Shuttlers requested to seek funding to participate at World Junior Championships
Dec 21, 2016

Breaching all norms and guidelines set out by the Ministry of Sports and the Ministry of Education, the Sri Lanka Badminton Federation (SLBA) has charged close to Rs. 200,000 from each player that represented Sri Lanka at the BWF World Junior Championships and the World Junior Mixed Team Championships held from November 1-13 in Spain.

This was done despite the Ministry of Sports footing the bill for air passage to send the 16 athletes, a team manager, a coach and a lady chaperone for the championship. In addition, the world federation BWF also made a grant of US$ 5000, approximately Rs. 740,000, to the local body to cover some of the costs incurred.

This is a gross violation of the Education Ministry circular which strictly prohibits associations from collecting funds from athletes to send them on foreign tours, charged Chinthaka Fernando, a former junior national coach.

“Why did these innocent players have to pocket out money to represent their country? We have seen this happening over and over again but sadly the Sports Ministry and the Education Ministry have repeatedly turned a blind eye,” he said.

“On the other hand, had they selected the minimum required number of players, which I believe is eight, the burden would have been much less on players. Also, players had to bear the expenses of the three officials on tour. How fair was that?” he questioned.

The national association, however, says that at no point had they asked for or collected money from the players. They claim they issued them letters to find sponsors to finance the tour as the national federation was not on a sound financial footing to bear the cost of the tour party.

On October 5, SLBA issued letters to all the athletes to find sponsors. It is learnt that some of the players had, in fact, managed to find sponsors while others footed the bill on their own to make their dream of representing Sri Lanka at a World Championships a reality. According to the letter, the players were asked to collect Rs. 311,400 to cover the costs which included the air ticket priced at Rs. 135,000. But on the request of the players, the Sports Ministry had paid for air passage.

“We have given clear instructions to associations not to collect money from players. So what they do now is to issue letters to the players to find sponsors in order to save their faces. I have received a number of complaints from parents regarding this and will call for explanation from the school badminton president,” said Sunil Jayaweera, Consultant Sports, Education Ministry.

Worse, however, was that the three best women’s shuttlers in Hashini Ambangoda, Jithmi Dias and Anurangi Masakorale dropped out of the tournament due to financial difficulties.

“I sent my child with my own money as I could afford it but there were many others who could not. Given the importance of the event, some parents have pawned their jewellery to find the money. How tragic is that? Why should anyone pay to represent their own country? Why can’t those in the federation get the required funding?” a parent said, on the condition of anonymity.

Amal Dias, Secretary SLBA, admitted that they could have played the tournament with a lesser number of players which would have minimized the financial burden on the players. He said they had allowed larger participation due to a request from the players and parents.

“It’s true that we could have done it with six or eight players but there were request from parents for more representation as it gives the players an advantage when seeking university entrance. So we decided to allow the best eight players in both male and female categories,” Dias added.

“What an excuse is that? asked Fernando.“this is the world championships and you send the best team to win. But here we are sending players just to make up the numbers. In fact”, I heard that a high ranking officer had called the manager and wanted him to make some change in the team to allow those in the bench to compete,” he said.

Panditharatne, the president of the school association who accompanied the team as manager, admitted collecting money from players.

“Yes, we issued letters to players to find sponsors but I don’t know whether everyone who toured managed to find sponsorship. When we went there, we were short of money and we requested the BWF grant of US$ 5000. They released $ 2000 and said the rest will be deposited into the SLBA accounts. I think this balance US$ 3000 should be divided among the players now,” he said.

Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera when contacted said he would call for explanation from the SLBA.

Source: Daily Mirror - Sri Lanka

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