Unpaid Sri Lankans give rise to fixing fear

Fears of corruption in cricket were again raised yesterday as it emerged that Sri Lanka's players have not been paid since February. Although they have played several Test and one-day series in the last seven months and reached the World Cup final, none of the players has received any of their agreed salaries or match fees from the board.

The amount owing is believed to be almost $6 million (£3.9m). There is no suggestion that there has been any sharp practice in the matches but the team's form has dipped alarmingly recently.

Since reaching the World Cup final, when they lost to India, Sri Lanka have lost all their Test and one-day series, to England, Australia and Pakistan. The players have been silent until now, determined to give the board every chance to keeptheir repeated promise that the money was on the way.

The International Cricket Council are profoundly concerned that unpaid players can become disaffected and more open to the approaches of illegal bookmakers or others seeking to make money from the outcome of matches.

Tim May, the chief executive of Fica, the international players' body, said: "The players have been very patient, they are proud to represent their country and their people, but this situation is now becoming very worrying. It will serve as a warning sign for many other countries."

The case of Sri Lanka shows the vast gap between the haves and have-nots in cricket. The board are broke after over-spending on stadiums built or renovated to stage their part of the 2011 World Cup.

Without any large dividend from TV rights, Sri Lanka cricket is dependent almost entirely on ICC funding or loans from other cricketing bodies. It is hardly helped by having a perpetually unstable administration, with new elections due in January.

Fica and the ICC fear that problems could easily occur in the West Indies and other smaller nations, while India control 80 per cent of the game's revenue.

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