Sri Lanka news December 24, 2013

Nishantha Ranatunga defends SL's new stadiums

Sri Lanka Cricket secretary Nishantha Ranatunga has responded to criticism of the board's financial management, saying expensive stadiums in Hambantota and Pallekele were built with the wider national economy in mind, and not simply with a view to making a profit for the board. The two new grounds and extensive renovations for the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo condemned SLC to a debt of almost $70 million. Though the board has since paid off a significant portion of this debt, it has had to resort to austerity measures as their finances continue to ail them two years after the stadia were completed for the 2011 World Cup.

SLC's financial predicament has recently attracted attention in parliament, after the board requested government assistance to pay off their debts, particularly to the state-owned Bank of Ceylon. The government, however, has not warmed to the idea in public, with one minister even labeling the board a "drain on the country".

"The benefit [of these new stadiums] comes really to the nation, not to Sri Lanka Cricket," Ranatunga told Daily FT. "That is the important thing that the politicians have forgotten. People who are criticising, they don't understand the rationale. For example, by having these grounds there is a lot of revenue that got into the country. The ICC itself spent about $30 million for the World Cup in Sri Lanka. In 2012 [during the World Twenty20] again they spent about $35 to $40 million. So that money doesn't come to us direct. It'll go to the hoteliers, travel agents, the food suppliers, the transport agents - from the baggage handler to the airlines, everybody gets a part of that."

"We refurbished [the Premadasa Stadium] after 22 years. It is basically a foreign-exchange earner for the country rather than an income source for itself. The benefit doesn't come to us, it comes to the people, the businessmen and to the economy and the government."

The new grounds also promote the development of cricket in the country - another benefit that is not reflected in SLC's financial position, Ranatunga said.

"If somebody is comparing how much we get from those grounds, in terms of revenue, they are badly mistaken. Take Sinhalese Sports Club, Nondescripts Cricket Club and Colombo Cricket Club, for example - if the government wasn't funding them, they could build super-luxury apartments on their grounds rather than giving it to develop sports in the country. You can't expect people to build stadiums and make money as well. That is for the development of cricket in this country and to get more tours where the economy is also benefited.

"Sri Lanka Cricket is not a profit-making institute, we are supposed to develop cricket."

The board has also requested an $8 million interest-free loan from the ICC in order to pay off most of their Bank of Ceylon debt, and there is only one incoming tour to Sri Lanka in 2014, but Ranatunga expressed confidence over SLC's ability to continue reducing its deficit.

"This year is not a good year for us but next year we have got some ICC and ACC tournaments so we are okay. In 2015 we have the World Cup in Australia so we are basically okay with that too and next year we have the England tour. From next year onwards things will fall into line much better than what it is today," he said.

"Although people criticise Sri Lanka Cricket, our revenues have gone up by between 400% and 500% versus what we had. Our TV revenues have gone up 400% to 500% and team sponsorships have gone up by 600% to 700%, so we are quite comfortable. If you don't spend the money, all those investments won't come to us."

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

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