by a Special Sports Correspondent
Rugby in Sri Lanka is in a state of limbo at the moment with an order being carried out to suspend the registration of Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR) with the Ministry of Sports Youth Affairs.
There were many reports in the media regarding this move which were misleading because some of those appearing in newspapers said that the suspension was temporary. The Director General Sports of the Ministry of Sports confirmed that the suspension stands and there is nothing temporary about it.
The suspension comes at the time when the club rugby tournament was commenced with the greatest of difficulties and the SLR President Rizly Illyas did well to find a sponsor to boost the conducting of rugby activities in the country. Now the SLR must understand one thing. With the suspension, this sports body returns to the status where at one time it was not affiliated to the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. That means this sports body cannot field a team to an international tournament and call it the national team. It can oversee rugby activities in the country.
Sri Lanka Rugby was earlier known as the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union (SLRFU). The union then had a few affiliated clubs and there were matches played between member clubs. The clubs grew in number over the years and there were over ten clubs playing Division One rugby. But some of those clubs are defunct and at present the number is eight. These eight teams are contesting a domestic inter-club league rugby tournament which is nearing an end now. The suspension imposed on the SLR in no way hinders the tournament. Rugby in Sri Lanka has grown and the SLR is represented by representatives of seven provincial unions.
Informed sources told this newspaper that the SLR’s elected body must do one thing; state clearly on its letterhead that its registration with the Ministry of Sports has been suspended. It is known that the SLR plans to conduct a knockout tournament and a seven-s-side tournament for member clubs this season after the league tournament. These too can take place under the supervision of SLR.
The main reason as stated in the newspapers for the suspension imposed is that the SLR disregarded the Sports Minister hence paving the way for the suspension. We also read in the newspapers that some provincial unions had not paid their subscriptions to the SLR, during the past two years, but had been actively involved in SLR’s AGM. It is said that these provincial unions to be readmitted to the SLR had to get the sports minister’s approval, but that protocol had not been followed. But this point is contested by rugby stalwarts who underscore that the SLR is an independent sports body and the sports ministry gets involved only when approval is needed for a national team to represent the country abroad and not in general administrative matters and disputes. Other than that if a member provincial union or a club has a dispute with SLR it can obtain redress for its grievances by seeking the assistance of the law.
We are nearing the time for the next Annual General Meeting of the SLR and it is interesting to see what the Sports Ministry plans regarding its next step. Just for the record back in 1996 the then Minister of Sports S.B Dissanayake suspended the Sri Lanka Taekwondo Federation (SLTF). Later an AGM was called by the Sports Ministry and a new set of office bearers were appointed. The founder of the SLTF fell out with the new committee. His only way out was he started promoting one of the affiliated clubs of the SLTF which is the Sri Lanka Taekwondo Association (SLTA). At present, the SLTF has close links with the ministry of sports while the SLTA works independently with no opportunity to send a national team abroad.
The competent authority which has been appointed to oversee rugby activities in the country plans to work with the administrative staff of the SLR.
A real problem will arise if the competent authority for rugby takes steps to conduct an AGM. In that event will the suspension of SLR’s registration with the Sports Ministry be lifted so that it would be fair by all parties involved in this dispute? This is the right thing to do, according to top figures in the rugby fraternity. We all know that the AGMs of all national sports bodies must be conducted before the first quarter of the year ends.
It is a known fact that the SLR’s president and the sports minister were not in a position to see eye to eye on rugby matters. Informed sources say the rugby’s big boss resented moves made by the sports minister when the latter wanted to interfere in rugby’s activities.
Rugby is at present not in a healthy position to get into disputes. It has earned a sponsor after much sweat. SLR got the sport going after a long break for the covid pandemic. The Sports Minister being a past player should have thought better and acted much wiser. Many consider the sports minister’s move to ‘block’ the SLR at this juncture as a very unreasonable and unjust act.
SLR sees tradition challenged during troubled times
by A Special Sports Correspondent
Rugby in Sri Lanka is at a standstill and there are many reasons for this. The main reason for this is Asian Rugby (AR) suspending the membership of Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR); the controlling body for rugby in Sri Lanka. The other reason is the chaotic situation in the country which has been brought about largely by the economic crisis.
This puts paid to Sri Lanka taking part in any regional tournaments. That could mean Sri Lanka’s chances of contesting the rugby sevens event of the upcoming Commonwealth Games is also in jeopardy. But there could be a way out of this murky situation for SLR if it conducts the AGM and has a free and fair election. AR is monitoring the rugby activities in Sri Lanka and even sent one of its representatives here to study the situation. AR proposed having the SLR AGM.
Our investigations into the events that have taken place in Sri Lanka’s rugby scene reveal that AR has found out that a democratic atmosphere doesn’t exist within the fraternity that the SLR controls. A representative from AR was here in April to conduct a probe on the rugby set-up here. The probe, according to news reports published in the web and leading national newspapers, revealed that all stakeholders of the game are not equally represented in SLR’s decision-making environment. Also, it has been revealed that the decision taken to suspend the SLR’s membership has been taken with the interest of maintaining Asian Rugby’s principles which are equality, transparency, and accountability.
It is also learned that the AR representative had made it known that the rugby set-up here in Sri Lanka was in need of an Annual General Meeting (AGM). This AGM would be called upon by the National Olympic Committee as desired by AR. A letter indicating the above has been sent to the minister of sports. According to the SLR its AGM is scheduled for August 27.
One of the major issues in local rugby is that Western Province Rugby Football Union (WPRFU)-the union with the highest number of rugby clubs-has been denied voting rights at past AGMs due to the nonpayment of membership fees to the SLR. The clubs within the WPRFU have come together as a force and made a request through the competent authority- appointed by the former sports minister to control rugby-to grant voting rights to individual clubs at the AGM. This is because the WPRFU is facing obstacles in contesting this AGM. This practice of clubs voting at the SLR AGM was done away with many years ago. An SLR official asked why these clubs representatives now want to return to an old system of having voting rights for clubs when most of these individuals, when serving the SLR as officials, were quite happy with provincial unions having voting rights some years ago?
Rugby in Sri Lanka was once a happy family. This writer remembers the manner in which tradition was preserved at past AGMs. There was one year when the bidding present of the SLR (Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union then) Michael Jayasekara was challenged at a vote by another candidate for the post of president. Jayasekara withdrew his nomination at the last hour to ensure maintaining the tradition of the bidding present of the SLR not be contested at a vote.
Rugby AGMs in the past have been ‘healthy’ and camaraderie has prevailed even during a voting for other posts. These get-togethers have been like parties and representatives of clubs and provinces have caught up on old times after the voting concluded and new committees were formed. At present provincial unions are fighting for their ‘pound of flesh’ and dirty politics exists.
Just a few weeks ago the WPRFU organised an open club rugby sevens tournament and received much response from clubs. Several schools were also invited to take part in the tournament. WPRFU officials were quoted in newspapers saying that the purpose of organizing the rugby sevens tournament was to give an opportunity to club players to play rugby sevens because they were denied chances of playing rugby due to the obstacles caused by the COVID pandemic during the past couple of years. But the chaotic political and economic situation in the country didn’t support the commencement of this tournament, which was scheduled for May 14. As many as 18 teams had confirmed participation. For the record, last year, the WPRFU conducted the ‘Warriors Cup’ sevens tournament with much success.
In the same manner, the inter-club league rugby tournament is to be discontinued. This is due to the chaotic situation in the country. According to SLR President Rizly Illyas the council is in the process of naming table leaders Kandy SC as the winner; by taking into consideration points accumulated.
When contacted SLR President Rizly Illyas said that he together with his committee, overseeing the rugby operations in the island, has always given blessings to each provincial union to conduct its own tournaments.
The SLR headed by Illyas recorded a victory recently when they managed to bring an interim order suspending the enactment of the Gazette issued by the Ex-sports minister suspending the registration of the SLR with the Ministry of Sports. The interim order was issued by the Court of Appeal and is effective till June 30, according to news reports.
Illyas said that he hopes that there would be a free and fair election.
Mathews and Dhananjaya keep Sri Lanka alive in second Test
Angelo Mathews and Dhananjaya de Silva each hit a fifty and put on a 102-run partnership to keep Sri Lanka going strong in the rain-hit second Test against Bangladesh yesterday.
