Television

TV rights for Sri Lankan cricket open from next year

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MUMBAI: The confusion over who holds the rights for cricket played in Sri Lanka has been resolved.

The country's cricket board, Sri Lanka Cricket, has decided to honour the agreement with Taj Television but only as far as England's tour of the island in November is concerned. Taj's subsidiary Ten Sports will air the matches in Asia and Europe.

There was a three way tussle involving Sri Lanka's cricket board, Taj Television and World Sport Nimbus (WSN) and a hearing to this effect was going on in Singapore.

After the England tour, however, the board, which earlier this month underwent a name change to Sri Lanka Cricket (from Broad of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka), has taken the decision to start a three year agreement bidding process. This will run from 1 January 2004 to 31 December 2006.

In tandem with the change in name, a commercial arm called Sri Lanka Cricket Incorporated, was also set up to look after the business interests of the game.

An official release issued by Sri Lanka Cricket informs that applications together with the credentials should reach its marketing director on or before 29 September. Sri Lanka Cricket intends to make the bid document available for potential bidders before 1 November.

Taj TV's contract was supposed to run till August 2004. Now the Bukhatir broadcaster will have to bid all over again if it wants to show the likes of South Africa and Australia, both of which have scheduled tours to the island next year.

The broadcast rights to Sri Lankan cricket has been a bone of contention for a while now. The rights originally rested with World Sport Nimbus (WSN), in a deal that was brokered when BCCSL was headed by Thilanga Sumathipala.

When Sumathipala was ousted from his post as BCCSL president in 2001, an interim committee under Vijaya Malalasekera terminated WSN's contract in October 2001 citing delays in payment of dues on the part of the sports marketing company.

The rights subsequently went to Taj TV but WSN then retaliated by filing a $ 11 million damages claim against BCCSL before a Singapore tribunal.

Matters came to a head after Sumathipala won the presidentship of the BCCSL in elections in June this year following the board's re-instatement and reopened negotiations with WSN.

As regards the $11 million claim that the Singapore court was to rule on, last heard WSN had come down to $4 million, but Sumathipala was asking it be further reduced to $2.75 million. As a sop, he was reportedly offering WSN the television rights for England's tour in November as also priority in any future television contracts with Sri Lanka Cricket.

How the latest deal was brokered is still to be ascertained but as a result of the compromise reached with Taj TV, Sri Lanka is likely to resume their twice-a-year Sharjah tours.

Apart from England's tour of Sri Lanka, Taj TV owns the rights to cricket played in Pakistan, West Indies, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Sharjah and Morocco. The last two are organised by Bukhatir's Cricketers' Benefit Fund Series.

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