The coercive power of the establishment in all its glory

By Shanaka Amarasinghe | March 14, 2013

The players agreed to sign new contracts after being spoken to by ruling party MP and chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya. © AFP

At the time of writing there were two cricket matches going on, which I would rather be at. But I'm diligent. And work hard. Really. Sri Lanka were playing Bangladesh in Galle, and what were the chances that Kumar Sangakkara wouldn't score a hundred? Sri Lanka finished with nearly 350/3 on the first day. It could be a long series for Bangladesh, who have come up against a team who have been hit where it hurts the most. In the pocket.

In Colombo, Royal are playing St. Thomas' and it's raining. I'm glad I didn't go. Not in the 'sliding on the covers' mood at the moment.

Coming back to hitting the Sri Lankan cricketers in the pocket, let's look at what happened:

1) The SLC central contracts expired on February 28, 2013.

2) For the first time ever, SLC did not have a three-to-four-month lag before handing over the next set of contracts, requiring them to be signed immediately.

3) The contracts did not include the payment of 25-percent of the guarantee fee from the ICC. This is a fee paid by ICC to SLC for every ICC tournament the team participates in. It's a tournament-by-tournament payment, and can be fairly substantial. The players usually get a quarter of the ICC payment as negotiated by Sanath Jayasuriya himself, along with the other seniors at the time, in 2003.

4) The contracts also seek to dock pay from the cricketers when they are on duty at outside tournaments such as IPL, Big Bash etc. It's prorated time-wise and deducted accordingly.

5) There's also a variable component of the contract linked to the team's ICC ranking, as well as a cutback on the players' wives being allowed to travel business class on one tour of their choice per year.

These are pretty hefty regressions from the players' point of view, to say the least.

When the word 'lockout' was used to describe the situation, I got a little excited. I thought we would have an NBA-style impasse, with both parties standing their ground, with some brinkmanship and posturing. Alas, to no avail. The Great Lockout of 2013 lasted a mere 24 hours, with the highest casualty being Sangakkara who was told he can't play a match at the last moment, even after driving down to Matara.

Opinion on the issue though has been divided. Several people have been quite perturbed, hearing the amount Sri Lankan cricketers earn. Yes, they earn a fair bit of cash, but they do have to work hard under immense pressure. The fact that they're not performing at their peak is a different issue. Sportsmen all over the world get paid lots of money, and it's only because those of us complaining about it, lap them up adoringly. Supply and demand. It's pretty simple.

Add to that the hackneyed arguments about sports being a career with a limited-opportunity window; the requirement to maximise does exist. Chastising them for wanting their pound of flesh is a little anachronistic and naive. Everything is professional now, and if we Sri Lankans want to play in the big leagues, we need to match them in every way. When the IPL came around, Cricket Australia tripled Ricky Ponting's contract, so he wouldn't be tempted. That's how competent administrators think and that's how professionalism works.

We've been told that SLC is in dire straits, and this cutback is to help put them back in the black. This justification is just… well, bollocks. Interim committees have been in place for years since the Thilanga Sumathipala administration, which was accused of financial irregularity. We're still to see a report on those irregularities come to light since circa 2002. Furthermore, the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 secretariat was a den of thieves. The Hambantota and Pallakelle stadium builds lined the pockets of everyone but the players, and are administrative disasters. Tournaments like the SLPL were sold to fairly dubious institutions, long term, for a song. TV rights are sold to local stations (whose CEO happens to be the SLC secretary) without island-wide coverage for next to nothing. Hottie secretaries are employed as playthings, on exorbitant salaries, and the overstaffed office has allowances that run into the gajillions for assorted peons and messengers who really add much less value than the lowliest contracted player in Sri Lanka.

Therefore, saying that SLC's woes are as a result of the players being paid too much is the joke of the year, or quite possibly the decade.

The reason that players are being paid a high percentage of revenue is because the other revenue generating assets like tournaments, sponsorship rights and television deals are disposed of for a pittance via conflicts of interest and corruption. There is no way that paying 25-percent of the guarantee fee, plus contract figures, can amount to over 75-percent of SLC's revenue. If that's the case, you need to fire a few people who are not players.

The fact that the players caved so easily without drawing any attention to the above factors also disappoints me. It's as if they said: "Well, let's make as much as we can, rather than nothing at all." SLC now resembles the government. Tax and exploit the poor who work hard for an honest living, so that the corrupt can squander everything through their dishonest shenanigans. The parallels are just too obvious to ignore.

Sangakkara alluded to just this sort of mismanagement at Lord's, and nothing has been done about it, which is telling. The fact that the cricketers have agreed, at Jayasuriya's 'persuasion', with nothing so much as a whimper, to sign these contracts is a sign of the times. The coercive power of the establishment.

