Sri Lanka Cricket believes it is free of the stadium debts that had plagued it since the 2011 World Cup, and has announced profits of over USD 13.5 million (LKR 2.12 billion) in 2017.
There is, however, one substantial caveat. SLC’s new-found financial stability is contingent on the Sri Lankan government agreeing to pay the remainder of what is owed for the stadium in Hambantota. For now, the government appears content with bearing that cost, believed to be almost USD 14 million (LKR 2.2 billion). But the board remains aware that political shifts may trigger a change of heart from the government, and SLC could still end up being asked to pay for what is an inconvenient and expensive venue. In fact, the board has made provisions in its budget for that possibility.
“As far as we are concerned, we don’t have any liability to pay for [Hambantota stadium],” SLC president Thilanga Sumathipala said. “We discussed with the Auditor General with regard to this – it doesn’t show any outstanding payables.”
“But we have made a provision in our accounts, because this is an ongoing discussion the Ministry of Sports is having with the Finance Ministry. As of December, they have not told us of the decision that they have arrived at.”
The remainder of its finances, SLC claims, are in excellent order following a lucrative 2017. Full tours from India and Bangladesh had helped bring in revenues of over USD 26 million (LKR 4.1 billion), while the last of the debts owed for the Khettarama and Pallekele stadiums – debts which had run to about USD 5 million (LKR 780 million) – were paid off. All this means that according to board president Sumathipala, SLC had a budget surplus of around USD 12.6 million (LKR 2 billion) by the end of last year.
Again, this all depends on SLC not having to pay for Hambantota stadium – a bill the current board has long argued it should not have to foot. Essentially, SLC believes it cannot be held liable because the construction of that stadium was part of the Sri Lankan government’s plan to position the Hambantota district as an economic hub – a plan that has largely failed. The board also claims the absence of a contract between SLC and the Sri Lankan Ports Authority – the government body involved in the building of that stadium – absolves the board of liability.
According to Sumathipala, SLC’s financial position is likely to grow stronger in 2018. The board has already hosted a lucrative Nidahas Trophy tri-series featuring India and Bangladesh, and is due to host England for a full tour late in the year. There has also been an increase in the amount SLC gets annually from the ICC. The new revenue-sharing model will see SLC earn around USD 30 million (LKR 4.7 billion) more over an eight year period, than under the previous ‘Big Three’ arrangement.