The Sri Lanka Schools Rugby Football Association plans for next year, while Vidyartha College and DS Senanayake College are ready to fight on. The Schools Section confirmed the proposed schedule for 2013 which will have a break for Easter, New Year and Wesak. At least they have got the ball rolling to complete all of [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Schools rugby intricacies and the catch-22 situations


The Sri Lanka Schools Rugby Football Association plans for next year, while Vidyartha College and DS Senanayake College are ready to fight on.

The Schools Section confirmed the proposed schedule for 2013 which will have a break for Easter, New Year and Wesak. At least they have got the ball rolling to complete all of the tournaments before the Advanced Level Exams begin.

Most of the stakeholders opine that this is a good move. It will not only help the students but will also give players a chance to recover in the early weeks. It will also provide some time to the schools to play traditional matches which may be held against teams from the lower division.

Despite the sentence meted out to Vidyartha being revoked, the battle is not over. The stakeholders of the school are of the view that the decision of the Schools Association has not been taken in accordance with the book. The handbook says that disciplinary issues pertaining to all age groups are decisively looked into by the executive committee with recommendations from the disciplinary committee. At another instance, it says that issues concerning the 2012 tournaments coming for arbitration will be acted upon along the rules of the International Rugby Board.

Moreover, the handbook states that the SLSRFA is responsible to the Ministry of Education and there is a set procedure to file appeals and objections. They can appeal to the Schools Sports Council, to the Secretary Ministry of Education and finally to the Minister of Education.

The school rugby is a function within the administrative set up of the Ministry, said a senior official at the Director Sports and Physical Education office. In case of an issue, Secretary becomes the final arbiter, he added. It is in this backdrop that the Ministry Secretary appointed a committee to look into the issue.
This being an issue that has more to it than a simple occurrence in a match, it goes beyond the school’s sports council.

It is a clear indication that the process of authority is in place while sources from the schools ask whether it is morally correct to keep harping as the act of impersonation is criminal. The indirect meaning is that the implications can be greater if a complaint is made to the police based on the ministry inquiry. The interested parties of the school argue that the punishments handed have not treated all equally. They refer to the punishment meted out in two other incidents in the lower divisions.

They also mention the IRB philosophy of safety, as Vidyartha with most of last year’s players retained will be a source of danger to those in the lower division whose skill levels are not as advanced.

They also ask whether all students should be punished. The simple question that a master in anonymity asked was whether nobody in the team knew that the alleged impersonator did not study at the school. He thinks that all are guilty of being a party to a crime. While the SLSRFA has taken out the IRB code of conduct from the handbook but refer to IRB rules, elsewhere it may be good to read the laws laid out by the rugby body. The clauses that refer to honest and orderly conduct of the game and not brining the game into disrepute are important.

D.S. Senanayake College too has lodged a protest that St Anthony’s Kandy fielded a player who was red carded but did not sit out the mandatory two weeks. The management of the school section claims that the player is automatically suspended for two matches unless the disciplinary committee decides otherwise.

The DC has decided to reduce the punishment to one week on the basis that the player pleads false identity. The question of the false identity, the opponents allege, was never proved as there was no video footage to confirm. A formal inquiry to look into the matter was also not lodged. Ethically, having not won a single match, why should a team rely on a technical issue to remain in Division 1 baffles the schools’ section. If a formal inquiry was not held, take action against those who confirmed the decision but do not disrupt the league. That is something you may do to ensure that decisions are a result of a process and not in the style of a banana republic.Recently at the Mumbai sevens, a player was sent off wrongly and while he was not given further sanctions the real culprit was punished as there was a citing. It also happened in a Sri Lanka match where a try was scored in the last minute after a player was trampled. The referee as well as ARR missed it, but Sri Lanka lodged a complaint and a citing inquiry resulted in the player being punished. This is the result of authorities wanting genuinely to clean the game of foul play. We work the other way round and seek a hiding place on every full stop and comma to escape. The point is that it is the referee we seek to punish.

The two schools involved in the centre too are in the same loop to try and play in Division 1 next year.

This can upset the apple cart as the schools have already planned the calendar for the next year, to start end of March and finish the league in June and play the knockouts by early July. If you have to bring in two more teams then it requires another time-table.

The schools have also decided that the teams that did not play in the knockout tournament will not be allowed to play the sevens next year. The handbook while talking about the possibility of a disciplinary action also says that it can affect the position of other teams in the next league tournament. The Secretary Schools however said that the decision was not going to affect the league. It looks as if the committee is wielding the stick to ensure that the process is followed but dictatorial decisions without the due processes might not help.

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

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