“They felt that the situation in Sri Lanka was not conducive to garner the confidence of the stakeholders,” SLC secretary Mohan de Silva said in a media briefing.
“Not only the member countries, but a tournament of this magnitude requires other stakeholders, like the broadcasters, sponsors, etc. What they felt was that the negative publicity shown all over the world, with the petrol queues and all that, didn’t help our cause.”
That “negative publicity” refers to the economic crisis currently engulfing Sri Lanka, where a combination of high debt and low foreign exchange, compounded by poor fiscal management by the Sri Lankan government, has paved the way for a fuel and food shortage. This resulted in months-long protests calling for the resignation of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as President. He eventually ceded to these demands last month, after throngs of protestors converged upon Colombo. The appointment of Ranil Wickremesinghe as his replacement, however, has failed to turn public sentiment.
It was this tense country state that had made it nigh on impossible for security clearance to be granted for multiple broadcast crews to enter the country.
“Sponsors were finding it difficult to get insured, and the security clearance for broadcast crews to enter Sri Lanka was also an issue. The delegates who wanted to come from the other countries also weren’t prepared to come,” explained SLC CEO Ashley de Silva.
It didn’t help Sri Lanka’s cause that the Lanka Premier League, which was supposed to begin in the first week of August, was also postponed due to the current situation; it will now be held in November.
“The sponsors of the franchises had concerns about coming to Sri Lanka. A sponsorship deal not only entails sponsoring the side, but then the sponsors also need to be able to travel around the country freely. Sponsors come to give prominence to their brands, and they felt that at this time this sort of tournament would not give them the necessary mileage.”
That said, despite all these concerns, many of the Asian Cricket Council member nations had largely been on board with Sri Lanka going ahead with hosting the tournament – a sentiment backed up by how late this decision was left – however the key issue none of the boards were able to overlook was the potentially “huge financial losses” had the tournament been cancelled. This was down to the fact that the Asia Cup is a tournament that helps the ACC drum up funds for their development work – funds that are shared among member countries.
“This would have been done a long time ago if it was some other country. All the other countries were very supportive of having the tournament here, which is why they kept on delaying a final decision.
“But they felt a tournament of this magnitude, looking at the current situation, could not have been played here. They didn’t want to take any chances, because if the tournament got cancelled, all the members would have had to fund ACC for the next two years.”
There is, though, a silver lining of sorts for SLC, who have retained the tournament’s hosting rights, even though it is now to be held in the UAE. What this means is that SLC will still receive a substantial sum from the ACC, to the tune of roughly $ 6.5 million.
Ashley de Silva detailed the expenditure, with the key takeaway being that the UAE will be using revenue from ticket sales to pay for expenses related to the tournament, whereas had Sri Lanka hosted it they would have used $ 2.5 million disbursed as a “hosting fee” to pay for the same and kept ticket sales as profits. Sri Lanka, however, will still receive the “hosting fee,” as well a percentage of ticket sales.
“Generally the revenue generated from the broadcast and ground rights goes to the ACC, who at the end of the tournament distributes these funds to the member countries that participate in this tournament. That is between 2-3 million, based on the profit which the tournament generates.
“Of the rest of the funds, part of it is given to the host of the tournament. From this we’re supposed to provide the accommodation and conduct the whole tournament in the country. That comes as hosts fee. And the hosts what they normally get is only the ticket money – this is the profit that the host board makes.
“So this $ 2.5 million would have gone towards accommodation for the players, officials, and also for logistical expenses related to the tournament. We would have ended up making a maximum of about $200,000-300,000. On top of that we would have also made some revenue from the ticket sales. And then there’s the distribution fund that all the teams would have got.
“Now, the UAE will only get the ticket sales, which is what they will use to conduct the entire tournament. We [Sri Lanka] will still get the host fee. In addition to that, the UAE has also promised to give us another $ 1.5 million from the ticket sales.”
While this is financially more than what SLC would have been making had Sri Lanka hosted the tournament, the country as a whole will lose out on crucial tourism revenue.
“If you look at it, we would have created a lot of awareness about the country and brought in a lot of tourism into the country, if the situation was normal and we held the tournament here. So economically the country also would have benefitted. But nevertheless, the funds we’re generating now will also end up coming into Sri Lanka.”
There were also two T20Is against India that had been earmarked, likely after the Asia Cup, which are now off the table.
The Asia Cup is set to take place from August 27 to September 11.