Don’t bully us, SLR deputy president warns Kandy | Sunday Observer

Don’t bully us, SLR deputy president warns Kandy

Rizly Illyas
Rizly Illyas

Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR) Deputy President Rizly Illyas says clubs like Kandy SC cannot “bully them” nor are they there to “police” referees or players but their mandate is to ensure a level playing field and ensure there is fair play.

The rugby governing body had their hands full last season facing court battles over the issue of foreign players, the usual refereeing controversies and player revolt when it came to national selections.

But Illyas said they were not cowed down by these challenges and ensured they had a successful season capped by a Super Final round to decide the League champions while assembling a national squad to compete in the forthcoming Asia Division One Championships in Chinese Taipei.

“We wanted to bring a balance to competition and tried to bring foreigners for the bottom four sides but CH went to courts and stopped it. The first two games had foreign players. That gave the game a different dimension. Army won against CH and beat Kandy. It gave a morale boost to the bottom four clubs even when court stopped foreigners from playing,” said Illyas who is also chairman of SLR’s tournament committee.

“The Union wanted to lift their standard up. We had a good competition. Spectator-wise it was not brilliant but better than before. Sponsors Dialog was very happy because they look at numbers that turn up for games and quality of competition though initially they wanted foreigners for all eight sides. We as SLR are not for having foreigners to all the sides because then the top four will smash the bottom four. This time salaries and tickets of foreign players were paid by the Union for the first time,” he said.

Clifford Cup

Illyas slammed Kandy SC’s decision to pull out of the Clifford Cup knock-out tournament over disagreement of the venue.

“It was a bad decision and bit of a let-down by Kandy SC to pull out. However, Police and Air Force caused big upsets. After many years we had a Service team coming to the final,” he said.

“Don’t bully us (SLR),” warned Illyas referring to Kandy SC’s decision while acknowledging their contribution to Sri Lanka rugby.

“Kandy is a good side. They play a very professional game. We have 60 per cent of boys playing for Sri Lanka from Kandy. But they must leave club politics when it comes to national level and when they play they must not create animosity against clubs. It’s only a game. You have to play in good spirit not to dictate terms to the Union and trying to sort of bully the Union. It has happened earlier. But this Union has zero tolerance on this issue. Don’t say you are taking part in a tournament and you want to change the venue by saying ‘if we don’t play in Nittawella we can’t play’. We take our decisions and the game must go on,” he said.


Illyas also defended SLR’s decision to bring in foreign referees for the knock out tournament during the tail-end of the season.

“As the tournament was going on we had teething problems with the referees. The Referees Society comes under our purview but we don’t interfere, we don’t police them. We saw gaps in consistency and decision-making. There were several complaints that officials from the bench were shouting at referees in abusive language,” he said.

Illays slammed the referees for not taking firm action instantly.

“We say what should you do. You are given two yellow cards and a red card. If anybody within or outside the playing area uses abusive language, you have the red card. Use it. Job is finished. Why do you not take your decision. This is why I say there was inconsistency and no proper decision-making. Some did and some didn’t. That provoked the situation among clubs. We had to bring foreign referees which was appreciated by most of the clubs. Level of playing also went up. Players were allowed to talk to foreign referees on how they are going to blow. It is the responsibility of referees and their committee to train referees and not to have individual issues within the system,” he explained.


Players playing tricks with selections

Sri Lanka Rugby faced an issue when it came to selecting the squad to tour Malaysia to play two Test matches ahead of the Asia Division One Championships when Kandy SC players were reportedly unavailable due to injury while the designated captain Roshan Weeraratne also pulled out citing a family emergency.

“Most of the Kandy players gave us reasons that they were injured. At a national level if a player is injured he is supposed to come with a medical report to the manager to be assessed by our doctors. We have told them in writing to give proper explanations but we can’t go and police them and be behind them. As a national body we are not there to police them, catch them and force them to come and play,” said Sri Lanka Rugby deputy president Rizly Illyas.

“They must have a heart to play. If they don’t have a heart, they are losing the chance of wearing the national jersey. Selectors didn’t worry about players who didn’t come. Weeraratne pulled out saying his wife was sick. However, when we got a report from the Chairman of Selectors (Rohan Abeykoon) it was revealed Weeraratne was not happy with selection of players which the selectors did not entertain.

“On Thursday he said he was unavailable. On Friday we appointed Omalka (Gunaratne) and on Monday he (Weeraratne) said he can play and that his wife is okay. But the selectors stood their ground. Even now he is welcome for training but Omalka has captained well in the two Test matches. He has built up the side. There was a purpose of going on that tour. It was like a training camp to build unity and understanding in the side. The Union doesn’t interfere in selections and go behind players,” he said.