Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene has said the country's cricketers may decide against taking part in the inaugural season of the Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL) if the Sri Lankan board doesn't "settle" the players' central contracts. "We will only sign SLPL contracts once the central contracts of Sri Lanka players are settled," Jayawardene said at the launch of the SLPL.

 "We discussed it about a month ago, before the Pakistan tour. I hope we can sort it out within the next few days."

SLC president Upali Dharmadasa, however, said that the issue would be sorted out by July 25. The players and board have been negotiating contracts since March this year. The contract issue follows a year in which SLC ran into financial problems after running up debts of close to $70 million to finance the building of two international stadiums in Hambantota and Pallekele, and to renovate the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo, for the 2011 World Cup.

As a result the players were not initially paid their salaries for eight months. In December 2011, 42.36% of the fees due to the players from the World Cup to September 30, 2011 were paid. The payment of US$2 million was made directly into the players' bank accounts, instead of routing it through Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), on December 16.

SLC claimed to have paid the remaining dues in March 2012 after the state-owned Bank of Ceylon agreed to release 600 million rupees (approx US$5.07 million) to the board, following discussions with sports minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage.

However, the players have not been paid since the previous contracts expired, as the new contracts have not been signed and therefore the terms and conditions of payments have not yet been established.

Jayawardene, who is part of the Wayamba franchise, also said the focus of the tournament should always remain on developing the game in Sri Lanka. "While we say all good things about the tournament, let me caution everyone … While we are making financial gains, the commitment of the people involved should be to harness the talent, develop the game in the outstations, get every possible youngster involved and let them realise their dream of playing for Sri Lanka one day."

SLC had released a list of 107 local players and 56 overseas players for the first edition of the SLPL, which is set to start on August 10. The tournament, which features seven franchises this year, will have two more the next year, covering all nine provinces. However, the board is yet to finalise the budget for the tournament.

"We are yet to estimate the cost. We are working out the budget," SLC's treasurer Nuski Mohammed said. "I don't think there will be a big cost. It'll be a very marginal net cost."