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Rugby’s rich history has power to entice sponsors

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Action at the Nippon Paint Company sponsored Inter-Club league rugby tournament

by a Special Sports Correspondent

Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR) did well to strike a deal with Nippon Paint Company (NPC) early this month to boost its domestic rugby tournaments. NPC threw its weight behind rugby at a time when a leading communication giant didn’t come through as the sponsor for domestic rugby in Sri Lanka; this was despite much communication between the two parties.

Rugby in Sri Lanka has such a rich history it doesn’t have to be a loser when it comes to finding a sponsor. What’s needed is for SLR to have a good marketing team which is able to entice sponsors. The word ‘entice’ perfectly suits a description of rugby because the game has ideal attributes like speed, power, glamour and color to paint a picture full of energy where ever rugby is played. These are qualities that attract players, spectators and sponsors.

The sponsor is basically on board to sponsor the inter-club league rugby tournament, the Clifford Cup knock-outs and the inter-club rugby sevens. The sponsor came in at a time when the world of sports was slowly opening up after the worse phase of the Covid 19 pandemic. We passed a time when wearing masks, maintaining distances and isolating ourselves had damaged human relationships to a great extent. The worse was we never trusted anyone during the most challenging times of the pandemic. The fact that NPC accepted to come on board following an invitation by SLR should be hailed. Sport builds trust and rugby has the credentials to go beyond trust and look at lasting relationships. There again we read in the print media that one party in the sponsoring company was a past rugby player and that was one factor that helped the two parties to come together and form a partnership within a short period of negotiating.

Rugby at the senior level has eight clubs and all these are established institutes. Apart from the main title sponsor some of the clubs might have their private sponsors. This was the norm for many years during the past. The same can be said about the school rugby scene. Just a few years ago a well-known rugby playing school in Maradana-despite playing in Division 11 tournament- had three sponsors during a single season. The company logos were sported all over the players’ jerseys and shorts. The major rugby playing schools that year-playing in the division 1 tournament-had plenty to carry during that season. Rugby is a money spinning den and sports clubs and schools only have to find the right man to go hunting for potential sponsors.

Many years ago rugby attracted sponsors in the likes of John Player Gold Leaf and Carlsberg. But the Sri Lankan Government’s policy of moving sport away from liquor and tobacco made rugby suffer at that stage. But slowly the game rose to earn finances through other sponsorships and after a few years of struggle most teams had their private sponsors. Apart from that the rugby controlling body in the country gave away chunks from the title sponsor to clubs to strengthen their chances in the tournament and meet expenses. We are living in an era where even the society of rugby referees has its own sponsor.

It would be a miss if this writer doesn’t mention that there was a time in Sri Lanka rugby where local clubs fielded professional foreign players and these clubs needed huge finances to employ them. But at present the tournament committee running the domestic tournament doesn’t allow clubs to field foreigners hence their budgets are exhausted in maintain the local players and the coaching staff.

Rugby is an expensive sport and receives the patronage of a rich community. Even now we see that members of the Prime Minister’s family are involved in the game. At one time all the three sons of the lawmaker Mahinda Rajapaksa (at that time he was the head of state) were involved in Division 1 club rugby.

Unlike others sports rugby gets its fare share of media attention. So no sponsor can complain about not getting mileage out of being involved in rugby. Now the SLR must try to rope in NPC to sponsor national rugby. There are huge prospects for a sponsor in getting involved in national rugby because Sri Lanka contests the Asian Sevens Series and the Asian Rugby Tournament. Apart from that Sri Lanka is a popular rugby team in any version of rugby in the international scene. SLR President Rizly Illyas was quoted in newspapers saying that NPC was keen on sponsoring rugby’s assets like the International Rugby Sevens (Men’s and women’s and Men’s 15-a-side, Women’s rugby and provincial under 21 and 24 tournaments. For all that to come up in the future the first assignment-which is the league rugby tournament- has to see an end without any hiccups.



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Yupun continues record-breaking spree  

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Yupun Abeykoon improved the men’s 100metres national record at a championship held in Germany on Wednesday.

