SLC bogged down by stadium debt

CRICKET-SRI-PRESSSri Lanka Cricket remains mired in stadium debt of over USD $20 million, but has strode towards stability in its operational budget since the interim committee took over in late March, board treasurer Lucille Wijewardene said. The board also hopes to contest the ownership of much of those stadium debts, which were accrued in the approach to the 2011 World Cup.

SLC officials said the board’s operational funds have been improved by at least Rs 475 million since the interim committee was appointed. The board had a bank overdraft of Rs 285 million when the interim committee took over, but is now in the black, thanks largely to spending cuts, and the receipt of part of the financial distribution the ICC had held in escrow.

“We have a deposit of a 190 million rupee treasury bill (approx. USD $1.42 million) deposit,” Wijewardene said. “We also have a separate one million dollar deposit. In addition, the ICC has indicated they will release a further $2.3 million to us this month. I don’t see a problem for the next six months.”

The ICC still holds much of the payment due to SLC in escrow, but the board has arrived at an arrangement through which it can periodically have some of those funds released to it. At present, roughly a third of the ICC sum owed to SLC has been paid, Wijewardene said. The ICC had in April decided to withhold the financial distributionto SLC because Sri Lanka’s government had appointed the new board, before discussions brought a compromise.

But although the improvements to SLC’s operational finances will allow the board to begin development on indoor nets and a pool at Khettarama Stadium, as well as fund a pay increase for domestic cricketers, the board’s long-standing stadium debt remains immense. Wijewardene said the board still owed Rs 2.2 billion (approx USD $16.5 million) to Sri Lanka’s Ports Authority, for the building of the Hambantota Stadium, as well as 500 million rupees (approx. $3.8 million) to the State Engineering Corporation (SEC), for the work done on Pallekele stadium.

The creditors – both government organisations – are not currently pressing SLC for repayment, Wijewardene said. But while he conceded the debt to SEC must be paid eventually, he said the board would contest its ownership of the Rs 2.2 billion debt to the Ports Authority. The erection of the stadium in Hambantota had been part of the previous government’s plan to spur development in that region, and as such, SLC feels it should not have to bear those construction costs.

“The 500 million to the State Engineering Corporation will probably have to be paid, but we’re in discussion with them,” Wijewardene said. “They are even ready to begin the development work we have proposed at Khettarama, so there’s no problem.”

The work on the indoor nets and pool at Khettarama is expected to begin in early July, interim committee chairman Sidath Wettimuny said. The board also expected to cut Rs 25 million in expenditure on the upcoming Pakistan tour, after re-ordering their budget for that series.

“It may be too early to tell after just 2.5 months, but I think we’ll be under budget on our expenditure, because we have cut costs drastically,” Wettimuny said. “Next month we will look at our quarterly budget and get a better idea of where we are. This is something we’re watching very, very closely. We’re looking at only spending where it really matters.” (Courtesy ESPN Cricinfo)