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Nishantha Ranatunga defends SL's new stadiums

Andrew Fidel Fernando

December 24, 2013

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The clouds encircle Pallekele, Pakistan v Zimbabwe, World Cup, Pallekele, March 14, 2011
Pallekele was one of two new venues at the 2011 World Cup © Getty Images
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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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Posted by   on (December 29, 2013, 3:03 GMT)

History has decided the contribution of Dambulla stadium to the nation. Similarly it will certainly decide of Hambantota.

Posted by Litmus on (December 25, 2013, 23:42 GMT)

SLC have to make additional revenue from their grounds. Host musical shows in the off season. Aggresively market these grounds to other sports such as rugby soccer etc. by modifying facilities. A ground cannot be expected to meet it's cost by hosting 1 or 2 matches annually.

Posted by warneneverchuck on (December 24, 2013, 20:12 GMT)

I think instead of building stadiums they shud hire coaches who can teach them how to win a test in aus. Also their players like sanga and co. Needs bit coaching to learn to score outside asia

Posted by   on (December 24, 2013, 17:40 GMT)

Pallekelle and the refurbishment of RPS were totally fine. Even now Pallekella gets good crowds. It's the Hambantota stadium that makes no sense and was an absolutely selfish move by administrators. SL would have benefited more from a stadium in Anuradhapura compared to this. Cricket in SL will suffer for many, many years because of this move.

Posted by Mythh on (December 24, 2013, 14:16 GMT)

Most of these grounds stay empty through out the match also them being at remote location contribute to the same, improve the facilities at old places and grounds , get good coaches, spending money wisely is one thing but doing it Blindly specially when you are bankrupt is foolishness, people have all rights to be upset.

Posted by shihan12 on (December 24, 2013, 13:43 GMT)

Pallekele ground is ok because of the location.. but who wants a ground in a middle of a forest .. Hambantota suriyawewa ground is a failed project so now SLC should do something to earn those money back..but I cant see any plan from them.

Posted by   on (December 24, 2013, 13:19 GMT)

Total waste of money ....... Building a cricket ground in Hambantota is just to please the government. SL Cricket Board doesn't know what they are doing. They ruin Sri Lankan cricket listening to politicians. I don't know what will happen to Sri Lankan cricket in future if this cricket board continues to act like this.

Posted by   on (December 24, 2013, 10:57 GMT)

Two white elephants, would have been better to improve the facilities at the old Asgiriya Stadium in Kandy and the ground in Galle than build two new grounds in the middle of nowhere. Ranatunga can dress it up how he wants but to be millions of dollars in debt, unable to pay their own players for months and too cash strapped to host any test matches for over a year, nearly 3 years after these grounds were built, is incompetence and financial mismanagement of the highest order.

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