Exclusive: Sri Lanka’s Hosting Of Three ICC Tournaments, Annual Conference Under Threat due to Political Interference!

Written by N Krishnamurthy

In addition of possible staging of the ICC Annual Conference in Colombo in July 2024, game’s governing body has also awarded three upcoming global tournaments to Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), namely the Men’s Under-19 Cricket World Cup in January 2024, Men’s T20 World Cup in February 2026 and Women’s T20 Champions Trophy in February 2027. However, as per an ICC letter, the staging of all these global events is under serious threat, due to Sri Lanka Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe’s continuous manipulative efforts to take control over Island’s most cherished game!

The decision of staging the ICC Annual Conference in Colombo in July 2024 will be taken during the Board meetings In November In India. If Sri Lanka is awarded the Annual Conference, It will be the first time ever in Country’s history and more than 90 Cricket Board officials (Associated and affiliated) will come to the Island.

However, in the latest unfortunate development, ICC Chief Executive Geoff Allardice, In a letter which is under Cricket Age possession, has raised some serious concerns over Sri Lanka’s hosting three global events as well as Annual Conference, while highlighting SLC and Sports Ministry’s soured relationship!

“The ICC’s primary objective is to promote the sport of cricket in conjunction with its Members. When staging global events or major meetings, the ICC relies heavily on the Member in that territory to assist with the delivery of the event, and to manage the relationships with Government departments to facilitate international visitors as well as other services” Allardice has written in his letter dated October 23.

More worryingly, Allardice has raised his concern whether SLC is able to function autonomously and Independently and more Importantly to get Sports Ministry and Government support.

“The ICC will be relying heavily on SLC to assist in the delivery of these aforementioned events, and to do that SLC must be able to manage its affairs autonomously and ensure that there is no government (or other public or quasi-public body) interference in its governance, regulation and/or administration of cricket.

The ICC would like to decide the location of the ICC Annual Conference 2024 and announce this decision to the Board and Members at the November ICC Board meetings. The preferred option is to award the staging of the ICC Annual Conference to SLC, but before such a decision is taken the ICC is seeking written assurances from SLC and the Sri Lanka Government that both organizations will offer full support to the ICC if the decision is to stage the conference in Colombo, and (from the Government) that SLC will be able to function autonomously under its elected Board throughout the period up to and including the Annual Conference.

The ICC has shown great confidence in SLC by awarding these events to Sri Lanka, with the substantial economic benefits associated with these events, so we are keen to ensure that there is stability in the relationship between SLC and the Government if the delivery of these events is to proceed as planned” Allardice has stated further.

After witnessing Sri Lanka Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe’s recent acts, it’s safe to say that now ICC is also getting concerned, as well as irritated! Recently, ICC bluntly refused to meet a three-member Sports Coordination Committee in Cricket appointed by Ranasinghe. The Minister had named legendary Sidath Wettimuny, former Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) President Upali Dharmadasa and Rakitha Rajapakshe, son of Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe in the committee.

The ICC, however, rejected the request, emphasizing that SLC must be allowed to govern its affairs autonomously and without any Government interference.

“The ICC’s point of contact for all issues relating to cricket in Sri Lanka will be Sri Lanka Cricket. So the ICC Chair and/or CEO will not be meeting with your International Sports Coordination Committee in Cricket without the endorsement of Sri Lanka Cricket, and no such endorsement has been given,” reads the letter signed by Allardice to Minister Ranasinghe on September 28.

And, ICC’s firm stance against Ranasinghe, as well as it’s growing concern, highlights the grim scenario in the functioning of the SLC due to the persistent political Interference. In his continuous efforts to screw Maitland Place top hierarchy and take control over Island’s most cherished game largely due to monetary reasons (SLC has USD 40 Million In It’s account, while all other Sport Bodies In the Island are cash-strapped), Ranasinghe has ended up giving an impression to the ICC that political Interference is at it’s all time peak in the functioning of the Board.

In April, the Minister set up a five-member Technical Consultative Committee headed by Sanath Jayasuriya to advise him, Ministry officials, and the National Sports Council on all matters relating to cricket in Sri Lanka. The committee advised Minister to make Sri Lanka’s Consultant Coach Mahela Jayawardene accountable for the team’s results. Minister ignored the advice. Now, the committee is defunct!

Then, after Sri Lanka made a first-round exit at the World Cup a few months after lifting the Asia Cup, the Sports Minister appointed a committee to inquire into alleged incidents that occurred during the ICC T20 World Cup 2022. The committee made a number of recommendations including the suspension of SLC’s registration and a complete audit. The audit was recently presented to the Parliament. Minister doesn’t talk about the audit report saga now, as even Auditor General cleared SLC of any financial irregularity!

As if all these gimics are not enough, Last year, Minister Ranasinghe also introduced several new regulations placing term limits and age limits, compromising the autonomy and independence of national sports bodies, including SLC. However, In the end, Minister himself ended up mutually agree with the Maitland Place top hierarchy in the appeal court to implement the new regulations in August. September has already gone, but no update on this!

And just recently, he barred SLC officials to travel India for the World Cup matches, that too using ICC funds! Notably, all other Cricket Board officials, Including Pakistan, are seen during their countrys World Cup matches, cheering and supporting their teams!

And now, ICC’s grave concern before staging the Annual Conference shows that Sri Lanka Cricket is Indeed heading towards a disaster, if SLC and Sports Ministry don’t agree to work on the same lines!

It’s time for Island’s president Ranil Wickramasinghe also to closely monitor Minister! Because of him, Rugby and Football have already suffered big time! And if Cricket faces the same fate, then It will be end of road for Sri Lanka in Sport!

About the author

N Krishnamurthy