The issue doesn't really hit the big players really hard. Jayawardene, Sangakkara, Malinga et al have feathered their nests, and the 25-percent is not a huge dent in their earnings. However, for cricketers who are just beginning their careers, it's a substantial amount. Prorated payments and performance-linked variables also make financial planning a nightmare, as the outcomes are not always directly in your control. To say that the cricketers got stiffed is an understatement.

What is really tragic though, is that the person in the bargaining power of strength, got played.

SLC would have committed suicide in sending a B-team to play Bangladesh. They would have copped it both domestically and internationally. Foreign journalists may just have asked some intelligent questions. If the players held on, they might have forced some accountability to be agreed to. Instead, they have signed off meekly, on the assurance that the issue will be looked at again when contracts are up for renewal, and an acknowledgement that the current financial woes of SLC are not of the players' doing. Pfft.

The players, led by two greenhorns in Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal, and deprived of their legitimate representatives in terms of the players' association and their agents, have agreed purely in the self-interested short term. As we do. In time to come, young Sri Lankan players will not be able to negotiate anything for themselves. They will not even grasp the nuances as their predecessors did in 2003 when first negotiating. They will, instead, like all the rest of us who work honest jobs, see their hard work help fatten the cows of those in power, under the draconian thumb of whichever political appointee.

This episode was a microcosm of the larger Sri Lankan problem. To eliminate similar results, we have to take different approaches. Where the players have failed themselves and their successors, we shouldn't.

Shanaka Amarasinghe is a lawyer by profession and the host of the sports talkshow 'The Score' on the Sri Lankan radio station YES FM.

© Island Cricket


Anonymous's picture

you should have been at ssc when royal thrashed you. what have you to say on that one, mate?

Parakrama's picture

Cricket Australia tripling Ricky Ponting's (if it ever happened) contract didn't stop him going in for the bidding process in IPL season 1 in 2008 for a meager $400,000. It may be true, he didnt participate there after but that was more to do with meager amounts he was offered by IPL franchisers.

Can the SLC with their earnings (even if they were cash strapped) afford to even double the contract of any player(s). Australia could have done it on the strength of their earnings. The payments to players should be par with the earnings of each board. Its well known that the SLC pays a higher percantage of their earnings to the players than any other cricket board in the world. Then who pays for other things. What about the development of the game, school cricket, junior cricket, club cricket, who looks after them.

You can say if the SLC didn't squander the money, they could well afford to cover all these payments. Yes, they could, if they didnt pay the players so much. I am not against players earning money, they deserve very cent, thats not my point. My point is payments should go hand in hand with earnings.

Isn't this another attempt at IC's past time of attacking the SLC at any cost. Let me tell you, I am not a fan of the SLC at any level but criticism should be constructive not revengeful.


Vijaya's picture

@Parakrama: Enough with your nonsense please. Your comment just shows that you have not read the article! You are just conveying here what your masters have asked you to convey. How do SLC's minions feel good about themselves when they wake up in the morning I wonder!

Neil Weerasekara's picture
Member since:
10 July 2011
Last activity:
1 year 2 days

A genuine Sri Lankan cricket fan (without hidden agendas) will never leave a comment like "Parakrama" did.

1. For years SLC has been paying the same amount to players. Why suddenly they cant afford it? What was their debt like before 2011? Nothing compared to what it was after 2011! Why?

2. Answer is the 2011 WC. We were the only host to end up with a loss eventhough India and Bangladesh also carried out construction! And construction project should not result in huge losses! Every person in the interim committee at the time (chairman, secretary, ceo, treasurer et al) are responsible.

3. The current board had one year to show some dynamism and think creatively to find ways to market their brand and assets to increase annual revenue. They could not! All in the board currently are responsible for failing Sri Lankan cricket!

4. SLC increased contracts to 99 contracted players in 2010! Nishantha and DS were boasting back then but now they can't afford to pay even fewer cricketers???

5. Cricketers have not got any increase for their hard work for several years. Nobody will work for their employers without at least a yearly increase!

Many fans know all these facts. Parakrama's true agenda is exposed.

Anonymous's picture

yes pls dnt criticzise slc bcuz all good ppl wrking there and they trying to very hard... ic writers always complain abouts them..... pls they are gud ppls

Stormy's picture
Member since:
15 January 2011
Last activity:
14 hours 39 min

Good read and well said. SLC is nothing short of a bunch of thieves looting in broad daylight - its the ultimate 'enemy within'. It is absolutely ridiculose that Nishanta Ranatunge should be any where other that behind bars. This guy has overseen the looting and has vested interest in TV rights and now he wants to dock the players.

Here's my prediction. SL have been the masters of unorthodoxy on the field and if the administrators carry on this way the players will be forced take unorthodox actions. I expect SL players to be T20 specialist playing in the numerous T20 leagues. Malinga throught no fault of himself but injuries, has already take this step. Others will have no choice.

Put it this way. If your employer continueously makes huge losses as a result on him not being able to manage the company and constantly steals huge sums of money from the company and tells you "we are not making enough money - I need to give you a pay cut and and and" - what would you do?

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