Sri Lanka Rugby blown off the catwalk as League kicks off | Sunday Observer

Sri Lanka Rugby blown off the catwalk as League kicks off

The captains of Air Force (Ranuka Medagedera), CH and FC (Rohitha Rajapaksa), Havelocks (Mithun Hapugoda), Navy (Richard Dharmapala), Army (Manoj Bandara), Kandy SC (Nigel Ratwatte), Police (Chanaka Harischandra) and CR and FC (Omalka Gunaratne) pose with the Dialog trophy
The captains of Air Force (Ranuka Medagedera), CH and FC (Rohitha Rajapaksa), Havelocks (Mithun Hapugoda), Navy (Richard Dharmapala), Army (Manoj Bandara), Kandy SC (Nigel Ratwatte), Police (Chanaka Harischandra) and CR and FC (Omalka Gunaratne) pose with the Dialog trophy

Contrary to how it was launched last year, the domestic first class rugby tournament kicked off on Friday with little purpose as neither its financial godfather Dialog nor its keeper Sri Lanka Rugby wanted to make it a big occasion to showcase.

Sri Lanka Rugby is currently grappling with two probable resignations, that of secretary Thusitha Peiris and tournament director Rizly Illyas, while its president Lasitha Gunaratne recovers from a defeat at the election of office bearers to the Asian Rugby Union that his Japan counterpart lost after receiving his justified backing.

The only public notice that the 2019-20 League was to commence was in the form of a mere Press release put out by Dialog that was in contrast to last season’s grand launch that happened under the patronage of Sports Minister Faizer Mushtapha where the team captains were paraded on the catwalk among other promotions.

Dialog, the Sunday Observer learns, has begun to take stock and review its funding of the sport after the latest developments at Sri Lanka Rugby that resulted in Peiris submitting his resignation, which is yet to be accepted, over what is said to be interference by outsiders or past administrators.

But Gunaratne, who has taken over the running of the League after Illyas resigned, denied they were being rocked by politicking and funding slashed.

“Rugby-wise there are no issues,” said Gunaratne. “You can expect good quality rugby, it is just that Dialog did not show much interest in marketing the event as they were involved in two other events (netball Nationals and a film stars night). Hopefully they’ll have a second round launch.”

Although there will be little doubt about the intensity of some matches, it is estimated that clubs incur a minimum of Rs.40 million for the season as they compete to stay afloat while their players crossover to rival clubs for higher pay and young school leavers enroll hoping to make a brand name for the future. One of the clubs desperate to make ends meet is the one time crowd favourite Havelocks who have been saved by sponsors.

“We don’t go behind names. We have our loyal players and a system that we need to adapt to. We have proved that we are able to groom our own players,” said Havelocks team manager and spokesman Roshan Opatha.

But no club is able to match the finances of defending champions Kandy SC which is backed by an unmatched benefactor in businessman Malik Samarawickrema with whom some Colombo clubs and supporters have an axe to grind.

 

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