Sri Lankan is the Asian leader

by Reemus Fernando  

Italy based sprinter Yupun Abeykoon continued his record-breaking spree at a championship in Dessau, Germany as he clocked the fastest time in the men’s 100 metres in Asia this year to win ahead of Kenyan world leader Ferdinand Omanyala on Wednesday.

Abeykoon, who is also the South Asian record holder in the 100 metres clocked 10.06 seconds to win as he took a good chunk of 0.09 seconds off his previous national record.

It is the third time that the 27-year-old has improved the national record in 100 metres.

Abeykoon first took the national record of the 100 metres (10.16 secs) in 2020 before improving it to 10.15 seconds last year.

Abeykoon’s 10.06 seconds is the fastest time in Asia this year as he overtook Abdullah Abkar Mohammed (10.14) of Saudi Arabia and Abdul Hakim Sani Brown (10.15) of Japan who had both produced their seasonal best in March.

With Abeykoon winning the 100 metres against a quality field inclusive of Ferdinand Omanyala, who had clocked a world-leading time of 9.85 seconds early this month, it is expected that the South Asian Games medallist would produce the tough qualifying standard of 10.05 seconds for the World Championship soon rather than later.

Athletes are selected for the World Championship through direct qualifying standards and through the world rankings. Of the 48 slots allocated for the track’s showpiece discipline, 27 are selected from those who achieve the tough qualifying standard of 10.05 seconds, for which Abeykoon is just a millisecond behind.

The remaining slots are filled according to the ‘Road to Oregon 2022’ list in which Abeykoon is placed in the 58th position at present. That ranking is set to improve when stats are updated next week.

Abeykoon’s remarkable achievements have come at a time when some of the country’s promising athletes struggle to improve their rankings due to lack of quality competitions here in Sri Lanka.

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Bangladesh top order stumbles after Mathews, Chanidmal hit tons

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Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews shared a 199 run stand for the sixth wicket as both batters hit centuries to give Sri Lanka a 141 run lead in the first innings in the second Test against Bangladesh in Dhaka yesterday.

Sri Lankan seamers cut through the Bangladesh top order in the second innings after centuries from Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal gave the visitors a commanding lead in the second Test in Dhaka yesterday.

Bangladesh were in a dangerous position at 34 for four at stumps on the fourth day and still needing another 107 runs to ward off an innings defeat.

The visitors were all out for 506 runs in the day’s final session, with Shakib Al Hasan claiming his 19th five wicket haul in Test match cricket. Fast bowler Ebadot Hossain finished with four for 148.

The hosts fell into trouble in the sixth over as Asitha Fernando delivered opener Tamim Iqbal his second duck of the Test, returning after a catch in second slip from substitute fielder Kamindu Mendis. It’s the first time in his 67 Test career, Tamim had picked up a pair.

Najmul Hossain (two), Mominul Haque (0) and Mahmudul Hasan (15) followed him in quick succession as Fernando and Kasun Rajitha ripped through the top order to finish with 2-12 and 1-12 respectively.

Mushfiqur Rahim and Liton Das, who shared 272 in the first innings and slammed a century each, finished the day on 14 and one.

It followed a day of struggles with the ball, with Bangladesh unable to make any breakthrough until after tea.

Mathews finished Sri Lanka’s spell at the crease unbeaten on 145 while Chandimal made 124 in the pair’s 199-run partnership for the sixth wicket.

The pair dominated the Bangladesh bowlers before Ebadot took Chandimal, with the final five wickets falling in 41 runs.

Mathews, who faced 342 balls and struck 12 fours and two sixes in his second century of the series, was given out caught-behind off Khaled Ahmed on 94 but survived on review.

He was given leg-before again off Mosaddek Hossain at 105 but the decision was reversed.

Chandimal enjoyed a similar lucky spell in the morning session after a caught-behind call on the fourth ball of Mominul’s first over was overturned.

Two balls later the right-hander narrowly survived a stumping chance on 44.

He later hit Ebadot for two successive fours before reaching his century with a single in the same over.

Chandimal hit 11 fours and a six in his 219-ball innings. It was his first Test hundred since 2018.

The first Test between the countries in Chittagong was drawn.

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SLR sees tradition challenged during troubled times 

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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.

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