Sri Lanka Rugby threatens takeover of schools body | Sunday Observer

Sri Lanka Rugby threatens takeover of schools body

Rizly Ilyas
Rizly Ilyas

The failure of the Sri Lanka Schools Rugby Football Association (SLSRFA) to fulfill their obligation of sending junior national teams to participate in international tournaments could force the parent body in the country, Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR), to take key decisions related to school rugby.

Sri Lanka has been regularly taking part in the Under-18 and Under-20 Sevens tournaments but will not be contesting the events this month in China and Laos ostensibly due to lack of funds on the part of the schools body that has deprived the country’s youth of opportunities.

The schools body has two prolific sponsors or financial partners in Singer and Nestle.

“We should have been preparing to win a medal in 2022 (Asian Games). The school authorities should not have this sort of attitude for these national feeder international tournaments.

“We have brought it to their notice how important funding is and how you project the funding, how you do local school tournaments, how they have to accommodate school players. That thinking is not there in school rugby,”said Rizly Ilyas, the deputy president of SLR.

“We met the secretary to the Ministry of Sports last week. He has given us the green light to take control and talk about the funding. We don’t want to run the tournament. It’s a huge tournament. The committee and school body is doing a tremendous job. But to have this national level players going for international tours, the mother union (SLR) must come in,” he said.

General secretary of SLR Thusitha Peiris said he was baffled by the intransigent attitude of the SLSRFA.

“If the Education ministry has sent a circular saying that age group national tours cannot be looked after by the ministry, then we should be able to have control over the sponsorship discussion. At least we should be a party to it because if not they (SLSRFA) will only think about the schools League and not about national interests,” Peiris said.

“We have sent them emails asking them to confirm their funding availability four these tours. Without them coming forward we cannot do age group tours. We already have incurred a Rs. 28m loss with our normal rugby and last year we spent on schools rugby for two tours. This year we said we can’t,” he said.

Dialog is SLR’s financial partner and their sponsorships are used to cover the senior Sri Lanka team from making as many as six overseas assignments annually according to Peiris.

“It is part of our responsibility but (school) age groups come under the Ministry of Education. We can’t bulldoze. Even on selections and tours, the ministry has to approve it because schools come under their jurisdiction,” said Peiris.

Ilyas contends the schools association will have to accept the ground realities with the parent body when it comes to sponsorship discussions in particular or else face the consequences.

“We have come to a consensus that we get a mandate to look for a sponsor and look at what the schools association need, give them their portion of the finances. We will show financial accountability, how the money will be spent for youth rugby in and out of the country,” said Illyas.

He said the SLSRFA had already got the message of what professional conduct and responsibility is when SLR threatened not to authorize the assigning of their referees ahead of the schools knock-out rugby final unless safety concerns were met due to a violence-tainted tournament.

“The schools president Ranjith Chandrasekera is a nice person, but his thinking is not the same. I mean we have to sometimes enforce ourselves, be tough and we as a governing body have to take strong decisions without political interference. We can bring them to the negotiating table because they are also finding it difficult to talk to sponsors and get the money,” Illyas added.