Sri Lanka Cricket rejects allegations it unfairly favoured Carlton in rights award

Sri Lanka Cricket has defended the award of its domestic television rights to terrestrial sports broadcaster the Carlton Sports Network following allegations of irregularities during the tender process.

CSN, which is owned by the sons of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, secured a deal worth SLR125 million (€762,000/$953,000) for the rights to all national team cricket in Sri Lanka over the next three years, in a deal running between 2012 to 2015. The SLC has been accused of unfairly favouring the newly-established CSN over state broadcasters and other private competitors.

SLC president Upali Dharmadasa told the BBC Sinhala news service that the correct tender procedures were followed, adding that CSN was the sole bidder following the tender’s advertisement through local media and the SLC’s official website.

The previous rights-holder, state-owned broadcaster Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation, missed out on bidding because it did not know the tender had been launched, despite the tender being advertised in a local newspaper.

“Nothing illegal or unlawful has taken place,” Dharmadasa said. He rejected suggestions that the award of the rights had been politically influenced. “Are we supposed to reject a company because it is an organisation owned by the president’s sons?” he said.

Former Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga, who also previously held the post of SLC president and is now a Member of Parliament, said the award of broadcast rights for three years was unprecedented in Sri Lankan cricket.

“Rights were [usually] granted on a series-by-series basis, not for very long periods,” Ranatunga said. “At least the SLC should have advertised the amount of matches played in these three years and called for bids accordingly.”

State-owned broadcaster Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation has traditionally held the broadcast rights to Sri Lankan cricket since the national team rose to prominence by winning the Cricket World Cup in 1996. The corporation’s chairman, Mohan Samaranayake, said an investigation would be launched into how the company missed the tender advertising, but added that the loss of the rights would not be a critical financial blow to the broadcaster.

“Yes, we will certainly lose a considerable income but I wouldn’t say we will end up in debt as a result,” Samaranayake said. “We will look into how our marketing and sports departments missed the newspaper advertisement and of course will continue to bid for sports rights in future events.”