Rugby is on a resurgence mode is what we like to think and hear. There is no doubt that at schools and club games the crowds are more than what it was. We are due to host the Asian under 19 division 2 tournaments in Colombo. The National Sevens team has taken wing to Borneo [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Who is confused? …….The player, the game or the rule book


Rugby is on a resurgence mode is what we like to think and hear. There is no doubt that at schools and club games the crowds are more than what it was. We are due to host the Asian under 19 division 2 tournaments in Colombo. The National Sevens team has taken wing to Borneo and will take part in the Asian Sevens circuit. If we are to look at our strengths the sevens is an area that we should try and shine. The juniors are the feed for the future of rugby.

However in both instances the adequacy of preparation to meet international challenges has been wanting. The first sevens would help gauge the standards and with the coach in place Sri Lanka should stride better in the next of the circuit sevens in Shanghai, Mumbai and the last being is a world cup qualifier scheduled for November.

In the meantime the Women’s Sevens team is practicing to take part in the Asian Women’s championship to be played in Pune India on the 6th and 7th of September. The local rugby takes a break with the internationals as well as the Under 19 to be played in Colombo. The remaining of the Caltex league are matches of the Plate Championship which again seems to be academic as the Winners are virtually decided.

If news can be heartening and hopeful there is always trouble in the cradle; “schools rugby.” The schools it appears have not closed the chapter on issues arising from the not so good management practices that first led to Vidyartha as well as other schools being suspended. It has now transpired that a protest has been lodged that a player form St. Anthony’s College who was issued a red card played a match without serving the mandatory suspension of two weeks that has been stated in the schools hand book.

According to the Secretary   of the schools section this complaint was first received from Vidyartha while another was received from D.S Senanayake College. According to the secretary the Schools Rugby Football Association cleared the player and therefore there is no issue. However  others challenge this statement as  the tournament hand book says that a “ player  being shown a red card andordered off the field for a block or shoulder tackle or for any other  foul will not be allowed to play in the next two matches.” . This is a very badly worded restrictive clause  which has not embraced the scope of foul play and also abuse and or assault of officials.

It further states that “any player sent off the field will remain automatically suspended in the next two matches unless the Disciplinary Committee thinks otherwise and the disciplinary committee is a recommending body as per the handbook. According to sources at St. Anthony’s an inquiry was held and the go-ahead was given and this as started earlier was confirmed by the secretary SLSRFA.  Others who challenge this decision state that there was no disciplinary inquiry that was formally constituted and also query whether it was communicated to the executive committee. The handbook itself is contradictory as in one place (p 55) it says that the decision of the disciplinary committee shall be final whereas in another place on the same page there is a statement. All decisions and disciplinary issues …… will be the final decision of the executive committee with the recommendation of the disciplinary committee decision. It is difficult to understand as to what this statement is attempting to convey.

Those who support the protest quote the previous experience of the Vidyartha saga where the pronouncements of the President of the SLSRFA were proved inaccurate.  They also allege that the tournament handbook had seen many changes and is full of spelling mistakes, incomplete statements and contradictions which are not in the best interest of the game. The handbook in the description says that the tournament is conducted according to the rules stipulated by the SLSRFA and that they are only responsibly to the Ministry of Education.   It further states that the tournament is played under the rules of the game of rugby football as framed by the International Rugby Board.  The tournament handbook of the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union says “all matches shall be played under the laws of the game as framed by the International Rugby Board, rules and regulations.

The laws of the game and rules are two different things and when we talk of the rules and regulations the SLRFU has noted the IRB regulation 20 the code of conduct and has been doing so for the last few years. The schools section has taken out this reference and according to authoritative sources this was taken off as the President the school section felt that this was a local tournament and there is no need to refer to the requirement of the IRB.

As I have said in the case of the Bandara the real culprit goes free as the schools section has distanced itself from the Union as well as the IRB. The future if we follow this path due to the shortsightedness is not going to be rosy for the game the players nor officials.  The players as well as officials will have nothing to fall back in support if and when they are faced with assault or abuse as there is only a limited scope in the ability of the schools section can take.   The complete removal of reference to the governing body as well as the code of conduct gives an open invitation which will be only realized if and when the official is seriously injured and or loose life. Will schools rugby lead to being a killing field? This is not an impossibility considering the impunity in which changes are made to suit the   fancy of a few.

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

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