Spending at football runs into thumping millions | Sunday Observer

Spending at football runs into thumping millions

29 May, 2022
Anura de Silva
Anura de Silva

Sri Lanka is going through a dire economic crisis because of the shortage of foreign reserves to pay for basic essentials but the country’s football governing body FSL (Football Sri Lanka) does not seem to be undergoing a dollar crisis.

On the other hand they have been liberally withdrawing funds received from the world governing body for the sport FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) from FSL’s USD account especially during the last few months.

A total sum of over US$ 2.25 million has been withdrawn ever since Jaswar Umar was elected FSL president on June 30 last year. This amounts to Rs 440,000,000 million when the dollar rate is calculated at approximately Rs 200. That means for the past nine months, FSL has been spending an average of Rs 48 million a month.

Eyebrows were raised when a huge sum of $500,000 was withdrawn just two days before the dollar exchange rate skyrocketed to Rs 380 after the Central Bank allowed the American dollar to float against the rupee. As a result of this single transaction, the FSL may have lost a sum exceeding Rs 70 million approximately having received probably Rs 100 million at the rate Rs 200 per dollar.

The question that begs answers is on what basis huge sums were withdrawn without the knowledge of even some members of the FSL executive committee (ExCo) by Jaswar who also heads the Finance Committee in what many view as a conflict of interest.

Past president of the FSL Anura de Silva in his capacity as head of the Polgahawela Football League raised pertinent questions related to these withdrawals being privy to confidential information which is not reflected in the monthly statements or annual accounts of the football body. He received a cold response from the FSL to a list of queries he addressed to the FSL general secretary on May 5 which was copied to the Secretary, Ministry of Sports, DG (Director General) Sports, Department of Sports Development, Audit Superintendent, Ministry of Sports.

The main points are regarding the conduct of the Mahinda Rajapakse 4-nation tournament and related expenses for which Rs 134 million had been spent, donations/grants received from FIFA/AFC and other sources from January 1 2022 to March 5, Annual Plan and Annual Budget for 2022, and conduct of the Provincial Tournament 2022.

When Anura de Silva completed his term of office, there was approximately $1.4 million in FSL’s FIFA and AFC USD accounts in the Standard Chartered Bank.

He had requested them to provide bank balances of the USD and LKR accounts operated by FSL, how many Finance Committee meetings were held and whether it was tabled at the ExCo for approval. More significantly he has asked the exchange rate at which all transfers were negotiated with the bank.

“As president of a member league it is our right to know because I represent Polgahawela FL as a council member in the FSL. As per the Constitution of the Federation all approvals given by the ExCo must be endorsed by the Council again. It must come to the Council,” De Silva pointed out.

“We will not hesitate to complain to the appropriate authorities if we sense there are financial malpractices. Already there is a conflict of interest since all the powers are vested in one man. There is no transparency and accountability. What we hear is some members are not aware of what is happening,” he said.

From January 1 till his term ended on June 29 last year, Anura de Silva had withdrawn only $629,458 with the biggest amount being $111,000 to pay Amir Alagic’s salary. However, from August to December a total of over $1 million (100,000 in September, 250,000 in October, 250,000 in November, 150,000 and 200,000) has been withdrawn.

Meanwhile, within the space of three months this year over $1.25 million (250,000 on Janury 11, 300,000 on February 9, 200,000 on March 3 and 500,000 on March 10) has been taken out by the FSL. Anura de Silva found it fishy that a massive sum of $500,000 was withdrawn just days before the dollar was floated.

“We never expected the government to float the dollar but it is common knowledge that our rupee has never appreciated against the dollar. I can remember when I was kid it used to be Rs 50 to the dollar. Every day the dollar appreciates against the rupee,” he pointed out.