Sri Lanka cricket has been rocked on the eve of the home series against Bangladesh by the refusal of players to sign a new contract with the game's governing body.
Bangladesh have arrived in the island for a bilateral series which begins with a three-day match in Matara on Sunday.
But a contract wrangle between the players and Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) could result in the hosts being unable to field its star players against Bangladesh.
The SLC contract with top players including the national players expired on Thursday and SLC has set March 2 (Saturday) as the deadline for the players to sign their new contracts for 2013-14, according to the Daily Mirror.
However, even by Friday, none of the 60 players who had been offered contracts had signed it, leading to a crisis for SLC with the series against Bangladesh looming.
“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,” SLC Secretary Nishantha Ranatunga had been quoted as saying in the Daily Mirror.
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, according to the report.
All national players and even all development squad players have signed this letter authorising de Alwis following a decision taken by the Cricketers’ Association.
All top players had attended a Cricketers’ Association meeting on Wednesday (February 27) at Premadasa Stadium where they arrived at the decision to appoint de Alwis, the report added.
However, SLC refuse to accept the players' 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, a former CEO and Treasurer of the Sri Lanka Cricketers’ Association.
The players have refused to sign the contract over four main issues and want more time to discuss it before signing the new contracts, the report added.
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.
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.
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.
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
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