Sri Lanka’s economic slowdown has taken its toll on the island’s hugely popular sport of cricket as long-term sponsor disappear,Sports Minister Gamini Lokuge said on Monday.
The national team,which includes Test cricket’s leading wicket-taker Muttiah Muralitharan,failed to attract backers when sponsorship for the team and players’ clothing was put up for bidding this month.
“The global economic crunch and the economic slowdown in Sri Lanka has had an impact on companies coming forward to sponsor our national team,” Lokuge said.
“It’s a shame. We have a full calendar of games this year.”
However,Sri Lanka’s biggest mobile operator Dialog Telekom on Monday signed an 89,000-dollar deal to sponsor the national team on a three-month trial basis until Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) finds a permanent sponsor.
The previous team sponsor,Sri Lanka’s Dilmah Tea,spent two million dollars during a three-year period. Sri Lanka Cricket did not comment on why Dilmah declined to renew the sponsorship. Dilmah officials were not available for comment.
“We will consider extending the sponsorship if the business climate improves and our team performs well in the upcoming tours,” said Nushad Perera,Chief Marketing Officer of Dialog Telekom.
During the three-month trial that ends on March 31,Sri Lanka will play two Tests and three one-day internationals in Pakistan and host India and Zimbabwe for one-day series.
One of Sri Lanka’s biggest clothing manufacturers,MAS Holdings,also agreed to continue its sponsorship until the end of March in a deal worth almost 300,000 dollars,SLC’s head of marketing,Charith Senanayake,said.
The cash-strapped SLC is now eyeing bids from international broadcasters to secure rights for India’s hastily-arranged tour of Sri Lanka later this month for five one-dayers and a Twenty20 international.
Bids for the bilateral series,which that runs from January 28 to February 10,closes later on Monday,with TV networks such as Ten Sports,Sony TV,Nimbus and ESPN-Star in the fray.
The tour was finalised to partly fill the gap created by India’s cancelled trip to Pakistan in January-February following the Mumbai terror attacks in November.
India last toured Sri Lanka in July-August last year,losing the Tests 2-1 before winning the one day series 3-2.