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News

LPL terminates 2020 champion franchise Jaffna Stallions

The franchise will be one of three, along with Colombo and Dambulla, to have new owners for the tournament's second edition

The victorious Jaffna Stallions players with the trophy, Jaffna Stallions vs Galle Gladiators, LPL 2020 final, Hambantota, December 16, 2020

Less than a year after winning the inaugural LPL, the Jaffna Stallions franchise has been terminated  •  Jaffna Stallions

The owners of last year's Lankan Premier League (LPL) winning side - Jaffna Stallions - are incensed, after tournament organisers announced last week that the Jaffna franchise would have a new owner for the tournament's second edition.
The Stallions' termination means that three of the league's five teams will have new owners for the second edition of the LPL, with the Colombo and Dambulla franchises previously having been terminated. Jaffna's new owner is Allirajah Subaskaran, founder and chairman of the Lyca Group of companies in the UK, and it seems now that the team will no longer be called Stallions. The league is now scheduled to to take place in December, having been postponed from August.
Tournament organisers Innovative Production Group (IPG) have hit back at the Stallions' narrative, and we will get to their comments. But first, the Stallions owners' complaints are these:
  • Despite having been one of only three franchises to have fulfilled their financial commitments for 2020 (this was confirmed by tournament organisers), they have been "unfairly treated" by the LPL.
  • The LPL's first edition was conducted without a serious commitment to transparency, particularly as at least two franchises were being underwritten by the organisers themselves.
  • Their refusal to pay the franchise fees for the second edition of the tournament this far out was because of the uncertainty surrounding the tournament. They claim they had been required to make payments sometime in the middle of this year, despite their suspicion that the league would be postponed, which it ultimately was.
  • That their prize money for winning the inaugural edition had been delayed for months.
Rahul Sood, a former Microsoft executive who was co-owner of the Stallions, described their removal as a franchise as "disgusting" on Twitter. "Never in my wildest dreams would I imagine something like this would happen. We were blindsided."
IPG, meanwhile, has called the Stallions' claims "baseless rumours being spread with malicious intent" in a strongly worded release. The group's counter-claims, which are many, include:
  • Stallions had not appropriately paid their fees in the first edition either (which Stallions' ownership vehemently deny).
  • That the Stallions have not paid their fee for the second edition, when two other teams (Galle Gladiators and the new Dambulla franchise) already have.
  • That the Know Your Customer (KYC) details that the Stallions submitted to both tournament organisers and the ICC were convoluted, because they included as many as 14 owners.
IPG CEO Anil Mohan told ESPNcricinfo that he had submitted the Stallions' KYC application to the ICC's anti-corruption unit, which he said was of the view that 14 owners were too many. The ICC has not officially verified this, however, nor has it publicly taken issue with the Stallions' involvement in the inaugural LPL, although the team did seem to have fewer owners then. The Stallions themselves claim they had been described as a "model franchise" by an ICC official during the first edition.
The first-edition of the LPL was largely seen as a success, with the tournament having gained substantial local support, and supposedly having commanded a significant television audience. That the league has now terminated the popular champions of that edition, to follow a tournament postponement, does raise questions about its viability.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf