Over 300 jostle to welcome new rugby chief | Sunday Observer

Over 300 jostle to welcome new rugby chief

30 August, 2020
Outgoing rugby chief Lasitha Gunaratne (left) and Rizly Illyas share a moment
Outgoing rugby chief Lasitha Gunaratne (left) and Rizly Illyas share a moment

Hundreds of well-wishers swooped in and swarmed all over the new President of Sri Lanka Rugby, Rizly Illyas, who was elected uncontested at what was a gentlemanly meeting at the Ramada Hotel in Colombo yesterday.

Among them were famous ex-Sri Lanka legends Priyantha Ekanayake, Hisham Abdeen and Michael Jayasekera and many others that also included the former Air Force commander and player Air Marshall Roshan Goonetilleke who is also the governor of the Western Province.

They were among over 300 invitees who witnessed Illyas take over the mantle from outgoing President Lasitha Gunaratne.

“I am rallying all those who are interested in the welfare of Sri Lanka Rugby and its future progress. We have already proved it at the ‘kick-off’ today,” Illyas, a former flank forward told the Sunday Observer after spending nearly an hour posing for photographs on the podium with former rugby officials, coaches, referees and players.

Members of the women’s team, a neglected tribe, were also at hand to meet Illyas who had promised to grant them more recognition and opportunities.

Illyas will hold his first executive committee meeting this week which in no way is expected to be like the hugs and hand-shakes he received.

Rugby, one of the most patronized spectator sports in Sri Lanka, is currently at a crippling standstill because of the coronavirus and one of Illyas’ priorities will be looking for an opening to restart the popular school matches and the next inter-club League.

Before his election yesterday Illyas warned that Sri Lanka was at a make or break situation in the absence of result-oriented provincial development, high performance management and funds to sustain a Sri Lanka squad especially in the Sevens format.

“Together we will take Sri Lanka Rugby to the next level and 2021 will be the year for change, innovation and excellence. We will develop our game so that enthusiasts in Sri Lanka and Asia will be able to cherish,” Illyas told his guests.

Illyas initially broke into the rugby fraternity as a strapping third row forward playing for the little known Petersons team in the 1980s before venturing into private sector business and now believes his connections with the corporate heavyweights will put him in good stead to raise what he called “professional funding” to fulfill his pledges.

Sri Lanka Rugby already has a singular benefactor in mobile phone service and television channel provider Dialog.