By Naushad Amit The Sri Lanka Badminton Association (SLBA) is at the receiving end of the court, according to the latest development. They are accused of not being ‘transparent and acting in an ethical manner’, by ‘stealing’ what is meant for the players. According to a group of individuals who are former SLBA officials, and [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Charges Yonex had been taken for a ride


By Naushad Amit

Yonex plays a major role as sponsors of SLBA - File pic

The Sri Lanka Badminton Association (SLBA) is at the receiving end of the court, according to the latest development. They are accused of not being ‘transparent and acting in an ethical manner’, by ‘stealing’ what is meant for the players.
According to a group of individuals who are former SLBA officials, and some known figures in Badminton, the present set of authorities have resorted to an ‘unethical act’ by entering ’36 non-entitle’ names as recipients of the Yonex Sunrise Kitting List 2016.

Yonex Sunrise, as clothing and sports gear sponsors of SLBA, has an annual quota for the benefit of 46 ranked players. In addition, Yonex is SLBA’s official shuttlecock supplier, apart from other monetary contributions. But, according to the ‘faction’, the present SLBA officials have entered 36 names– 13 office bearers, 3 SLBA staff members and a list of 20, identified as members of its Tournament Committee.

Customarily, these benefits are only for national ranked players who are entitled to a playing shirt, a pair of shorts/skirt depending on the gender, socks, a track kit, racquets- depending on the number of international tournaments, playing shoes and a haversack, estimated around Rs 50,000 or more, according to rank and seniority.

Of the 36 non-players in the list, 13 will now receive a T-shirt, a track kit, a haversack and playing shoes. They are the president, secretary, 2 assistant secretaries, treasurer, assistant treasurer and 7 vice presidents of the SLBA. Three other staff members of SLBA while receiving the same items, will also receive a pair of playing shorts each. The rest of the 20, named as the tournament committee, have been allocated a T-shirt, a track kit and a haversack each. The cost for each lot will range from Rs 12,000 to Rs 30,000, according to Badminton coach and former official, Chinthaka Fernando.

“This was never a practice before. It is normal to receive an official T-shirt while on an overseas tour, but this, is an unethical act. If the current SLBA authorities are really focusing on development, these ‘kits’ should go to the players, especially those who are up and coming from the rural areas. What has happened here is totally immoral, and if you sum it up, it’s a lot of money,” Fernando told the Sunday Times.

However, SLBA Secretary Amal Dias refutes the charges. He confirmed the addition of 36 names who are non-players, saying it was a matter that was discussed and agreed upon when SLBA renewed the contract with Yonex Sunrise for the last time in June 2014.

“The contract is renegotiated once every 4 years. Yes, we have entered the names of SLBA officials, staff members and committee members. What are accusers don’t see is that, we have managed to increase Yonex sponsorship by 60%. They grant us US$ 15,000 to conduct tournaments, while for the National Championship alone they grant us US$ 3,750 as prize money. In return, we must buy 2,000 shuttle barrels from them, which is provided at a reasonable rate. The agreement will be reviewed again in 2018, while they have agreed to provide these kits, which others call stealing by SLBA officials. We have not made anything public on this matter,” Dias stated.

In addition to the 48 ranked Shuttlers categorised accordingly, 75 junior Shuttlers in the age group of Under-15 and Under-13 islandwide, are also entitled to receive kits and other benefits from Yonex, according to Dias. The 48 ranked players are listed as Top 8, Top 8 Senior Up Squad– 4 each from Men’s and Women’s are listed, the next 16– 8 each from Men’s and Women’s from the Most Promising segment are named, and a second string segment of the same category of 16 players. The confirmed recipients include an additional list of 15 who are not categorised.

A former senior official, who wished to remain anonymous, stated that, what the SLBA has done through this is clearly evident they are trying to please a few individuals after creating disharmony initially. He went on to say that the incumbent officials worked to their own agenda, while most of them have not even played the sport, even at school level.

In addition, the source claimed that, the shipments received by Yonex Sunrise reaches another location in Sri Lanka before reaching SLBA headquarters. He said that, the original branded Yonex products do not reach the players, and suspects officials are being manipulative. He strongly believes that even national players are given contraband Yonex, which is one-fourth the price of an original.

They claim they are bankrupt and don’t have sponsors, when they can’t show evidence. But when they receive something good, it does not reach the fitting and deserved. Sometime back they created a division among match officials, and to patch up things, they went to the level of organising a bash with a series of matches among officials, followed by a party at a beach restaurant. “Why is it necessary to suddenly organise such events if things were done with transparency,” he questioned.

Dias elaborated that the annual commitment by Yonex Sunrise with SLBA is estimated at approximately Rs 6 million. He insisted that, despite claims to the contrary, SLBA operations and other activities are running according to plan, and are transparent.
“Anyone can challenge any misconduct on our part or anything of that sort. These people are always talking negatively, hence we will not waste our time on any of these baseless allegations. It’s all fabricated and misleading,” he retaliated.

Badminton in Sri Lanka is a sport with significant potential for international accolades but lately, due to infighting and factionalism, it is in a state of decline. For over a decade, administrative mismanagement at SLBA has been on the rise, at the expense of developing Badminton to international standards.

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