Save the game! -- Go provincial

I was dreaming of Sri Lankan Rugby. What a shame, I was woken up to face reality and to read a newspaper report titled “Rugby Union splits in two.” Was it ever meant to be a solid block? Let’s forget all the mean comments and get back to my dream.

What was in my dream was that rugby in Sri Lanka needed a miracle in this final attempt as the year 2008 comes to a close. The appearance of a spirit to exorcise the devil that is pulling the game apart was in my dream. My dream was about a line of attack for rugby.

I dreamt of that wonderful year. All provinces have had their inter club competitions. The expectations of a constitution which is over ten years old have borne fruit at last. I mean that the game has not only been taken to the provinces and they have tournaments within clubs in the province. Everybody is happy for the masters who put together a constitution to spread rugby all over the nation. It has happened and I was witnessing the super club tournament in my dreams.

At last the game has spread and we are witnessing some of the best games at provincial level. Happy spectators included IRB officials who had pumped in funds with so much faith. Most players representing the victorious Sri Lanka national team were from the provinces. The sons of Ruhuna were full of praise for the father of Ruhunu rugby. A dozen clubs in the game. Similar were the representation of the tournaments in rest of the provinces. Western Province who had majority of clubs at the top level were grimacing that those who had more votes than them now have more players at national level.
Being woken up suddenly my thought focused on the Western Province which was the last point of my fantasy. But the other parts of the dream came back to my mind and I compared the real situation. We are still there where we were when we adopted a constitution .Virtually the same number of clubs playing rugby at the level. Except for one all others were from the Western Province.

Suddenly I thought to my self, what if the expectation of the provincial unions materializes in the situation as it is. That is the dominant Western Province will play a tournament among its member clubs. I asked my self where the sponsors will put their money to.

The clubs in other provinces will be in a situation to play among others in the province. Good enough for provinces who have players that are at the lower end of skill level.

For others who have high skilled players but with fewer clubs they may not have the opportunity to play among the best. They then will migrate to where the pastures are greener. Provinces that do not have as many clubs will miss out on a part of the pie. Unless they can have as many quality clubs as WP has. Is this not what was envisaged when the new constitution was drafted.

I then phoned a couple of rugby crazy types and asked them about my thoughts. Brilliant they said and it is as simple as that. No more boys trudging up the hills. No quality rugby no funds coming, nothing exciting for the quality players as they have no body to pit against. The travel will be downhill and a few more clubs in WP will have numbers to raise their standard.

I was like Archimedes with a new found discovery. Phoned some of those rugby crazy types and poured my thoughts out. Brilliant idea they said and simple as that. Yes as simple as that. But why did it not happen all these days. Because we are happy to be split as we are and keep putting the blame elsewhere. The WP that has the most numbers playing at the top level will continue to be divided within them. Blame the province and say we are not represented. Then do something about it. Wishful thinking as we keep on saying how bad the big brothers of Kandy are. What child, they are not only taking our players but also not allowing them to play for the country. After all it is our country no!

Let us assume that it may come to reality with the unexpected happening. Then the controlling body will have a problem on their hands. Where will we get the funds from? Unless all Provinces are equal and there can be a sort of super club tournament organized by the controlling body they too can lose their share. So what is in it for them to promote such events?

It is better to split as it is now and it is not anything new. The caravan will go on as dogs bark and every thing will continue to be bigger than the game.

= Vimal Perera is a former Rugby Referee, coach and Accredited Referees Evaluator IRB

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