Sri Lanka Cricket team in contract dispute

Cricket   While all eyes are focused upon the upcoming Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) elections, a major contract crisis is threatening to destroy the Sri Lanka cricket team ahead of the home series against Bangladesh that will start tomorrow with a three-day warm-up game at Matara.
The SLC contract with top players including the national players expired on Thursday and SLC has set today as the deadline for the players to sign their new contracts for 2013-14.

However, even by yesterday, none of the 60 players who had been offered contracts had signed it and it appeared last evening as if none of the top 60 Sri Lankan players will be available for the Bangladesh series.

“The Ex-Co has given March 2 as the deadline for the players to sign the contracts. We can only select players who have contracts with SLC. If the players who had been offered contracts refuse to sign it on time, then we will have to take a serious decision. We might be forced to select some other players for the Bangladesh tour,” said SLC Secretary Nishantha Ranatunga.

It is unlikely that the players would be able to sign the contract before today’s deadline expires and there is a very real probability that none of those 60 players would be picked to represent Sri Lanka for Bangladesh’s tour.

Out of the 60 players who have been offered contracts, 48 players have signed a joint letter stating that they have appointed Sri Lanka Cricketers’ Association Vice President Ken de Alwis to negotiate the contract issues with SLC and come to an agreement. All national players and even all development squad players have signed this letter authorising de Alwis following a decision taken by the Cricketers’ Association. De Alwis has accepted the role in an honourary capacity and will not receive any financial benefit by appearing for players.

This letter has been addressed to SLC Chief Executive Ajit Jayasekara who had refused to accept it yesterday, but the players have reportedly left the letter at the SLC gate with the security. Cricketers’ Association Office Manager E.K.G. Wijewardene had visited SLC headquarters personally to hand over the letter to Jayasekara.

All top players had attended a Cricketers’ Association meeting on Wednesday (Feb. 27) at Premadasa Stadium where they arrived at the decision to appoint de Alwis.

Ranatunga said there is no need for SLC to talk to de Alwis as they do not recognise the Sri Lanka Cricketers’ Association. “SLC Ex-Co has taken an official decision not to recognise the Cricketers’ Association. We have no business with the officials of a purported Association because we deal directly with players. Ex-Co has also decided not to deal even with player agents or managers,” said Ranatunga who interestingly is a former CEO and Treasurer of the Sri Lanka Cricketers’ Association.
“Player Managers/ Agents never played a role in these contracts. Even this time, they would not get involved,” said a source. “SLC is trying the divide and rule method.

They are trying to call individual players into the room and get them to sign the contract. Some players cannot even read and understand the contract. It is a 45-page document written in English. This will put the innocent players at the mercy of unscrupulous officials,” he added.

The players however have refused to sign the contract over four main issues and want more time to discuss the issues with SLC before the signing the new contracts, sources said.

The first issue is the SLC decision to remove a 25 per cent guarantee fee paid to the players from all ICC events such as the World Cup and ICC World T20. No guarantee fees will be paid according to the new contract.

The earlier contracts had an agreement to pay 25 per cent of the income SLC receives from ICC for such events to the squad of 15 national players. Even last year after the ICC World T20 hosted by Sri Lanka, there was a major dispute between SLC and players over the issue. Players demanded 25 per cent of SLC’s gross income but ultimately agreed to accept 25 percent from the nett income, though SLC also made unsuccessful attempts to make it 20 percent of the nett income.

Many other countries do not pay this guarantee fee to the players, but a senior player said that in those countries players are paid 25 per cent of the total annual income of the cricket board.

“You have to understand that ICC pays this money for using the images of players for advertising during the ICC events. ICC’s sponsors like Pepsi, and LG can use the images of players for advertising. So it is obvious that this money is actually meant for the players,” said the player.

The second new clause players have opposed is a decision by SLC to scrap payments of players taking part in the Indian premier League (IPL) for the duration of the tournament. For instance, if a player takes part in the IPL for a month, his contract fee for that month will not be paid.

“This is unfair because the IPL pays SLC ten percent of the value of each Sri Lankan player taking part in the IPL. That is for releasing the player. SLC is now trying to earn twice for releasing the player,” said the source.

Interestingly, SLC has only named the IPL and not any other domestic leagues such as the Australian Big Bash which suggests a confrontational attitude towards Indian Cricket Board which incidentally refused to release their players for the Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL).

“They are trying to hit back at Indian Board for not releasing players for SLPL. But it is cowardly attack because they are hiding behind the players,” added the source.
The third point players have raised is scrapping a one business class ticket given to the wives of players to accompany them on one tour per year.

The fourth issue is the SLC decision to reduce the number of categories for national players from six to four.

Ranatunga said that they have reduced the categories but said they have offered the players a salary increase after several years. “This time have increased the salaries by 15-20 percent which is substantial considering their earnings,” said Ranatunga.

Even a possible change of SLC regime is unlikely to favour the stance of the players.

Thilanga Sumathipala who is the only serious contender for current SLC regime also said yesterday that he would not recognise the Players’ Association. “We don’t need Association to deal with national level players. Associations are good once you are retired as a player. It is a good welfare measure. In the past, we negotiated with the captain and vice captain and we resolved all the issues. SLC and players are like the parents and children. The moment a third party comes in between to negotiate, the relationship sours. I will never recognise an association over and above the captain and vice captain,” said Sumathipala.

Major sticking points of new contracts
1. Scrapping of 25 per cent guarantee fee to players from ICC events
2. Deduction of salary for players taking part in IPL
3. Scrapping of one business class air ticket per year for wives
4. Reducing number of contract categories

Courtesy Daily Mirror

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