The Sports Ministry has instructed all National Sports Associations (NSA) to conduct their AGMs and election of Office Bearers before May 31, 2017. The elections will be held after a break of 2 years. The officials have started their election campaigns already. While some officials conduct their campaign openly, others do it secretly. One set [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Election fever


The Sports Ministry has instructed all National Sports Associations (NSA) to conduct their AGMs and election of Office Bearers before May 31, 2017. The elections will be held after a break of 2 years. The officials have started their election campaigns already. While some officials conduct their campaign openly, others do it secretly. One set of officials are working hard to retain their positions, while few others are determined to regain it. The election campaign has now spread across the Sports clubs, District Associations and Leagues, NSAs and National Olympic Committee (NOC). Their main target is to bring an end to NOC’s 20-year-old strong regime. Sports Yardstick today speaks to a few professionals, as to whether the officials of these NSAs are really working for the betterment of the game or, for their personal gain.

Rukmal Perera
(Former FFSL Director- Marketing &
Communications, FIFA Community Instructor,
FIFA World Cup Media Officer)

As the deadline for re-election of office bearers to the respective NSAs, in accordance with the new Sports Law, falling on May 31, many sports lovers in their respective NSAs have started their campaigns already. It is evident there are many battlefields created, just as in a political war scenario, with many commanders developing strategies to win the battle. One wonders whether it is purely to develop the game or, to be a prominent figure in the country, by becoming president of a popular NSA and enjoy all the perks. If they really love the game, they should plan and implement, in these 6 months, to develop their short term strategies, especially to go for a medal at the next SA Games, which is the Olympics of SAARC countries. Then, after the new office bearers or, exiting ones, win back, they could continue with their plans to reach the goals. But unfortunately now, with these divisions and unethical practices taking place focusing on elections, what will happen is, they will be fully involved in the election plans, and will not concentrate on the winning strategy. Thus creating many conflicts and divisions among officials, administrators, staff and players. Like the voters and supporters in a general election, the regional and league voters will benefit from many monetary facilitations, overseas trips and tamasha’s thrown around lavishly by the contestants, to enhance their voter base. In Football, the Executive Committee is divided and the top officials claimed they were not permitted to carry out their plans by some ExCo Members, as now they are ranked 196 by FIFA. Now they are looking forward to working on their own, without interference, and want to be re-elected to do a better job. The election will be fiercely contested, and the present administration of the sport is in disarray. The Sports Minister, after many debacles, has managed to implement the Sports Law, and the 4-year term is acceptable, provided the correct man is selected, otherwise, it will be disastrous. There are too many voters and leagues created, purely to get the votes in their favour. While the FFSL is fighting inside and passing the ball, and working for elections, the Maldives have already developed their strategies and have appointed Darren Stewart the Australian International Player and a renowned coach, as their National Coach, and the team has started practising. They have 21 clubs which have voting rights at the elections, compared with 75 leagues with voting rights in ours. The officials should think twice before voting, as to who will be the best to run the FFSL, at least, to go for a medal at the next SAG/SAFF Championships. The Sports Minister’s efforts are in vain, when we look at these divisions of officials and their conflicts of interests in many NSAs, which have led to zero level performances and results. In this scenario, the elections will not be free and fair in these NSAs. You are responsible to the people and all sports lovers in the country.

Prof Arjun Silva
[Chairman- Sri Lanka Anti Doping Agency (SLADA)]

I am not involved in any kind of sports administration. I was Director General of the Institute of Sports Medicine for a short period, and now I am the Chairman of the SLADA. This post has helped me be in close contact with several NSAs in the country. It is the responsibility of the Government and the Sports Ministry to provide all facilities including playgrounds and medicine, to the sportsmen and sportswomen. The NSAs should look into the wellbeing of the Athletes and provide the necessary training and techniques. But, I see most of the NSAs are not performing their task properly. These NSAs are more keen looking into their welfare, instead of helping the Athletes to develop. In addition, they are also more interested in foreign tours and expect positions at international level. They are not bothered at all about the Sport. The Sports Ministry has requested all NSAs to hold their 2017 AGMs and elections before May 31. We have more than 4 months for the elections. But, I already see some of the NSA officials have started their election campaigns. This is like the politicians getting ready for the General Elections. I see these officials who are performing a honorary service, are prepared to spend huge sums of money on these elections. In addition, the affiliated Clubs and Associations are provided with many privileges to garner their valuable vote and retain their positions. Today, elections of most NSAs are held under police supervision. I can remember one particular association, some time back, held its AGM in a high security zone. The main reason for the decline of Sports in the country is because their is no proper coordination between the Schools Associations, District Associations and NSAs. I see Football has taken a backseat in the recent past, more than any other sports in this country. Some time back, we provided assistance to the Maldives to improve in the game, and today, they are in a position to beat us at the highest level. Our Football administrators should be ashamed of themselves, losing to the Maldives, a country with a population of 300,000. The current set of Football administrators are having more discussions on how to retain their positions, instead of looking into the development of the sport. We won the South Asian Football Championship in 1995, but I don’t think we will be able to repeat that performance at any time. My view is that, only those who have experience in having represented the country in their respective sport at the highest level, should be elected for these top positions, except for the Treasurer. But more importantly, they should have a love for the sport. I think these elections should be conducted every 4 years, instead of every 2 years. Then at least they will work for 3 years and think about their re-election to the post in the 4th year. I know certain NSAs do not even support their own affiliated Clubs or Districts. I can remember some Karatekas contributed financially and got down a foreign Karate coach to Sri Lanka. With this situation, I wonder why do we want to have officials in NSAs. Some NSAs receive foreign scholarships for Athletes and Coaches. But the corrupt officials of these NSAs are reluctant to provide these scholarships to the Athletes and the Coaches. But, if they receive an administration scholarship they will gladly accept the offer to participate. I see there is a mania for foreign tours among the officials of most of the NSAs.

Group Captain Padman De Costa
(Secretary- Defence Services Sports Board & Secretary-
Sri Lanka Air Force Sports Council)

The conduct of NSAs in Sri Lanka has reached a low ebb, due to the shortsightedness of its administrators. At present, we do not see most NSAs having a proper vision, either short term or  long term, thus just going ahead routinely conducting the tournament calendar. Decades ago, other South Asian countries which were behind Sri Lanka in most of the disciplines, have now caught up and are even performing better than us. The vital factor missing in the Sri Lankan context, according to my understanding, is the lack of a proper mix in the respective national bodies. With the teaming up of groups, in order to be selected at the elections, most NSAs thereafter, try to take revenge from the opposing group. This leads to a number of top administrators, coaches and, at times, players being sidelined. As the aim of the group in power is to conduct the affairs of the NSA on their own, they purposely ignore most others, who could contribute handsomely in uplifting the Sport discipline. Number of factors contribute for a Sport to prosper. Steps to uplift infrastructure, enhancing participants at school level, adding value to present culture, thereby encourage parents to guide children towards the said discipline, financial incentives for players and participation at national/international competitions, and availability of capable sponsors, are few important factors in this respect. However, now we see a situation where the Ministry of Sports has to be the main sponsor of most Sports in the country. Many National teams struggle to proceed overseas for international championships and, if not for the finances provides by the ministry, these teams are not in a position to send a contingent even to India. Actually, these finances are the valuable money that can be utilised to improve infrastructure or, to provide nourishment or, Sports equipment to talented players. Or else, the promising players and coaches could be provided with international training stints, using these finances. So, it is up to the NSAs to find money for these international competitions. Although, NSAs boast of their commitments in looking after National sportsmen and women, it is not so. Other than Cricketers and Rugby players, most National level Sports personnel are looked after by the Tri-Services i.e. Army, Navy and the Air Force. For example, 99% of National Athletes are employed in the Defence Services. If not for the Defence Services, most Sports in the country may have died a natural death by now. Not only a decent salary, every facility to improve their performance, including accommodation, nourishment, playing gear, equipment, medical care, coaching, mentoring and insurance are provided by the Defence Services, apart from providing many overseas exposure at competitions. In my opinion, it should be the NSAs which should take the lead role in developing National Sports, without planning and engaging in activities for their own benefit. Although these bodies are appointed for a 2-year term, they start competing for re-election even prior to completing their first year in office. These days, we hear many stories of the huge expenses involved in winning votes. So, it is up to the authorities to take meaningful measures to prevent these elements from destroying National Sports and ensure that all stakeholders unite in one objective to develop the country’s Sports, a dream that we all have in common. In that, every effort should be made to bring in professionalism to these NSAs, by encouraging leading personnel from the corporate sector, military top brass and sports stars of yesteryear, to join hands with the existing NSAs.

Michael Tissera
(Former Sri Lanka Cricket Captain)

I just cannot understand what has gone wrong with Sports in Sri Lanka, especially in Cricket. We are going down in the sport badly, year by year. I see Cricket as one of the main sources of income for Sri Lanka. But, with the current bad status, I believe most countries are hesitant to play international Cricket with us, because they fear financial losses if they play against Sri Lanka. The best example is that, the South Africans have decided to cancel their series against Sri Lanka scheduled for end of this year. Officials of the NSAs are mostly concerned about their positions. They do not care about the veteran players, and dislike taking any advice from them. This is because these officials do not have any knowledge of Sports administration. Today, every Sport has become a victim of politics. Their main concern is the election campaign and not the development of the Sport. Also it is difficult for a veteran player to be elected to these NSAs. With the current situation, I see all those who are financially sound taking the top posts, while the seniors are pushed aside. I, of course, can talk only about Cricket, being a former National Cricketer. I was also involved in the former Interim Committee of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC). This is a country which has won the World Cup and the Twenty20 World Cup. But now, I see we are not strong enough to play the game. The main setback is the lack of domestic tournaments in the country, to identify talented players from the outstation. We cannot identify talented players by playing Club Cricket alone. We introduced an Inter-Provincial Tournament when I was in the Interim Committee. We included the best 60 players for this tournament. This was an ideal tournament to identify talented players. But later, the tournaments were scrapped from the calendar. The SLC should be held responsible for this. Today, we do not have playgrounds, clubs or top tournaments. We have not been able to make use of the players who represented the country at the 1996 World Cup, except for Aravinda de Silva. The current administration is more keen on looking into the welfare and benefits of their immediate families. These officials create their own clubs to obtain votes when election nears. They spend more funds to try and retain their positions, rather than looking into the development of the game. Like all other Sports, Cricket too, does not have a National Plan. Other countries conduct top level tournaments like the English County matches, to identify talented players. But we do not have a proper plan of that nature. These officials are always thinking about themselves and  their future. This is a common feature in every NSA.

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