Knee-jerk actions, ad-hoc stuff will not do | Sunday Observer

Knee-jerk actions, ad-hoc stuff will not do

Hooliganism in schools rugby :
Anti-riot policemen move onto the ground at the Royal Sports Complex to control violence at last week’s match between Isipathana and St. Peter’s
Anti-riot policemen move onto the ground at the Royal Sports Complex to control violence at last week’s match between Isipathana and St. Peter’s

I take no sides but want to see fairness in all dealings. Individuals do not matter to me, but the governing body and its affiliates should always earn respect in upholding and preserving the image of their entities.

I do not see the three stakeholders concerned in this matter doing the right thing on some instances; leave alone the current issue of hooliganism in schools rugby. Some who flex their political muscles are psycophants who change camps when the time comes to survive in a system. Sadly, these individuals are not being exposed by those who are responsible.

The parental body deserves at least to be heard if things are not moving in the right direction when hooliganism continues warranting action against the offenders as per World Rugby (WR).

Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR) is responsible to see that there is zero tolerance to misconduct when it comes to the game of rugby. Many have expressed their grave concerns why SLR is not taking action over the hooliganism that continues unabated in school matches.

The root cause of the incidents may well be attributed to indiscipline and misconduct by players and spectators; and sometimes due to questionable decisions of the referee. The only way forward is that there has to be very comprehensive regulatory tools to prevent such high-handed acts where the authorities should get the assistance of the SLR. Knee-jerk actions and ad-hoc arrangements will not do.

Are they very serious about getting the assistance of SLR? I have my doubts because reportedly, those with vested interests connive to keep the SLR at bay for many reasons. It is no secret that even Sports Ministers failed to bring the SLR and SLSRFA (Sri Lanka Schools Rugby Football Association) on board together.

We must understand that this particular burning issue is all about Discipline and Conduct relating to the game of rugby that falls within the ambit of the governing body (Home Union) who has all the right to intervene and give direction to its affiliates to fall in line with WR regulations. I think SLR did the right thing. Sadly, people have mixed up administration and the organizing part to that of the rules and regulations governing the game of rugby. Sometimes there may be persons within the schools system who can handle the matters relating to discipline and conduct but are they aware of the procedures of WR Regulations?

It seems that from the beginning issues have been ignored and now it has spread beyond control. What is more hilarious is that when the sole judge of the game was manhandled by players and spectators at Nittawela, the media (quoting the Statement issued by the Society) reported that nobody was even touched. Therefore no complaints and no inquiry. Aren’t these people responsible for setting this bad precedence to happen by covering up the issue?

The DIG Kandy reported in writing to SLR what really happened at Nittawela. Now, are they going to dispute the DIG and ask from the same institution, having ridiculed them, to provide security to the two finals. Isn’t it a shame when the so-called entity led by a fellow colleague disrespects a very senior officer and plays tricks acting as if he does not know anything? Didn’t this cover up pave the way for the players and spectators to take the law into their own hands? Why aren’t we speaking the truth when the spectators too were eye-witnesses to the incident when the players and spectators of a Kandy school assaulted the referee? Now who has unknowingly encouraged to cause such mischief? Does the hierarchy of the SLSRFA know the depth of the problem, how it aggravated and the parties responsible?

Now, let me explain the point where the problem lies and the line that separates the concept of the subject matter by a simple example. When it comes to playing overage or unqualified (O/L exam rule) players or any such breach of instructions given by the Education Department or Schools Association, then SLR has no business to get involved. It is completely an administrative matter for the schools authority to deal. But on the other hand, if it is a matter about the game of rugby where provisions are provided under the WR Regulations to deal with offenders, then SLR has to intervene.

We conveniently forget that even last year at the last stages of the league tournament, the SLSRFA faced the same situation when a referee was assaulted by the players and spectators which resulted in the Referees Society boycotting matches (quite ironic to the incident at Nittawela). The then Minister of Sports, Faizer Musthapha, had to intervene to settle the matter on the initiative taken by SLR followed by a well-designed strategic plan encompassing regulatory mechanisms and physical security, and it worked well without any hiccups for the Milo KO tournament.

It must be reiterated that physical security is not the panacea for all ills. The authorities need to instill discipline by sending across a strong message and act under the provisions of World Rugby Regulation 20 to deal with any violations of misconduct by appointing competent and independent persons to the Judicial and Disciplinary Committees.

Even a minor breach of misconduct, has to be dealt with without succumbing to any pressure or influence. What is more important is to complete the inquiries expeditiously because prolonging will only cast serious doubt in everyone’s mind, losing confidence on the authority.

(The writer is a retired Deputy Inspector General of Police who played rugby and basketball for Sri Lanka and was a high profile administrator and Selector at Sri Lanka Rugby. He is currently a member of the National Sports Council)