A major contract dispute between Sri Lanka Cricket and the nation's top cricketers has threatened to derail Sri Lanka's home series against Bangladesh, after all 60 players who were offered contracts have refused to sign, with the deadline upon them.
The players will meet with Sri Lanka Cricket on Saturday evening to attempt to break the deadlock, but SLC has already threatened that players who do not sign their contracts will not be considered for selection in the upcoming series. The contracts had been issued to the players earlier in the week, with signed contracts due in on Saturday, March 2. The major dispute for players is understood to be SLC's refusal to pay 25% of their earnings from ICC events, as they have done since 2003.
"The stance taken by the executive committee is that players who don't sign, can't play for Sri Lanka, so we'll have to abide by that decision," SLC president Upali Dharmadasa said. "The selectors will meet tomorrow to name the final team for the Tests, and we will have told them the situation."
Complicating the negotiation procedure for the players has been SLC's recent decision not to recognise player representatives, including both player agents and cricketers' associations. Forty-eight players had signed a letter requesting Sri Lanka Cricketers' Association general secretary Ken de Alwis be appointed honorary, unpaid players' representative during the negotiations, but SLC has ignored this request.
"We are hoping that after tonight's meeting, SLC will agree to let someone independent go through the contract and advise the players," de Alwis said. "The problem is that the players don't want to sign something they don't understand, but I haven't seen the contract myself, because SLC has not released it to me."
SLC paid players 25% of the earnings from ICC events because the players' images and likenesses are used by the ICC to promote the tournament, and by the ICC's official sponsors, for the duration of the event. During that time, players' private sponsors are unable to use their images for commercial purposes. Most cricket boards compensate their players for selling their image rights on to the ICC either by paying a percentage of their earnings from each ICC event, or a percentage of their annual earnings.
Last year SLC had attempted to trim the amount they paid to players from ICC events to 20%, claiming the board bore administrative costs on the gross payment made by the ICC, but the contracts were eventually amended to stipulate only 25% of SLC's net profit would be paid to players.
In addition, SLC's new contracts have moved to freeze payment to players taking part in the IPL, for as long as each player is with his IPL team. Under the new clause, if a Sri Lanka cricketer joins his IPL team a week before the 2013 tournament begins, and remains with the team until the final on May 26, he will lose 16.4% of his annual salary from SLC. Home boards receive 10% of each players IPL pay, and SLC even agreed to can two Tests in the West Indies, effectively to accommodate the IPL's full schedule this year.
No Sri Lanka players have made themselves unavailable for international cricket due to IPL commitments, though in 2011, Lasith Malinga retired from Tests in the middle of an IPL tournament, which he would have been required to leave early to play Tests in England, while others, including Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, missed a warm-up match prior to that series. SLC has recently defended Malinga's decision to retire from Tests, however.
Among the other sticking points in the contracts are a clause that seeks to tie payment to team performance and ICC rankings, and another to scrap the one business class ticket per year SLC offers to top players' wives, who may wish to accompany their husbands on tour. These are not expected to be major sources of debate however.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here