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WSN claims $11m. in damages from Lanka cricket board?

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MUMBAI: If its News Corp company Global Cricket Corporation (GCC) that is claiming damages from the International Cricket Council (ICC) for non-delivery of various rights and for damage to cricket properties during the World Cup tournament, in Sri Lanka it is the former part owner of GCC that is making its own damages claims.



World Sport Nimbus (formerly a 50 per cent stakeholder in GCC), the 50:50 JV between Harish Thawani's Nimbus Communications and World Sport Group, has reportedly sought financial damages in the region of $ 11 million against the Sri Lanka cricket board (BCCSL).

 

The case is a fallout of BCCSL's early termination in October 2001 of WSN's television broadcasting contract. As per WSN's original contract, it held the broadcast rights for international cricket played in the Emerald Isles till November 2003. Dubai-based Taj Television, which runs Ten Sports, subsequently picked up the cricket rights for a reported guarantee fee of $13.9 million.



These are the facts of the case: The BCCSL cancelled its three-year $27.1 million broadcasting agreement with WSN in October 2001 after complaining that WSN had "repeatedly missed payment deadlines". The BCCSL then signed a fresh three-year deal with Taj Television valid from mid-2002 to mid-2005.



When WSN went to court on the matter, the BCCSL obtained an injunction against WSN in Sri Lanka but the legal wrangle moved to Singapore where WSN finally obtained an injunction overruling Colombo. A Singapore tribunal has ruled that BCCSL had wrongfully terminated WSN cricket website cricinfo.com recently reported.



The tribunal has thus far ordered the BCCSL to pay $768,667 plus legal costs of approximately $250,000 to WSN. Additionally, it has ruled that WSN is "entitled to recover from the BCCSL damages to be assessed."



While the hearing date has been set for September, sources close to the proceedings say that WSN is claiming $ 11 million in damages. That means that the damages bill that has been thrown at the BCCSL is over $12 million.



And considering that the BCCSL board announced a $900,000 loss for 2002 (due primarily to the lack of inbound tours but also because of increased player salaries), the Singapore tribunal's ruling has the potential of bankrupting the Lankan board.



New BCCSL president Thilanga Sumathipala, who was elected by a landslide last Friday (it was BCCSL's first election in three years), has his task cut out trying to reach a fair settlement. It was Sumathipala who negotiated the original deal with WSN in 2000.

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