Someone said not to believe in all these year-end festivities because even Santa comes with a clause. I thought that was one of the most appropriate assumptions. Yes, in this commercial day and age everything runs with an asterisk or a footnote, and the most important statement of whatever they say is in the fine [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Fine print of local premier tournaments


Someone said not to believe in all these year-end festivities because even Santa comes with a clause. I thought that was one of the most appropriate assumptions. Yes, in this commercial day and age everything runs with an asterisk or a footnote, and the most important statement of whatever they say is in the fine print, where nothing is visible at a glance.

The other day, I read a Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) statement and I thought it was jingle bells all the way. It was so sweetly worded, I almost fell head over heels. Just look at the opening line which said, “SLC invests in cutting-edge technology to uplift standards of domestic cricket. Reveals long term strategy to conquer the world arena. Rs. 264 million invested in conducting Premier Tournament 2016.” By all means, the statement was strong and all conquering. Especially, the part where it says, “Reveals long term strategy to conquer the world arena.”

Bowling machines to their heart's content or was it......

On Friday, SLC launched its first domestic tournament under the new administration and, in reality, it has allocated an impressive sum of Rs. 264 million to conduct the 2016 premier tournaments.

The tournaments consist of a league tournament, a limited overs tournament and a T20 tournament fielding 24 teams divided into two tiers, and will be played across 8/9 weeks, ending in February 2017.

In the league tournament, the tier ‘A’ clubs will play 84 three-day games in two groups in the first round and move into a ‘Super 8’ format for the second round which will consist of 32 matches played with a pink ball. The tier ‘B’ Clubs which will consist of 10 teams will play 90 games. The limited over and the T20 tournaments will follow, with 24 teams playing 134 matches in four groups. The top two teams of each Group will play in the quarter-final stage, in a knockout format.

The tier ‘A’ Group will have 14 clubs and the Tier ‘B’ 10. The 24 Premier clubs would be provided grants of Rs. 11 million and 9 million each respectively. They are then expected to meet the expenses of the tournaments, while more technological support is in the offing with equipment such as mechanised side rollers and grass cutters being channelled through SLC at a highly subsidised cost to the clubs.

Let’s focus on a Tier ‘A’ club which will get Rs 11 million to run the Premier Club tournament.
Yes, of the Rs 11 million, Rs 4 million is earmarked for infrastructure development of the respective club, with the club officials being required to submit proposals outlining the manner in which the club proposes to spend that money.

Then Rs 2.4 million will be paid to the club’s head coach and allied staff in 12 installments of Rs 200,000 each.
The balance Rs 5.6 million is to be utilised to pay ground fees, players’ fees, buy meals and meet other expenses.
Yet, there are sceptics in every wagon and we, as a habit, keep bumping on them at every corner and sometimes, their point of view is also interesting and makes a lot of sense. One such insider was in conversation with me. He asserted that, the Rs. 4 million for infrastructure development certainly could go to the wrong hands and end up being misused.

“May be, in better established clubs, like the SSC or Colts, the allocations for the development of their infrastructure will be utilised in the proper manner, because there are good checks and balances. Then there may be cases where, if the club belongs to the right side of the fence, once the proposal is made, the entire sum is released and no questions asked,” he said.

Delving deeper into the uglier side of the episode, the insider said, ‘There are instances where they make clippings from the players and the coaches fees also, and it has happened. “At the same time, there is this case of clubs which are on the other side of the fence. Either they are made to wait or, do not get their allocation at all. There are some clubs still waiting to be asked to submit their proposals for the Rs. 4 million, in spite of having all the facilities at hand and could do a lot with Rs. 4 million worth of infrastructure development.”

The next was the bowling machine episode. He said, though they made a hue and cry about handing over the bowling machines to the respective clubs for their training purposes, at least three clubs were not given the machines. The excuse is that SLC had only 20 such machines and the numbers were not sufficient. “But we learn that two such clubs that were deprived of the machine, had put their show of hands in favour of the contestant who lost at the last AGM.”

The SLC statement screamed that Rs. 11 million is to be given to all 24 stakeholders taking part in the tournament. Then, what about the clubs which do not have a club house or a ground of their own? Would they be given the opportunity of submitting a proposal while monies go into a spurious cause — like what happened to CCC’s Rs 4 million which was meant for the side game against Australia, a few months ago?

Because, generally, it is considered that, monies allocated to a cause comes with a clause even for Santa or anyone else. At the club level, monies spent could help the club bigwigs to sustain themselves in the hierarchy of the respective club. In return, it is obligatory for these club officials to vote for the high-up at SLC at the next AGM.

Nevertheless, these clubs are seen and we know to where they belong and how they act and react when it comes to the AGM. They are a part of the ups and downs of the current system. Then there is the case of the invisible sector. The other day we read about a tournament – Western Province, Provincial Tournament 2016. The tournament is being held for the lower division clubs by the Western Province. Now what we would like to know is what is this Western Province and how did it come into existence. Was it elected like the others or, someone of authority just nominated it and it sprang to life. What are the powers it yields in the system and, are there any monetary grants or payments made in its name?

Then, just ‘any other business’ question: Will it vote at the next AGM and how many will it have? Because, the stakeholders know that there is a lot of emphasis laid on the Provincial and District system of late. Wouldn’t it be good if that system is also laid out with a lot of transparency and democracy?

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