Rugby in Sri Lanka is never without its moments that tickle though the performance on field in recent times has not been the focus for envy. High expectations followed the new administration that took office and are high at this time too. It is time for the National team to meet the challenge at The Asian 5 Nations division 1. It is time to finalize issues with sponsors as well as the nursery of the game: the schools.
Following the “Caltex” awards ceremony there was speculation as to whether “Caltex” will continue to be the main sponsor. Reading through the lines and the pronouncements that have been made public it appears that there is a difference of opinion on continuation of the relationship between the Sponsor and the Union. “ Caltex” the sponsor who have been promoting the game for around thirteen years have an agreement that runs up to 2014 on an agreed sponsorship fee. The Union it is understood wishes to re- negotiate the deal. The Union as I understand from reliable sources has attracted interest from corporate big names.
They are willing to pay more than what was negotiated some time ago and stands valid in the form of a contract. What is expected out of this duel will I hope be consensus which does not affect the game? If not we may be distracted from issues that may take time that should be spent in the promotion of the game. A story always has two sides but needs a happy ending for that lasting moment to be remembered.
The cash struck SLRFU need to get as much as possible from what they have to market. It is in this scenario that we hear of another sponsor keen to come on board. It is in this scenario that we hear of another sponsor keen to come on board, Naturally “Caltex” who have been holding hands of the SLRFU for thirteen years will be disappointed. Living together does not necessarily mean that you have reached the climax. That is where the seeds of another is sown to fulfill needs.
In a few days Sri Lanka will take part in the Asian 5 Nations Division 1 Tournament that is to be played in Manila, Philippines. It does not seem that all hands are on the wheel to climb to the top position in this segment as there are many who does not have seen the need to play for the country. Otherwise how do you explain the missing bodies? It looks like the proverbial beggars wound that seem never to heal. The union in a move regarded as the first time signed contracts with players. Some well known names are missing from the list as they have failed to place their signature on the dotted line.
The Union headed by Asanga Seneviratne is strong on its stand that if you have not signed the contracts you won’t be considered for National representation. You are playing rugby in the domestic season but the high point of National representation will not be for you. This I believe is a fair call. Conflict of loyalty is not something that is new around the rugby globe. We have the RFU who affected a ruling that players who opt to play outside will not be considered for National duty. There is doubt whether the Assistant Coach Andy Farrel will be released by his club to be available for national coaching. Though you cannot stop a flowing river measures can be taken to stop a flood. Thus if the Seneviratne led council decides that those who fail to sign contracts will not be considered for national duty it is a decision that is needed to be taken.
While national players are on the starters blocks we expected the schools season to begin in the third week of April. There is some suspense in this area too as rugby grounds are been rehabilitated in most clubs and when it would be is uncertain. Rehabilitation of the grounds is a necessity and with the club season postponed it is obvious that they would take the time offered. It is left to the schools to make better use of the grounds they have for many sports than to be utilized for one. Lands being scarce and population and industry increasing additional land is no easy task. What would be needed is to optimize the use of the grounds they have. St. Thomas Mount already run over the turf as they play rugby on the ground by the sea. Zahira College too has followed in utilizing the ground for rugby. Others who have of the property but fear damage to the turf wicket must be talked to releasing grounds for rugby. The game is played across the green grass in many of the international stadia where cricket too is played.
In the meantime the cup that is brewing is another of crisis and revolves around who can decide w.hat and who controls the game. If all say we have no truck with the Union let us play American Football which appears to be gaining popularity. Specially as children who aspire to continue studies in the US see this as a welcome addition to their CV.
Vimal Perera is a former Rugby Referee, coach and Accredited Referees Evaluator IRB