Rugby scrapbook: SLR Governance – CEO and Council

By Vimal Perera | Published: 2:00 AM Aug 1 2020

By Vimal Perera

In 1995, England rugby player Will Carling commented: ‘You do not need 57 old fa--s running rugby’ as part of his criticism of the Rugby Football Union’s (RFU) approach to professionalism.

Two decades later, the debate continues on the structures of the RFU concerning the lack of representation within the decision making and governance. Despite the UN convention on child rights, the progress on accepting diversity is low.

Studies suggest four core elements for such influence to actualize: space, voice, audience and influence. For young people to effectively engage in decision-making, it is important to have space or forum where they are able to discuss their views and opinions freely. Here, young people should be given a ‘voice’, meaning they are afforded the opportunity to express perspectives and opinions; which is a human right for all people, not just children and young people (Universal Declaration on Human Rights 1948). A young person’s voice is meaningless if it is not heard by the decision-makers and those with power, meaning the appropriate ‘audience’ is required (Lundy 2007).

The incoming Council has accepted the need for constitutional change, and discussions continue to recognise the so-called founder ‘A’ division clubs. While embarking on changes, will the SLR look at the recognition of the younger population in rugby?

 Schools are already in the system. The importance requires building a relationship and not the use of technical clauses to control. It was the control that created the conflict. The next possibility is the promotion of Coaches and Player Associations and representatives being given a voice in the Council. The player association can be encouraged to be the voice and management of players, including transfers and payments.

 For anything to be possible, there is a need for better governance, transparency and acceptance, which requires greater involvement of Council Members, as well as a pathway for higher office, and not be sitting fossils.

 A clear lack of involvement is observed from vibes emanating from the headquarters of Sri Lanka Rugby. The Council in waiting has advised the Chief Executive Officer that they will not need his services. The issue was discussed by members who are currently in the chamber following proper protocol.

 The President of the Western Province and nominated Deputy President and current Vice President of SLR Nazeem Mohammed, confirmed there had been discussions. Sources close to the SLR head office at Torrington explained that the new management wants to get into business from day one of taking office. Cash strapped SLR has offered the CEO six months pay to relinquish office. There are speculations on reasons for asking the CEO to pave the way for their choice to take office - Gunaratne style of working irked many.

An undeniable fact is that he was thorough with laws and regulations concerning the game. Whether it be Sports-Related laws of the country, Asian Rugby guidelines, World Rugby, Tournament Rules or laws of the game, those were at his fingertips.

The question is, how did things turn sour for Gunaratne? Is he solely to be blamed? The CEO reported to the Board, or what we call the Council.

 The new administration needs a CEO to take forward the vision, mission and strategies. It cannot point the finger at a former or next CEO if, by action and custom, the CEO is allowed to have his way and/or use his services to kill or massage as required.

 The media pointed out that the accounting and/or disclosure of a fine by World Rugby was not following good practice; it was a question of how to find and interpret the code of conduct to kill the messenger.

 Contrary to norms, one member carried out the inquiry while the other two signed the report. These two are still hanging around while the need is to discipline them. In this and similar occasions did all members of the time read the full report? Did they approve or remove sanctions based on a narrated summary?

Having given enough rope without checking the component material, I believe, led to the situation faced on issues relating to payment of subscription by Provinces. Was it also the responsibility of Council Members - particularly the Treasurers - who have been in office to monitor and instil checks and balances to review and report? It is not merely the subscription that is required, but also requires other supporting information such as audited accounts. 

 There is nothing to wonder if the CEO gets the better of the Council when he has to check on the supposed to be independent members who claim organisation or tournaments run by others, as well as members who produce documents, whose authenticity is in question. Given the current concepts of governance, every member of the Council and/or Board has a responsibility and cannot shy away from saying that is the job of the Treasurer or the CEO.

The members that take office - some old and some new faces - must take into account the duty of a committee (Council) which includes:

•      A Duty of Care. Each council member has a legal responsibility to participate actively in making decisions on behalf of SLRugby and to exercise his or her best judgment while doing so.

•      They have Duty of Loyalty. Each member must put the interests of the of SRL before their personal and professional interest when acting on behalf of the SLR. The needs of SLR should come first.

•      Duty of Obedience. Members bear the legal responsibility of ensuring that SLR complies with the applicable Olympic Federation, World Rugby and Local laws and adheres to its mission.

•      The Council is responsible for the selection of a Chief Executive Officer. The Council has to review the performance of the Executive Director on an annual basis.

In social organizations such as Rotary, Lions, Toastmasters etc. there is always an induction programme for its office bearers conducted annually.It may be worthwhile for the proposed Rugby Foundation to start a similar education session for office bearers at all levels, including the Provinces, clubs and schools. Such a programme will help improve governance; the need to understand the SLR constitution, the Sports Law and World Rugby and where governance stems from.

The Olympic Charter (International Olympic Committee 2013) is the constitutional charter for the world sports community. It is logical to accept that since rugby is an Olympic sport, its requirements on the governance of the International Federations (IF) cover World rugby and through it Sri Lanka Rugby. 

At the national level, the sport governing bodies in each country are subordinate to their respective IF, and the most concrete expression of this is the requirement for their statutes to be compatible with those of the IF. For this reason, the sport governing bodies should develop their sports in their territorial jurisdiction and ensure implementation of the rules and regulations of the IF. A good example of good governance by the IOC was the creation of the IOC 2000 Commission.

 The creation of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in 1999 was an example of good sport governance. The role and legitimacy of governing organisations depend on continuing and widespread confidence in their institutional structures, governance arrangements, rules and dispute mechanisms.

By Vimal Perera | Published: 2:00 AM Aug 1 2020

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