Sri Lanka news October 6, 2013

SL govt denies heavy cricket funding

Sri Lanka's sports ministry has denied that it is preparing to disburse Rs. 389 million to Sri Lanka Cricket for development of cricket facilities outside the main centres. The figure (approx US$ 2.96 million) was first reported in the Sunday Times and confirmed to ESPNcricinfo by SLC secretary Nishantha Ranatunga, but the sports ministry's spokesperson told this reporter that the sum is actually closer to Rs. 30 million (approx US 228,000).

"The sports ministry can't give that kind of money to just one sport," Harsha Abeykoon, the sports ministry spokesperson, said. "The amount is more likely to be around 30 million. We are currently in the process of giving away Rs 100 million to sports, particularly to those representing us in the Commonwealth and Asian Games, and cricket will get a portion of that. That money will go towards developing facilities and providing equipment to schools."

Ranatunga, however, said that SLC made a special request to the ministry for a grant amounting to Rs 389 million, and that the sports minister "was quite keen" to grant the sum, although it had not yet been officially confirmed. He said the funds would be directed towards building turf pitches, which are almost non-existent outside major cities. New matting pitches and improvements to practice facilities in rural schools would also be covered by the grant.

Ranatunga had told the Sunday Times that the prospect of drawing foreign teams to Sri Lanka during their off seasons also featured in the board's decision to apply for the grant. "We are very fortunate that in the Indian sub-continent, there is an opportunity of playing the game right through year barring rain. As a result of the time restrictions in these [foreign] countries, there is a huge influx of teams arriving in the island to indulge in the game during their off seasons.

"So if we could offer better facilities in the outstations, it would be a boon to the economies even in those areas. When a team arrives to play cricket in Sri Lanka there is a big contingent of tourists that arrive and they spend for their hotel bookings."

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here