SLC suspends all board-run domestic tournaments

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Sri Lanka Cricket on Friday announced that it was suspending all board-run domestic tournaments in the country, a move understood to have stemmed from a dispute surrounding the restructuring of domestic tournaments in the country.

“Sri Lanka Cricket has decided to immediately halt all board-conducted domestic tournaments,” SLC stated in a media release. “This includes the ongoing Major Club 3-Day Tournament and also the Invitational Club Tier ‘B’ 3-Day Tournament.”

The situation goes back to 2021 when SLC had sought to revamp its domestic structure that critics had long viewed as bloated. The plan, which was recommended by the now-defunct Technical Advisory Committee headed by Aravinda de Silva, had seen a two-tier structure done away with and replaced by two groups of 13 teams.

The idea was that these 26 teams would compete in three-day matches over the course of a season, with the bottom two sides from each group (four in total) relegated for the first two years, with three teams being relegated in the third. This would then leave 15 teams left playing in Sri Lanka’s premier domestic tournament, thus addressing complaints over its bloated nature as well as presumably cultivating a culture of higher calibre cricket.

However, a byproduct of the relegation system was that the relegated teams would no longer have a three-day tournament to compete in, instead contesting in the Governor’s Trophy, a limited overs tournament. This in turn led to several relegated clubs complaining about a lack of cricket both in quantity and quality.

On June 17, following these complaints, SLC, at an Emergency General Meeting, held a vote among its members to reinstate the two-tier system that had been in place prior to 2021. The move was ratified by SLC membership and thus the Major Club three-day Tournament and the Invitational Club Tier B three-day tournament began in June and July 2023 respectively.

In terms of deciding which sides would compete in the new Tier B tournament, SLC decided to include the four relegated teams from 2022, as well as the top six teams from the Governor’s Trophy tournament.

This move however was protested by Gesto Cricket Club (GCC), a team competing and hovering near the bottom of the Governor’s Trophy tournament. While the exact reasoning is unclear, they would take the matter to Sri Lanka’s Court of Appeals, which in August ruled to take up the hearing at a future date until which time the tournaments would be allowed to continue as planned.

GCC, unhappy with this outcome, appealed the decision to Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Sports. This appeal would be ratified by Sri Lanka’s sports minister, Roshan Ranasinghe, following which the Director General of Sports wrote to SLC on August 25 stating that any move to change a tournament’s structure could only happen through a change in the SLC’s constitution. As per Sri Lanka’s Sports Law, any change to SLC’s constitution requires the approval of the sports minister.

SLC for their part claim to have written to the sports minister seeking approval but says they had not received a response. However, as the change was simply a shift back to the previous format, an SLC official confirmed that they had gone ahead with it regardless following the approval of their membership. An SLC official told ESPNcricinfo that this was a reasonable assumption to make as this was a change back to the structure that had been in place for several years prior, as well as one voted for by its members. That, though, now seems to be the sticking point.

“Accordingly, Sri Lanka Cricket is compelled to suspend all SLC-organised domestic cricket tournaments until clarification is obtained on the same,” concluded the media release.

As to when that clarification might be forthcoming is unclear, with the only certainty at present being that the continuation of Sri Lanka’s domestic cricket season is firmly in the hands of the country’s sports minister.

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