Sri Lanka Rugby caught in funds scrum | Sunday Observer

Sri Lanka Rugby caught in funds scrum

Club captains pose with the Dialog League trophy they will play for. From left:  Lahiru Udayanga (Air Force SC), Manoj Abeyratne (Army), Kavindu Perera (CR), Richard Dharmapala (Kandy SC), Thilina Weerasinghe (Navy SC), Niroshan Fernando (Havelocks) and Chanaka Suriyapperuma (Police). Absent: Yoshitha Rajapaksa (CH Captain) Picture by Rukmal Gamage
Club captains pose with the Dialog League trophy they will play for. From left: Lahiru Udayanga (Air Force SC), Manoj Abeyratne (Army), Kavindu Perera (CR), Richard Dharmapala (Kandy SC), Thilina Weerasinghe (Navy SC), Niroshan Fernando (Havelocks) and Chanaka Suriyapperuma (Police). Absent: Yoshitha Rajapaksa (CH Captain) Picture by Rukmal Gamage

It is undoubtedly one of the most patronized sports in the country where the elite and the commoners mix in a highly charged atmosphere, but its keepers are fighting a different battle behind closed doors against what they claim is the limited resources to take rugby forward.

Sports Minister Faiszer Musthapha told the sport’s office-bearers in no uncertain terms that his plate was already full and he had no desire to scrum down in a robust sport he knows very little about leave alone propping up administrators to take it to the next level at a time Sevens rugby has entered the Olympic arena.

“There is a duty cast upon the office-bearers to find the necessary resources and I expect them to collect the necessary funds to take the game forward. The primary responsibility lies with the office-bearers. I have 63 (sporting) bodies to take care of and whatever I can do I will do,” declared Minister Musthapha as he graced yet another sports function, this time the launch of the Dialog League championship which commenced yesterday.

But his statement did not go down too well with rugby officials and Sri Lanka Rugby’s new head Lasitha Gunaratne stopped short of pleading with the Minister as he expressed concerns of the sport falling further behind on the Asian circuit as rival nations keep marching ahead.

“We don’t have even our own rugby ground and have to pay for every training session of the national team. We need the government’s support and need to work together to go forward,” said Gunaratne who also nudged the National Olympic Committee while contending that Sri Lanka has the potential to win a medal at the Asian Games. Sri Lanka Rugby has one major commercial partner in the country’s leading mobile phone service provider Dialog, but most of the funds doled out by it are connected to domestic activities like conducting the premier eight-club championship for the past seven years.

But Dialog, the most enthusiastic and generous promoter of many sports is also concerned about several other factors which they say must be clarified before committing itself as the branded godfather of the country’s rugby set-up in a way they are synonymous with the nation’s well marketed cricket team.

“We are interested to support rugby in whatever area and we are very keen to identity the talent in the country and strengthen the national team. We are open,” said Harsha Samaranayake, Dialog’s brand and media manager. Critics also argue that rugby like most sports in the country is full with politics and any bundle-out into touch does not come as a surprise. 

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