CT Sports: Current SLC President Thilanga Sumathipala is at the receiving end of criticism these days due to the shambolic behaviour of SLC, as well as the cricket team’s continuous poor show.
Skipper Angelo Mathews resigned after the shock loss to Zimbabwe, while the Selection Committee, too, tendered their resignation following the series loss to India.
Several parties have called for the resignation of Sumathipala for the betterment of Sri Lanka cricket and Sumathipala himself gave a very valid reason to all those calls for resignation by accepting his links to the gaming industry in open Court during cross-examination in his defamation case against former World Cup winning skipper turned politician Arjuna Ranatunga.
The Case has been dragging on for 12 years (since 2005) and the full case report was out only last Thursday (24 August) where Sumathipala lost the case.
According to page 14 of the Court report, Sumathipala had accepted the fact that Sporting Star is a book making business and he and his family are associated with it.
Q: Is Sporting Star a general book making business?
Q: Are you and your family famously connected to it?
This is how Sumathipala had responded during cross examination, accepting that he is in-fact, directly or indirectly, associated with one of the country’s biggest betting chains – Sporting Star.
It is an open secret that Sumathipala and his family members own a betting company. In addition they are also the owners of a leading media and publication company as well as a sports gear company.
All three are in direct violation of Sri Lanka’s sports law, which clearly states that a person who is associated with the gaming industry,Media Company or sports goods selling company, is not eligible to hold a post in the National Sports Association.
In such a situation, it’s very surprising how the Sports Ministry allowed him to contest in the first place, as many of the previous Sports Ministers’ did not want Sumathipala to contest for the top post at SLC.
To top that there was the ICC case which he faced in 2005 during his last year in office prior to this tenure.
The ICC CEO in 2005 Malcolm Speed requested Sumathipala to refrain from attending meetings until the various charges against him were concluded and the ICC Ethics Officer’s report on Sumathipala dealt with the charges.
ICC Ethics Officer Oliver Stocken, a Director of the ICC Audit Committee, conducted an inquiry on Sumathipala pertaining to his business dealings and alleged connection to the gaming industry and the publication Sporting Star under section 7.2 of the Code of Ethics, which concerns the involvement of directors in betting, gaming or gambling.
Since then Sumathipala, the Deputy Speaker of Sri Lanka’s Parliament, has been side tracking the issue for years, but ICC had asked him to clear his case before representing Sri Lanka in the ICC Committee after his election victory in January 2016.
Subsequently in March, SLC claimed that Sumathipala was cleared by ICC and he continued to attend ICC meetings, while also making an attempt to take over the Chairmanship of ICC when incumbent Shankar Manohar stepped down, but found he had no supporters for his bid.
In light of the Court report and his openly admitting his connection to the gaming industry, it’s surprising on what basis ICC cleared him last March to represent the country.
With Sri Lanka on a continuous losing streak, even against low ranked Zimbabwe during the recent past, there were many voices raised about match fixing and supplying team news to outsiders. SLC continued to deny such involvement, but one can’t help but wonder whether all those charges were true, especially since Sumathipala himself has admitted his connection to one of the country’s large betting chains.
There is also an inquiry into alleged match fixing during the domestic tournament where two of Sumathipala’s close allies were connected to the two clubs, which has taken months without being concluded, which clearly increases suspicion of SLC’s behaviour, especially with the National team’s shambolic losing streak.