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Cricket: PCB's huge financial problems emerge

PCB's huge financial problems emergeThe full extent of the financial problems plaguing the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) are only now becoming apparent as Ijaz Butt, the board chairman, described the financial position as "terrible" to senators.

Butt claimed the board's reserves had been halved over the last two years, in thinly-veiled digs at the administration of Nasim Ashraf, from whom he took over in October last year.

"It stood at $42 million in October 2006, but when I took over as the chairman in October last year it was just $19 million," Butt told the senate standing committee on sports. "Our finances are in terrible shape and that's why we have shelved all the development plans."

India's cancellation of their tour to Pakistan this month hasn't helped matters, denting the board further to the tune of at least US$40 million and though Sri Lanka has replaced them and agreed to tour, the series will raise little - US$500,000 - compared to the effect an India series has. In the past - notably 2003-04 - when the board was in financial trouble, a series against the neighbours revived the situation completely.

"We suffered a loss of at least $40 million while on the other hand India lost four times more than us," Butt said. "The Sri Lanka series would help us generate just a small amount, but we do hope that the Indian cricket team tours Pakistan in the near future." Butt is keen for ties to be revived between the two, even if it is away from home. He believes Pakistan will earn at least US$25-$30 million from playing India at a neutral venue as an alternative.

Butt has been on a drive to cut burgeoning administrative costs wherever possible since he took over and the wage bill, he said, was his next target. The board's workforce, an official confirmed to mag4you, has ballooned from 315 when Shaharyar Khan was removed in October 2006, to over 800 when Ashraf resigned in August 2008. Many were employed under a Special Services Agreement (SSA), which doesn't specify the exact nature of roles and leaves room open for 'ghost' employees.

"Our wage bill comes out to roughly Rs25-30 million [US$317,000-$380,000] a month and so from June-December 2008, we spent Rs170 million [US$2.1million] on wages alone," said the official. "The chairman promised the senate that he would cut this in half over 2009."

Employees will be laid off in the coming months and any new hirings will come in on considerably lower salaries, the official added.

Last week it was revealed that the board also discovered major financial irregularities in the renovation of Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, though former chief operating officer Shafqat Naghmi has denied the claim.

Pakistan's lack of international cricket ruined much of their last year and is one of the main reasons behind their financial headaches but 2009, beginning with Sri Lanka's visit, promises to be a little better. Australia postponed their visit last March but are now due to play five one-day internationals against Pakistan in April. The PCB has provided three offshore options - Kuala Lumpur, Abu Dhabi and England - in case Australia continue to have reservations. Privately, officials believe that Kuala Lumpur and UAE are more serious options for the series given that April is early season in England.

"We want to host Australia in Pakistan," Butt said. "But if they have their security concerns, these are the three venues which will come up for discussions when I meet officials of Cricket Australia in Perth later this month."

Also this year Pakistan will hope to stage the ICC Champions Trophy, which was postponed from last year after several countries refused to visit. Supposedly the second most prestigious one-day tournament after the World Cup, Butt said the tournament will likely be played in its entirety in Karachi and will bring in a much-needed US$5 million to the board.

The senate has set another hearing for February 9 and asked Ashraf, Naghmi and current officials to appear.

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