Schools rugby branded second to Sri Lanka cricket | Sunday Observer

Schools rugby branded second to Sri Lanka cricket

File photo of a schools rugby tournament being marketed by a sponsor at the concluded season
File photo of a schools rugby tournament being marketed by a sponsor at the concluded season

Rugby administrators in Sri Lanka have told their subordinates running the sport at school level to buckle up and fall in line with present day demands or run the risk of fending for themselves after a research had shown that teenage players can be branded as the second best sporting product in the country after the nation’s cricket team.

For years youth rugby has been sustained financially by sponsors but Sri Lanka Rugby, the parent body, has been funding its tours especially with air tickets and it is now being looked upon as leeching.

Youth rugby in the country is administered mostly by College masters and they will either have to learn their scrum-down lessons or tow the line with Sri Lanka Rugby when the two parties meet Sports Minister Faiszer Mushtapha at a formal meeting this week.

The Sri Lanka Schools Rugby Football Association (SLSRFA) which runs youth rugby has Nestle Lanka (Milo) and Singer while Sri Lanka Rugby has mobile phone service and television channels provider Dialog as their commercial partners.

“Schools rugby must know to keep abreast with present day requirements or else they will be the losers in times that are changing. This is something they will have to understand”, said Sri Lanka Rugby’s tournament director Rizly Illyas. He said that schools or youth rugby has a market value of between Rs.150-200 million for a season and over the past two years Sri Lanka Rugby had spent Rs.33 million on the budding players with very little or no investment returns.

Illyas also warned that it will be the players and not school officials who will stand to lose out by way of recognition as Sri Lanka Rugby could make a ruling to stop bestowing national colours and jerseys on youth teams representing the country outside the parent body which is recognized by World Rugby. Sri Lanka Rugby will also push for what it says is their clout and better position to market the sport commercially at youth level at a higher price than what is procured at present.

“We have made it clear that youth rugby and its development and future has to come under our guidance and care”, declared Illyas.

Although youth rugby in the country has a larger following owing to its popularity at school level, there is no professional system compared to club rugby in the country which is governed in accordance with the World Rugby charter. The SLSRFA has also been accused of exposing players to dangers in the absence of regular monitoring by citing officers or match commissioners, a charge they deny.

The concluded 2018 schools season marked one of the rowdiest in history with spectators invading and disrupting play, an assistant referee manhandled and a coach assaulted among other acts of violence.

Some officials at Sri Lanka Rugby had the last hurrah when the SLSRFA suspended the 2018 season midway after referees and match officials demanded protection citing irresponsible conduct on the part of match organizers.

Subsequently the captains of eight school teams were paraded in front of the media pleading for sanity for the rest of the season. To encourage decency and fair-play a private media company last week organized an Award for the best behaved team which was picked up by St. Anthony’s College with St.Peter’s College and Royal College as the first and second runner-up sides. The Award was seen as an eye opener for the SLSRFA which pays very little attention to sporting virtues.