LPL terminates contract with Dambulla Thunders following owner's arrest

Tamim Rahman was arrested under the 2019 Prevention of Offences Relating to Sports Act, which relates to corruption

Tamim Rahman being escorted to prison after his arrest, Colombo, May 22, 2024

Tamim Rahman being escorted to prison after his arrest on Wednesday  •  AFP/Getty Images

The Lanka Premier League (LPL) has terminated its contract with Dambulla Thunders, one of the five participating teams, with immediate effect following the arrest of team owner Tamim Rahman in Colombo on Wednesday. He was arrested under the 2019 Prevention of Offences Relating to Sports Act, which relates to corruption.
Sri Lanka police told ESPNcricinfo that Rahman is a British national of Bangladeshi origin and was arrested prior to boarding a flight in Colombo. The law under which Rahman was arrested was worked on, in part, by the ICC's anti-corruption unit.
"While the specifics of the charges against Mr. Rahman remain unclear, the integrity and smooth functioning of the Lanka Premier League are of utmost importance," Sri Lanka Cricket said in a statement. "This termination aims to uphold the values and reputation of the LPL, ensuring that all participants adhere to the highest standards of conduct and sportsmanship.
"The LPL management is working diligently to address the consequences of this termination and to ensure minimal disruption to the upcoming season."
For now, this means that one of the tournament's teams - Thunders - is without an owner. It was one of the two new franchises at the Sri Lankan franchise league under new ownership this year, the other being Galle Marvels. Thunders were understood to be owned by Imperial Sports Group, believed to be founded by Rahman.
The other ownership change was at the Galle franchise, which switched from being called Gladiators to Marvels.
At the LPL 2024 auction held just the day before - where ICC anti-corruption unit officials were present - Thunders retained many of the players who had been a part of Dambulla Aura, their earlier avatar, and added the Afghanistan duo of Karim Janat and Hazratullah Zazai to the ranks. Janat, in fact, earned the highest bid among the fresh overseas signings, going for US$80,000.
The franchise also has in its rolls prominent overseas cricketers like Mustafizur Rahman, Ibrahim Zadran and Iftikhar Ahmed, as well as Sri Lanka internationals Dilshan Madushanka, Nuwan Thushara, Akila Dananjaya, Danushka Gunathilaka, Nuwan Pradeep and others.
What will happen to the franchise, and the league in general, remains unclear now. For starters, new ownership has to come in to bankroll the Dambulla team, who have had three changes in ownership since the league began in 2020. The Dambulla team came second in last year's LPL, when they were called Dambulla Aura, but those owners have also since faced financial fraud charges.
Sri Lanka became the first South Asian nation to criminalise several offences related to match-fixing, after its parliament passed all three readings of the Prevention of Offences Related to Sports bill in November 2019.