Disappointed rugby fans
will have to wait
The Sri Lankan fan who likes his rugby more than
most others in the region would have been disappointed with the
postponement of the Asiad. They would have been eagerly expecting
to see the performance of the local team who has been climbing the
ladder of success in the recent past. They will not have the satisfaction
of seeing the home team take on the Asian teams that would have
been vying for the plate. At least it will not be in November.
Equally disappointing will be the postponement
and shifting of the venue for the Rugby World Cup qualifying 3rd
round matches which were to be played in Sri Lanka among the Asian
giants Japan, Hong Kong and Korea. This would deprive the Sri Lankan
the opportunity to witness rugby played among the teams that are
the best in Asia. The serious nature of these matches could only
be emphasized that the IRB appointed two top referees from the International
Panel and one from the touch judge’s panel to referee and
to run touch.
The press release of the IRB goes as follows;
“The International Rugby Board Executive Committee today announced
the postponement of the 2006 Asian Rugby Football Tournament that
was scheduled to be held in Colombo, Sri Lanka on November 18-25.
The decision was taken due to the current security situation in
Furthermore, the Rugby World Cup Board has determined
that the Asia Rugby World Cup 2007 Round 3 Qualification matches
between Japan, Korea and Hong Kong – that were due to be played
as part of the Asian Rugby Football Tournament – should be
rescheduled. The Rugby World Cup Board will make a decision in the
coming days regarding alternative arrangements for the completion
of the Asia Round 3 qualification matches.
As the governing body of the Game the IRB has
wider obligations that require it to take into account security
issues relating to participants. In this respect the IRB sought
advice on the security situation in Sri Lanka following concerns
expressed by several Participating Unions.
The recommendation made to the IRB was that in
the present climate the tournament should not go ahead. The IRB
and the Asian Rugby Football Union (the IRB’s Regional Association
in the region) will continue to monitor the situation and a decision
on the rescheduling of the tournament will be made at an appropriate
The 12-team tournament was to involve Japan, Korea,
Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, Arabian Gulf,
Thailand, Chinese Taipei, India and China.”
This would mean that the Asiad 2006 as well as
the Annual General Meeting of the Asian Rugby Football Union will
take place in 2007. What guarantee does one have to be certain that
the International body will see that the situation in January has
improved and the Tournament will go ahead in January 2007 as planned
for by the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union.
It is believed that Japan who had reservations
earlier had indicated their willingness to come to Sri Lanka. This
time around it is Hong Kong and Singapore who had voiced their reservations.
Is it possible that there is more to the hesitancy of Hong Kong
than the concerns of security? It is a known fact that we have had
issues and at the same time there have been other sporting and international
events that were held in Sri Lanka during the past. In none of this
situation have there been a threat to the participants.
Would Hong be more at ease if at least one of
the matches is shifted to their country? Is this part of the agenda?
Hong Kong has in the past faced the possibility of the sevens being
cancelled with the epidemic of SARS in 2004. The Beijing leg of
the sevens was in fact cancelled due to the spread of SARS. So they
are aware of the financial mess it will leave when last minute changes
are made.What ever it may be the hosting of the Asiad and clearance
will not be easy passage. The Union will have to do lot of home
work to promote the venue as safe among participating countries.
The Union cannot be alone in this issue. They will need the support
of The National Olympic Committee, the Ministries of Sports, Defense
and Foreign Affairs.
The IRB no doubt will go on the advice of its
security consultants but the Union through the relevant ministries
can push the issue. The action at present possibly leads to Sri
Lanka getting isolated on sports events and therefore need to be
supported at the highest level.
The Asiad will see probably Japan Korea and Hong
Kong playing and possibly to a different format. Yet what guarantee
will Hong Kong want to come to Sri Lanka. The proposed tournament
will not reach the same intensity among the giants unlike when The
RWC qualifying round matches where a place for the 2007 World Cup
games was at stake. Still a championship among the Asian Countries
will be a worthwhile event.
Did the IRB ever consider that they have dashed
the expectation of the Sri Lankan rugby fan? Rugby in Sri Lanka
would have drawn more crowds than most other Asian Countries bar
may be Japan. Concrete evidence is the numbers that attended the
Asiad in Bangkok in 2002 as well as in Hong Kong in 2004 if one
compares to the attendance in Sri Lanka for some Club as well as