The PCB and the caretaker Punjab government have hit a roadblock in a financial dispute over the cost of security for the PSL games in Lahore and Rawalpindi. The PCB has set a deadline of Saturday to decide the fate of the remaining PSL games in Punjab province, and if the deadlock remains intact, the board will move the league to Karachi – in the province of Sindh – from February 28.
The government is understood to have generated an invoice of PKR 450 million for security arrangements made by the administration. The original cost according to the government was Rs. 900 million but the government had revised it, sharing fifty percent of the cost and asking PCB to pay the other half. The PCB is adamant against paying, insisting that the prerogative to provide security lies with the provincial government.
A delegation representing the Punjab government met PCB chairman Najam Sethi at the Gaddafi Stadium on Friday, but the meeting ended without a resolution. Both sides refused to back down from their stance, and the PCB has now set the Saturday deadline, so that the board can reschedule the tournament starting Tuesday. The PCB cannot afford to move the league instantly as both Lahore Qalandars and Peshawar Zalmi have already arrived in Lahore and the TV production kit is being installed at Gaddafi Stadium. In PCB’s worst-case scenario, if the Punjab government withdraws from hosting PSL over a cost dispute, the board has a contingency plan to play two games in Lahore on Sunday and Monday before moving to Karachi.
ESPNcricinfo understands that the PCB has informed the government that it has paid approximately PKR 700 million provincial tax to the government exclusively, due to PSL matches being held in Punjab. The PCB has said that governments usually “pay fees to host sports events due to the positive economic activity generated as a result.”
The government’s demand is understood to be unprecedented as there have been no such requests for additional payments in the past. When it comes to games in Karachi, the Sindh government does not require the PCB to pay a share of the security costs, though only requires remuneration for the security personnel’s catering. That cost is understood to be in the region of PKR 30 million and in Punjab the cost is roughly PKR 50 million, which the PCB has already sent across.
In an emergency governing council meeting on Friday afternoon, the PCB took all PSL franchise owners into confidence before meeting the government. It was unanimously agreed upon that no additional payments are to be made, and in adverse circumstances, the league shall be moved to another province where the board does not have to pay and create a precedence. Historically, since cricket has returned to the country, the security for international cricket and PSL has been unprecedented with over 6000 security personnel usually deployed for cricket-related activities.
ESPNcricinfo also understands that Shahbaz Sharif, the Pakistan prime minister and also PCB’s patron-in-chief could possibly intervene to break the deadlock. But the prime minister has not yet been approached by the board, left as a last-resort option.
The first 12 matches of the PSL have taken place in Karachi and Multan. A total of 11 matches are scheduled to be played in Rawalpindi and Lahore currently has nine matches scheduled. The Multan leg of the event is over.
There are also three women’s “festival games” slotted midway into the PSL – in Rawalpindi on March 8, 10 and 11 – involving local and overseas players, in what will be a case of the PCB testing the idea ahead of a full-fledged women’s T20 league in the future.
The first match in Lahore is currently scheduled to be held on February 26 after which the Rawalpindi leg starts on March 1. The playoffs and final – on March 19 – are currently scheduled for Lahore.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent