New brooms ready to sweep

The Sri Lanka Schools Rugby Football Union held their Annual General Meeting on the February 12. The Principal of Kingswood College R. Chandrasekera was Elected President while Susantha Mendis from Prince of Wales College was elected as the Secretary. The President was elected uncontested while the Secretary won by a sizable margin. Both have an important role to play in steering this t much criticized and wonky Schools Rugby Football Assocaiation.

The new President speaking to the Sunday Times explained that one of the first actions of the committee will be to hold the awards ceremony that is long overdue. I have said previously; there is an importance and significance to the winners of various tournaments to receive their awards. This is most important to the emerging schools in the lower division to have something to show their achievements. Chandrasekera, announced that they will have the Sevens on March 5th and 6th at the Sugathadasa Stadium.

Asked about the decision to hold the event at the Stadium he said that it will be easy for security and to house the schoolboy teams as more pavilion space is available. He said that there was no decision on the format and numbers for the league tournament. A proposal will be made and a decision will be taken when the committee meets on Tuesday February 22.

It is however expected that the league will begin in the 3rd week of March. Though a decision was delayed it is a sane move not to have taken the issue at the AGM. There would have been a number of opinions expressed by most that are not affected. Chandrasekera also expects to appoint an advisory board to advice on issues that can raise conflict. This board will comprise of a representative of the SLRFU, a Coach, a Past Rugby Stalwart, a Lawyer, a Medical Expert, a Referees Representative etc. He also said that all tournaments will be run by a committee chaired by a School Principal.

The management of finances and accounting of that tournament will be the responsibility of that tournament. He also intends to help the rugby unions to sustain themselves and popularize the game. Possibly this is an area that the schools section can work with the SLRFU in the development of the game. Funds for a structured programme can be sustained through the IRB development grant received by the Union. It is the hope of all interested that there will be a degree of sanity introduced and the game will not see ad hoc decisions that increase numbers in a league from eight to ten to twelve and leaving room for it to be fourteen, bringing down the quality of games with cricket scores against some.

In the context of restoring sanity and balance an important event was the meeting of eleven of the twelve teams expected to be in division 1A. Last week I mentioned about this meeting where a notable absentee was Isipathana College.

Isipathana has and will be a force to reckon with in school and national rugby. If this group of twelve is to continue with the objective of helping to improve the game the participation of Isipathana is important; as together there is much to be achieved.

The consensus revolved around that majority decisions affect the better playing schools and that their opinion has to be voiced. It is important for the game for the A division schools to sit and think alike and not differently. The gathering of the main players of Division 1A has definitely sent a message to the numbers. That there is a threat to the effective work of the schools section if the disarray continues. It is clear that sponsors are being attracted by the bigger names.

Though the thinking is that ‘A’ teams are the ones that are affected there seem to others lower down who are disgusted. Speaking to some I was told that the sponsorship money does not trickle down to help emerging schools in a most justifiable and equitable manner. There is a lot of heartburn that funds are being squandered by a few with the intention of catching votes and continuing to be in power. I was made to understand that the collection at the last Schools knock out was around Rs 750,000.

That is without a final being played. The source claimed that this was the first time that such a gate collection has been actually accounted for. They also lamented that not playing of the final denied them of funds that could have been used in the development of rugby in the lesser known schools. Again most fear that the game was not properly managed by the schools association and it is getting notorious for being useful for some of the people all the time and not all the people most of the time.
What is for the future is to build an association that will serve well and serve all while earning respect in promoting the game of rugby?

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

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