Sri Lanka army to run cricket stadiums

Upul Tharanga of Sri Lanka, R Premadasa stadium, Colombo, March 2011 Colombo's R Premadasa stadium will be taken over by the air force

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The armed forces in Sri Lanka are to take over maintenance of the country's most prestigious cricket stadiums.

The country's heavily indebted cricket board says it can no longer afford to carry out the task.

The sports ministry has announced that the army, navy and air force will each look after one stadium.

However, some Sri Lankans expressed concern at the move, with one opposition MP saying that the military was "taking over everything".

Deep in debt

When it jointly hosted the Cricket World Cup this year, Sri Lanka built two shiny new stadiums - one of them in the president's home district - and completely renovated another.

The expense was huge - some of the loans haven't yet been repaid - and the cricket board is now deep in debt.

The sports ministry said the army, navy and air force would do the maintenance work - and probably the security on match days as well - at one stadium each.

A member of the cricket board and former national player, Sidath Wettimuny, told the BBC this was because the board's finances were so depleted.

But opposition MP Harin Fernando said he was "utterly shocked" by the forces' involvement.

Noting that the army was also selling vegetables and building city infrastructure, he commented that the military was "taking over everything" according to the whims of the country's defence secretary.

Mr Fernando said the trend was harming civilians' jobs and salaries and that the armed forces' morale was also suffering.

The cricket board has failed to pay players' salaries for several months.

Its new chairman has criticised his predecessors for spending so much money on stadiums, and fans say other well-established grounds are now being neglected.

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