketers from the national and 'A' teams. We give them very attractive contracts.
"It is SLC that looks after the players from the junior level and brings them to the level of national cricket by spending a lot of money. The SLC is therefore duty-bound to earn some money from these cricketers rather than allow them to make payments to some agent outside. This way, we will safeguard our cricketers and make use of the money for cricket development."
Ranatunga said that the money gained as commission by players' agents from IPL contracts should "come to the SLC because the players are contracted to us". "We release these players for one and a half months but SLC does not gain any benefit. This is very unfair. In future, SLC will become the agents for its contracted cricketers and we hope to earn a lot of revenue though that. We are getting some advice from the legal side on how to go about it," he said.
The eight IPL teams have top 13 Sri Lankan players on three-year contracts, including Mahela Jayawardene, the captain, Kumar Sangakkara, the vice-captain, Muttiah Muralitharan, Sanath Jayasuriya and Chaminda Vaas.
"We cannot do anything right now with the present contracts, which have already been signed. But we will include certain clauses into the contracts next year, which would be beneficial to the players and SLC," Ranatunga said.
However, the board will abide by a sports ministry directive allowing Sri Lankan players to participate in next year's IPL instead of a tour to England at the same time that was negotiated by Ranatunga. The England series has since been put on hold. "If we get a directive from the minister of sport to release our top cricketers to play in a domestic cricket tournament in India, we have no right to question it," Ranatunga said.
Ranatunga said the SLC will lose money because of the aborted England series and blamed IPL for the loss. He was, however, hopeful that an arrangement could still be worked out with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) so that Sri Lanka could be part of the Stanford 20/20 quadrangular in 2010.
He blamed the IPL for SLC's loss of revenue due to the cancellation of the "special" England tour next year. "Because of the IPL, Sri Lanka will be losing a lot of money," he said. "We won't be able to play the postponed one-day triangular with India and South Africa slotted for next year. India has postponed that series because of the IPL. Likewise, we will lose US$2 million on the England tour, money which we can make use for the development of our cricket.
"We were to get some money for the first time for a tour to England. This is a special tour and they were very helpful to pull us out of the red and promise us the money. They also offered us the Stanford tournament as an added incentive. We might lose even that but we are still trying to negotiate," he said.
Outlining his reasons for pushing for the England tour, rather then the IPL, Ranatunga said that Test cricket needed to be preserved and playing for the country should be a player's "first choice".
"I don't want to elaborate anything further than that," he said. "I have mentioned this in a very understanding language to the players and explained to them. Taking decisions on their behalf is not my responsibility. As a past cricketer, I feel we have a great responsibility to see that Test cricket is not surpassed by other forms of cricket especially Twenty20. Instead of pursuing only money for cricket we have a responsibility to safeguard Test cricket."