Is rugby between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea? Covid forced Rugby away from the equation, and as rugby raised its head, the Sports Minister enforced a temporary suspension and appointed a Competent Authority. However, confusion reigned as SLR issued statements while the Director-General of Sports Development was appointed the Competent Authority. There is speculation about the non-acceptance of the Competent Authority appointed to oversee Rugby, while there are also various posts on Social Media attributed to Sri Lanka Rugby.
Ministry of Sports conducted trials to select men’s and women’s sevens teams to participate at the Commonwealth Games 2022. With deep cuts in government spending, the priority was to fund National Sports Associations (NSA). Moreover, following directives issued by the Ministry of Finance to control public expenditure due to the ongoing economic crisis, NSAs will need to find funds. Therefore, the Ministry will approach the allocation and use of funds by categorising participants as promising medal prospects and also-rans.
The Sports Ministry have undertaken to fund prospective medal winners, but the onus will be on the NSAs to find the money for the ‘also-rans’ that will take part in their respective sports disciplines. The Director-General of Sports Development said that a meeting will be held with the National Olympic Committee (NOC) to discuss the possibility of obtaining financing from the NOC. Rugby, a non-hopeful medal prospect, will not find a keen eye in the allocation of resources and will have to find its funds. The suspended SLR has not been in a healthy financial situation, and the Competent Authority will be pointing fingers at the Ministry if the Rugby team does not proceed to the Commonwealth Games 2022.
Following the directives of the Ministry of Finance to prune expenditure, the Ministry of Sport is in a dilemma to fund the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games.
The first major event is the Commonwealth Games 2022 to be held in Birmingham from 28 July to 8 August. A top official at the Sports Ministry stated that the probable team would be categorized into two sections – significant medal hopes and also-ran. The Sports Ministry will fund medal hopes, while the also-rans will have to find their funding through NSAs, sponsors or privately.
Suppose any athlete/team the Ministry did not fund wins a medal, the Ministry will be more than happy to reimburse their expenses.
WPRFA organises Sevens tournament
Meanwhile, the Western Province Rugby Football Association (WPRFA) has organised a Sevens tournament on 16 May. Roshan Deen, President of WPRFA, confirmed the Province was holding rugby events within the Western Province. Furthermore, the Competent Authority for SLR said that despite being suspended by SLR, WPRFA is unrestricted in the organisation of a tournament and the promotion of rugby.
The bigger picture is whether playing tournaments will help the recognition of WPRFA as a stakeholder, for elections are to be held at the end of May, which the Competent Authority confirmed to Ceylon Today.
Deen confirmed that the WPRFA has invited all clubs in the Province. While the tournament will help revive rugby in the Province, it will also expose the Sri Lanka Pool players to sevens rugby. Deen was optimistic that the WPRFA would be able to attract sponsors and discussions are ongoing.
The open club sevens will be followed by an under-24 and 21 sevens tournament in the Province subsequently. Nizam Jamaldeen will Chair the Tournament Committee. These tournaments will be an opportunity for school leavers who were deprived of playing rugby during the past two years.
By Vimal Perera