Spotlight on Sri Lanka Cricket

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Ever since Sri Lanka won the Cricket World Cup in 1996 Cricket Administration has been dodged with controversy. Since then, the top positions in cricket administration have been coveted by many individuals and the ensuing tussle to get into important positions has seen governments often having to intervene and even appoint interim administrations to run cricket.

One of the main criticisms in relation to cricket administration has been with regard to the misuse of funds but much of this has remained as allegations without any finality being reached and offenders not being brought to book. Invariably such controversies have had an impact on the cricketers’ performance on the field.  

Continuing this trend, last week an adjournment debate took place in Parliament initiated by Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Parliamentarian Hesha Withanage based on a report by the Auditor General containing several queries with regard to alleged misuse of funds by Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) in connection with the T20 World Cup held in Australia.

Among the allegations made were that a sum of Rs. 67 million had been spent on the SLC office bearers and irregularities in the issue of visas for the T20 World Cup. SLC President Shammi Silva however denied allegations of wrongdoing by the Board.

A diverse range of suggestions with regard to how to put things right in Sri Lanka Cricket emerged during the debate. A number of former Sports Ministers including Lakshman Kiriella, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Dayasiri Jayasekara, and Namal Rajapaksa expressed opinions based on their experience, with the suggestion to bring in new legislation, being one of the foremost ones.

Kiriella promised the support of the Opposition for such legislation to remedy the situation, while Jayasekara suggested that whatever changes planned should be done in consultation with the International Cricket Council (ICC).

Parliamentarian Eran Wickramaratne suggested that an interim committee should be appointed to run SLC pending the introduction of new legislation.

“Appoint an interim committee even for the sole purpose of introducing a new constitution for the SLC. We need to clean up Sri Lankan Cricket,” he said.

“Sri Lanka Cricket is not a private organisation as claimed by certain officials of the cricket board. It is a national organisation. We need to go by the ICC guiding principles of good consciousness, equity, common sense and simplicity enabling every member to grow with greater transparency. Those who are in cricket say Oh… the government must not interfere. They are not accountable to anybody because this is a private organisation. It is not private in that sense,” Wickremaratne, a former Royal College Cricket Captain, said.

Wickramaratne, quoting French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, said he drew a distinction between the “majority vote” and the majority will. “There are things that can be done by vote. Majority will is not always equal to majority vote,” he said.

Therefore, Sri Lanka Cricket is owned by Sri Lankans. That is why people’s representatives in Parliament are raising questions about cricket. It is not owned by few individuals or few associations, and majority vote is one thing, majority will is another thing, he said.

“Since lot of money is involved with cricket, there is political interference. Today I heard a former Sports Minister saying we must not have political interference in sports. If that is the case should politicians hold positions in sports associations? If you really want to stop political interference, let the professionals handle it, leaving behind the politicians involved in sports associations,” Wickramaratne said.

The extent of the heat generated by the issues involving Sri Lanka Cricket could be seen by the fact that both Hesha Withanage and Minister Roshan Ranasinghe complained that they had received threats for the efforts they were making.

The Sports Minister said he had already set in motion a process to introduce a new constitution for SLC, which he would present to Parliament for approval soon.

According to the Minister, “A committee under former Supreme Court judge K. Chithrasiri is coming up with a new constitution for SLC. This committee has already recommended reducing the number of clubs which will have rights to elect a governing body for SLC,” the Minister said.

“The committee has also proposed to give representation for players and coaches at SLC. Another proposal is to confine the clubs which have voting rights to elect SLC officials for the nine provinces,” he added.

One measure the Minister and his committee could consider is to bifurcate cricket administration and the management of funds belonging to SLC.

A Cricket Committee comprising former cricketers and others knowledgeable in the game could be vested with the responsibilities of drawing up plans for the promotion and development of cricket while the funds could be entrusted to a Board of Trustees who would administer such funds based on pre-determined criteria.

Whatever funds are required for the development of the game could be requested by the Cricket Committee from the Board of Trustees who would evaluate such a request before releasing funds.

The above is only one suggestion to prevent the recurrences of the past. The Government should carry out intense consultations with different stakeholders before finalising legislation. Only then will the legislation be sustainable.



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