Mathews remained unbeaten on 58 after de Silva went out with the same score to take Sri Lanka to 282-5 at stumps on the third day, still trailing Bangladesh by 83 runs.
Rain washed out entire post-lunch session but the duo stepped up their scoring rate to make up for lost time, with de Silva striking nine fours before Shakib Al Hasan got his wicket.
The right-hander, who faced 95 balls, was initially given not out on a caught-behind appeal before Bangladesh successfully reviewed.
Mathews, who smashed four fours and a six, was batting with Dinesh Chandimal on 10 at stumps.
Bangladesh made early inroads after Sri Lanka resumed on 143-2, Ebadot Hossain bowling nightwatchman Kasun Rajitha for a duck with the second ball of the day.
A gem of a delivery from Shakib dismissed Dimuth Karunaratne for 80 soon afterwards, with the Sri Lankan skipper adding 10 to his overnight score.
Shakib tossed the ball up on off-stump and Karunatne went for a drive but saw the flighted delivery dip and turn between bat and pad before crashing into his stumps.
Karunaratne, who was dropped on 37, struck nine boundaries in his 15th Test fifty.
De Silva hit Ebadot for three fours in one over just before the break after he and Mathews survived a difficult spell from the right-arm pace bowler and Shakib.
Shakib, the most successful bowler for Bangladesh so far, has claimed 3-59.
Apart from Shakib and Ebadot, the rest of Bangladesh bowlers failed to keep the pressure up serving too many boundary balls and the visitors were quick to cash in.
After losing Karunaratne early in the day, Mathews and de Silva were watchful and waited till the final session to up the tempo.
Sri Lanka will be eying a big first innings score and bat just once and then put the hosts under pressure with six more sessions remaining in the game. The wicket has offered some assistance for spinners but Sri Lanka’s spin duo of Ramesh Mendis and Praveen Jayawickrama hardly troubled the batsmen in the first innings. All nine Bangladesh wickets to fall for the bowlers were claimed by quicks with Kasun Rajitha accounting for his first five wicket haul. Asitha Fernnado finished with four wickets.
Bangladesh staged a remarkable recovery after being reduced to 24 for five as Liton Das (141) and Mushfiqur Rahim (175*) added a record 282 run stand for the sixth wicket.
Karunaratne solid in Sri Lanka reply after Mushfiqur heroics
Sri Lanka openers Dimuth Karunaratne and Oshada Fernando struck half-centuries to help the visitors end the second day of the first Test against Bangladesh on 143 for two in Dhaka on Tuesday. While Oshada Fernando fell for 57, Dimuth Karunaratne stayed unbeaten on 70 with Sri Lanka still trailing by 222 after restricting Bangladesh to 365.
The day, however, belonged to Mushfiqur Rahim, who struck an unbeaten 175, and Kasun Rajitha, who bagged his maiden five-wicket haul. Bangladesh had staged a remarkable recovery in the opening day when they went from being 24 for five to ending the day on 277 for 5.
Litton Das was the first to fall on the second day – for 141 – as the 272-run stand with Rahim came to an end. Taijul Islam resisted for a bit while Rahim kept the runs coming but Sri Lanka too kept chipping away. Asitha Fernando ended with four with Ebadot Hossain becoming the last man to fall – to a run out as Rahim was left stranded.
Both Fernando and Karunaratne came out attacking and scored 84 in the first 22 overs to take the side to tea without any loss.
Fernando successfully reviewed a caught-behind decision against him to survive a close call while Karunaratne fetched his first boundary of the innings when he flicked Hossain behind square. The start was completely in contrast to the one Bangladesh made against the new ball on the first day. With wickets not appearing to come anytime soon, Mominul Haque turned to spin as early as in the eighth over as he brought on Shakib Al Hasan and Mosaddek Hossain.
Bangladesh finally struck in the fourth over post tea when Fernando fell to a poor shot against Ebadot. The pacer could have had two in the over but the team decided against a review against Karunaratne on the second ball of the over. Karunaratne was then given another reprieve when a sharp chance was dropped by the short leg fielder off the bowling of Taijul Islam.
Three overs before close, Kusal Mendis fell lbw to Shakib al Hasan after a patient 49-ball 11as Bangladesh managed to even things out but will be well aware there’s plenty of work remaining to be done on the third day, especially on a good track.
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