Sri Lanka Rugby needs a new normal

By Vimal Perera | Published: 2:00 AM Sep 25 2021

By Vimal Perera

The Tri Forces and the Police have publicized a sevens tournament at Police Park on 30 and 31 October. The teams are Army, Navy, Air Force, Police, joined by CH and FC and Havelocks Sports Club. The organizers hope that each club will have two teams making it twelve.

 If the Forces and the Police field two teams each while Havelocks and CH field one team, there will be ten teams in the fray. The event will be an opportunity to showcase the ‘Sevens’ players and be seen for selection as Sri Lanka need to form a pool to play in the Asian Sevens. 

The Director-General Sports Amal Edirisuriya told Ceylon Today, “there had not been a selection of National Team or a pool as there has been no rugby due to the pandemic.” Rugby, he said, is a fourth level sport in the health guidelines.

 He, however, was of the view as previously the Air Force obtained clearance for a bubble and played the Commanders Cup. Therefore, he thought that the Union had to make an effort to run a tournament. You could select a pool without relying on the 2019 pre-COVID performance.

 He suggested asking ten players from clubs, getting them to a bubble, playing a franchise form, and selecting a pool. He was also aware that the three Forces and the Police had sought clearance to run a tournament for which, other than CR and Kandy, other clubs have agreed. 

However, the necessary support for the bubble from the health authorities has been sought. Edirisuriya said that as a Sri Lanka team needs to be selected, the clubs must support the endeavour and release players without pulling by the jersey. The TriForces and Police, he said, have the infrastructure to form the necessary bubbles. 

If Kandy and CR release the players to the Tri Forces and Police, they could quickly create two quality teams each and uplift the competitiveness of Rugby and help select an excellent sevens pool. About the worry of the clubs paying players and cover in the event of injury, he said the need is to think out of the box. The clubs should negotiate with the organizers and see that health insurance cover and a workman’s compensation cover are linked and paid for players. He said the other alternative is for Sri Lanka Rugby to organize a tournament and facilitate player performance and selection. 

He said that the Ministry, with the consultation of the HighPerformance Committee, agreed to fund a fifteenmember pool. They could increase funding to twenty but not above due to budgetary constraints. If there is a need to have more than twenty, Sri Lanka Rugby should finance the additional costs. Inquiries reveal the organizers want each club that has agreed to field two teams. 

The fielding of minimum teams will be possible if the Tri-Forces and the Police can field two teams each. The arrangement will be a good opportunity for all players to be seen and be eligible to play at the Asian Sevens. However, at every point, somebody is pulling by the jersey and blaming the referee for not seeing the pull. 

What the clubs need is to get involved more aggressively without blaming those that are involved. The best I see is for the two non-playing clubs to release the players to form more sevens teams. There is currently opinions expressed in the print media and social media about Sri Lanka Rugby issues in its preparation for playing in the Men’s s and Women’s Asian Rugby Sevens series in December in Dubai. 

The tournament is also the up-and-coming Asian qualifier for the sevens world cup. The worst-case scenario is the views expressed that there seems to be little coercion between Sri Lanka Rugby and the Ministry of Sport in selecting the numbers for the National Pool in preparation for the Asian Sevens. The concern of the rugby fraternity is that the chances are not blown away by local Rugby. I asked the President of the SLR for a comment on media reports. 

He said this is hearsay and the SLR is not moved or concerned as no rugby is played. According to the President of SLR Rizly Ilyas, there is a lot done to promote Rugby on the virtual platform. The website is complete with details of workshops and who is doing what. 

An inspired leak suggests that SLR has called for a Tournament Committee meeting to organize an event to keep in line with the suggestion by the Ministry of Sport. The tournament committee meeting is on Saturday the 25th. The Ministry suggestion is that the selected team should be on current performance and not that of 2019. 

The tournament is to be in the last week of October. Meanwhile, India Rugby is on cloud nine, having won a silver medal in the Asia Rugby U-18 Girls Championship 2021, losing 21-17 to UAE in the Final played in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Rahul Bose, actor, director, philanthropist, Indian Rugby Player for 11 years and presently a board member of Indian Rugby, said it is a beautiful moment for Indian Rugby. 

India has Bose, a film Icon to whom Rugby is a passion, for influencing the public. Elated Rahul Bose said: “Our players will always remain at the heart of Indian Rugby. The generous financial bonuses from sponsors and partners to our U-18 girl’s squad will boost not just this team’s morale but have an incredibly positive effect across all our national teams. 

It will encourage them to perform even more fiercely at the international level and win accolades for the country. Congratulations to our U-18 Girls team for bringing home the silver medal.” For over three decades, Rahul Bose has been known for his spellbinding performances in Indian and International television and cinema. Bose has played for India for 11 years and has been part of the Rugby Board after his retirement in 2009. 

Now he helps share the responsibility of amplifying the sport’s popularity, and he is gradually, but definitely, succeeding in it. The involvement of Bose is a solid focal point in promoting Rugby in India.

 To India, Rahul Bose, the movie idol, is a rallying point to develop and promote Rugby in the future, and the win by the girls is a talking point in the efforts of Bose to promote Rugby. Better still, Sri Lanka has a Minister of Sport who Captained the National Team. In Sri Lanka, other than any other sport, Rugby can boast of unprecedented political and governmental support. 

We have had Presidents, Ministers, and Members of Parliament who have played Rugby at school, club, and national level. Today is the best with the Present Minister of Sports, who has played Rugby and captained the National team while his two brothers are still involved in Rugby. His father, the Prime Minister, is a keen supporter of Rugby. 

There is no secret that the Minister has the ear and can talk to the President of the country and the Minister of Finance. What better opportunity is there than what is at present to promote Rugby in Sri Lanka. One could argue that the pandemic has not been conducive to promote Rugby and making the best use of the affinity of the Ministry of Sports.

 The reality of how companies are dealing with the crisis and preparing for the recovery tells a very different story, one of pivoting to business models conducive to short-term survival and long-term resilience and growth. Consider Spotify, the global leader in music streaming. In principle, this type of platform has all the ingredients for success in the lockdown economy: customers trapped in their homes who would like to escape from a depressing reality by listening to songs seamless streamed to a playback device without any need for physical distribution. Yohani de Silva and ‘Manike Mage Hithe’ is a local case in point.

By Vimal Perera | Published: 2:00 AM Sep 25 2021

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