Sri Lanka full-strength but contracts unsigned
Sri Lanka's top team departed for the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh on Sunday morning, but the standoff over player contracts persisted, and will now likely only be resolved when the team returns. A board official had offered players an opportunity to sign when the team assembled at SLC's Maitland Place offices at 4am on Sunday, but the players had refused.*
The players had met late on Saturday to discuss their position, but although SLC had issued threats of sending a second-string team to the World T20 earlier in the day, the players maintained their opposition to a contract that does not feature a percentage cut of the payment SLC receives for the team's participation in global tournaments.
On Saturday night, SLC CEO Ashley de Silva indicated the board was content to defer contract negotiations. "If they don't sign it before they leave, I suppose we will look at it again when they come back," he said.
SLC stands to gain most from its cricketers playing in the tournament unsigned. The board is no longer bound to pay the $500,000 flat fee, nor the two-tiered incentive payments it had offered as part of its revised offer, which was a partial sop to the players' demand for 20% of the gross sum received by SLC for tournament participation.
As had happened in 2012, when contracts were not signed until mid-July, the players may not even receive match fees or regular salaries as long as the contracts remain unsigned. These funds are likely to be retroactively credited when the contracts are agreed to, however.
The players had softened their demands by the eve of their departure, asking for 12% of the tournament fee. The ICC is expected to pay SLC approximately $8.9 million for the World T20, meaning the figure the players had held out for, was about $1.07 million. The difference between the guaranteed flat fee the board offered and the percentage sought by the players amounts to about $570,000 for the tournament. But beyond those sums, the players' objection to SLC's proposal is largely driven by the belief they are due a percentage of the ICC payment, primarily as compensation for the use of their images in promotional material for global tournaments.
Sri Lanka's players had received a cut of the ICC event fee from 2003 to 2012, until the board struck that payment from player contracts last year. The players' grievances are also fueled by the complaint that they are being penalised for the administrators' misuse of finances. The board had run up debts of almost $70 million when they built two new stadia and renovated a third for the 2011 World Cup. Player payment has caused strife at the beginning of every 12-month contracts cycle since then.
The present standoff is also believed to have caused conflict within the board. President Jayantha Dharmadasa had been sympathetic to the players' concerns, but was outmuscled in the board room by an opposing faction.
*0600GMT, March 16: The article was updated with the latest on the contracts issues
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here