During the last six months or so, we witnessed shameful fights between the ExCo Chairman’s faction and the Incumbent President’s faction of the Football Federation of Sri Lanka (FFSL), backed by a backstage performer, once known as the godfather of Sri Lanka Football The tug-of-war goes on regardless, with mudslinging and dirty linen washed in [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

While SL’s Football is at a crossroad Sports Ministry casts a Nelsonian eye


Ranjith Rodrigo passed the baton to his close confidante Anura de Silva in 2015 to run the affairs of the Football Federation of Sri Lanka. But the two fell out late last year and will contest each other at the forthcoming football election

During the last six months or so, we witnessed shameful fights between the ExCo Chairman’s faction and the Incumbent President’s faction of the Football Federation of Sri Lanka (FFSL), backed by a backstage performer, once known as the godfather of Sri Lanka Football

The tug-of-war goes on regardless, with mudslinging and dirty linen washed in the public domain. The battle is now turning very ugly and most ExCo members openly confess they are ashamed of the very organisation to which they belong. As a result, 18 out of 27 members of the FFSL’s ExCo have made a written request to the Incumbent President and to its Secretary General, with copies to the Sports Minister, its Secretary and to the Director General of the Dept of Sports, calling for an immediate ExCo Meeting. According to the letter, the signatories have stated that the Incumbent President has taken decisions without proper approval from its ExCo, which they state as a clear breach of the constitution. They further state that, during the last six months, only one ExCo Meeting has been held. They also mentioned that the President conducts FFSL activities without the approval of the ExCo, which is unconstitutional. Further, it is evident from the 10-page report released by the Auditor General’s Dept for 2015, points out at the lack of proper development failures of FFSL in addition to the grave financial misappropriations and apparent fraudulent transactions that have taken place over the years. What is most unfortunate is the apathy of the Sports Ministry, particularly in the light of glaring exposures presented with such clarity and certainty. Also, the failure of the Incumbent Sports Minister and his aides to probe or inquire into the flood of genuine complaints and the blatant acts of irregularities in the FFSL, has disappointed the genuine lovers of Football.

It is indeed tragic for both the country and the sport, if the Ministry of Sport, under various pressures, influence or other limitations and restraints, cannot identify – the true from the false – fact from fiction – the erect from the slant – the straight from the crooked, and the genuine from the pretentious. What we expect is a prudent Ministry which can see things as they are, and act without fear or favour for the sake of the country and the sport.

When the Late Dudley Senanayake created a Ministry for Sports in 1965, his cherished desire was to offer the necessary guidance and assistance through State participation, so as to help achieve technical excellence in our sports. Limited though in financial resources, the Ministry, however, has always offered the National Sports bodies, ungrudging guidance and assistance. This was followed by the late Prime Minister Srimavo Bandaranaike, to a certain extent.

I remember very vividly how the first Sports Minister, the late V.A. Sugathadasa, who himself played Football for St. Benedict’s College, dipped into his own pockets and provided financial assistance for many sportsmen. The late K.B. Ratnayake who represented the Anuradhapura Football League, when he was appointed Minister of Sports in the early 1970s, introduced appropriate legislation to ensure that only those who have actively participated in the respective sport at a major level of competition, shall qualify to hold top positions in National Sports Associations, as sport is a purely technical subject. This prudent and pertinent law is today observed more in the breach. Some who have not kicked a ball properly, are at the helm of office within the FFSL and its affiliated leagues.

When the Sports Ministry itself lacks personnel at the front lines, with adequate knowledge and expertise in the technical aspects of Football, how on earth could they challenge another pretender. It would do a world of good, if the Sports Ministry forms a Technical body of men who are technically competent and those who have played the game at a major level, to advise them and assist them in many ways. This would develop the common man’s sport to what it was from the 1950s to the 1970s. The Sports Ministry officials have a vital and decisive role to play in the renaissance of our Football which has reached the rock bottom. The Ministry must ensure the sport is technically, in competent hands, and brook no nonsense when we fail to raise our performances, at least, to Asian level. Let it not fall victim of beneficiary media coverage, but act strictly on results alone. You must have the strength and courage to demand of our Football a reasonable standard. Failure to achieve this must result in some stern action, and not allow them to continue failure after failure. It is disappointing that, the Sports Ministry, under successive Govts, failed to arrest the decline of our Football, and there seems to be no change for the better even now. It is very unfortunate that, even under 3 young Sports Ministers from 2013 to date, appointed by PA, UNP and the Yahapalana Govt, could not resurrect the game of Football and take appropriate steps to promote and develop the sport played and witnessed by the common man islandwide. As a tradition, all these Ministers receive bouquets in the media and are hailed with superlatives, given red carpet welcomes at Cup finals and to cut ribbons at the opening of Football centres, complex, etc. This is only a hoodwink to cover the technical nakedness devoid of truth and realities that have ruined our Football at large.

With no prejudice whatsoever, it is my humble view, that most FFSL officials and within the affiliated Leagues, are sadly lacking in men of calibre, competence, commitment and integrity at the base. In some Football Leagues, none at the top know even a modicum of the technicalities of the sport they serve. Some have got certificates to get over the qualifying rule. Unfortunately, when such people held positions at the top, it is only natural they surround themselves with equally ignorant colleagues, so that, their stay at the top is safe and assured. If only the Sports laws are strictly and rigidly followed, most of the pretenders, could be unseated. How many officials today served the sport, even without proper collegiate representation. The Sports laws are reduced to a joke by these fakes who have circumvented them with utmost ease.

The need of the hour for the FFSL to get the right men of calibre, competent commitment and integrity, subsequently screened and approved by the Minister of Sports.

It needs men with such unquestionable qualities to offer a clean and fresh environment for assured growth and development. It is only after this vital base forms that, we have to look at the technical aspects of the sport, which undoubtedly, is most important and vital. However, if the first phase, namely those at the administrative table are incompetent, lack commitment and integrity, then the second phase, with all its technical experience and expertise is bound to flop. Planning programmes and policymaking, procurement of materials and equipment, financing projects and training courses, arrangement of fixtures and competitions, and making decision and giving directions, through strictly subjects that come under the administrative arm, has a direct effect on the technical aspects of the sport. Hence, doubtless, we need to have officials at the top of calibre, who are competent and committed, who, while understanding the implications of there thinking and decisions, must equally appreciate the relative effects of such decisions on the coaches, trainers, referees, players and finally, the game itself.

May I suggest to the Incumbent Ministry of Sports to kindly consider appointing a National Technical Board which will report to the Minister on (A) the technical qualifications and competent of officials in conformity with the Sports law (B) to asses and report on the prevailing performing standards in comparison to Regional Asian standards. Initially, if these two aspects are gone into, the Minister can then make his own observations and come to his own conclusions, in allowing the right ones to contest at the forthcoming FFSL AGM.

Finally, my humble request to those who ruined our Football in the last 3 decades and became millionaires and globetrotters in the name of the common man’s sport, please pack your bags and go home for the good of the game and enjoy your retirement in peace and happiness, from what you have earned. Enough is enough. For heaven’s sake, give room to young blood who have played Football at a major level, with technical knowledge and managerial skills to run the affairs of the FFSL. Let them infuse fresh ideas and thinking with modern technology adopted by Football-playing nations which have reached great heights. On the other hand, at this juncture, when our country’s Football is in a mess, the Minister of Sports is left with only two options: (1) to screen and approve the right men to the Administration Structure of the FFSL (2) If you are unable to do so immediately, due to the current situation within the FFSL, appoint a Competent Authority, assisted by a committee, to handle its affairs temporarily for a short period of time, to put the Football House in order, which you are well aware, is in a mess right now.

Sir, please don’t forget that thousands of Football lovers in this country are eagerly and anxiously waiting to see what coruse of action you are going to take to resurrect the sport.

I conclude by saying that, I am not involved in politics or, affiliated to any political party. Neither do I have any grudge, jealousy, anger, remorse or ill feelings towards any individuals or groups. I am certainly not running behind positions, tours, money or, for personal glory, in the name of Football. My only concern and worry is for the game I played from my childhood, represented my country for 10 years as a player and 5 years as National coach.

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