From the day the Sports Ministry instructed all National Sports Associations (NSA) to conduct their AGMs and election of Office Bearers before May 31, 2017, I have been receiving telephone calls and typed statements from past players and fans alleging corruption and irregularities within Football House, and appealing to me to take up these matters [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Sports Minister please intervene, put Football House in order


Will FFSL be shown the 'Red Card' by the Ministry of Sports? - File pic Amila Gamage

From the day the Sports Ministry instructed all National Sports Associations (NSA) to conduct their AGMs and election of Office Bearers before May 31, 2017, I have been receiving telephone calls and typed statements from past players and fans alleging corruption and irregularities within Football House, and appealing to me to take up these matters with the authorities. As their requests seem to be just and fair, I thought I should address same to the incumbent Minister of Sports, Dayasiri Jayasekera, on their behalf, with the hope that he will take necessary action.

Just a few days ago, it was learn’t that both, the incumbent President and Secretary of the Football Federation of Sri Lanka (FFSL) announced they will contest at the upcoming election against the incumbent ExCo Chairman, for the top position of President. So, we have 3 top administrators, once close confidants who formed a team just two years ago, already in the fray. There is also another outside team lead by a former National player, backed by a past supremo, challenging the process, on the claim that a totally new organisation is required to completely transform the Sport in the country. Already, dirty linen is being washed in the public domain, with feverish calls at night, alleging traitorous intents by once friends and strange bedfellows.

With the serious factions now taking place among ‘mango’ friends in Football House, some pundits are of the view that an Interim Committee may be a good temporary solution. No doubt, FIFA will frown on it but, what the Sports Ministry should do is produce a solution, with the help and active cooperation of FIFA officials. FIFA, of course, will need to know why, and that can be easily provided by the Sports Ministry, from a select panel which can prepare a paper in a short time. There is a legitimate process that FIFA cannot reject offhand because, it is also the Sports Ministry’s responsibility to ensure that all National Sports in the country are properly run.

The incumbent ExCo Chairman claims that he heads 2 of the most responsible entities within the FFSL. All ExCo members know how he demanded these 2 posts, including the plum Foreign Relations Committee which controls FFSL affairs with an iron fist in a death-grip, leaving little room for the President, Secretary or other Senior members to perform. Everyone in the Football circle know the current Presidency was a classic caretaker role to circumvent the Sports Law and facilitate the re-entry by him to the top job as soon as possible. ExCo members will vouch for the fact that, ExCo Chairman dominates all meetings when he appears, leaving no room for any meaningful contribution by others. It is now clear to all Football lovers that, the entry of his key confidants into the election fray, is a frustrated response to this self-centered attitude, a playback to an infamous administration of the past. His explanation, that it is not easy to adopt a democratic stance from the dictatorship of the past, is a very good example of what ails Football, and the curse this Sport has inherited. Many in Football know only too well that, these charlatans who hardly kicked a Football in their youth, use their wealth and power for self aggrandizement, and not for the genuine love of the Sport. The crocodile tears they shed must not fool anyone, anymore. The fracas that apparently took place at the ExCo meeting on February 15, compels the Sports Minister to take urgent action in respect of the FFSL. The battle is now turning very ugly and most ExCo members state openly, they are ashamed of the very organisation to which they belong. So, we may ask them, what are they doing there? What are people like Trevor Reckerman, a respected former Secretary General and top professional, former Senior DIG Pathirana and experienced sports administrator, Brig Dammika Kariyawasam of the SLA and Saif Yusoof, a young corporate leader and President of Colombo FC, doing there? Why people of your calibre work there with such people? The iron-fist ExCo Chairman claims no one has complained about him officially. But, unofficial concerns are as valid in the Football fraternity, with the Sports Ministry, no doubt, aware of the undercurrents within the Sport. About the invitation to form a Technical Advisory Committee, many former technical experts have disdained his remarks of trying to do things he knows little about. A technical study done and published by a German expert loaned at FIFA’s expense, during his term of office, was never presented to the ExCo. Even the current President who was the CEO at the time, did not see it necessary to present it and get technical staff to organise its implementation.

The ExCo Chairman’s remarks about FIFA & AFC practices are a manifestation of the diabolic assertion that only he knows of things that work in the Football world. What is true and workable is that, FIFA and AFC must be made to understand how these panjandrums cajole and make Football their preserve, ruining the game at all levels. No one is demanding an undue appointment of an Interim Committee. All they are asking FIFA and AFC is to work with our Sports Minister in tandem, to study what is happening, talk to all concerned and come to a fair conclusion. “Please do not let what happened in the past happen again,” is their earnest plea. Certainly, we cannot keep harping about the past, neither are we happy to keep criticising the present administration. However, it is widely accepted that the present ills of the FFSL are a result of the callous, overpowering ambiance created by an irascible bunch in the last few years. We have squandered millions of rupees on irrelevant court cases, participated in fanciful jaunts without clear objectives, with representative teams that were well below par, and taken respected sponsors for a ride, with poorly planned competitions and other events.

FIFA/AFC officials overlooking this region must take note. The Development Officer based in New Delhi must not remain oblivious to the situation in Sri lanka. The performance programme and the HR consultancy leading to a restructuring in 2014, which he oversaw, did not take place with reports swept under the carpet and not placed before the ExCo The incumbent President who was CEO at the time, has a lot to answer for, while blaming everything on the ExCo Chairman does not absolve him of bad passes.

The time to act has come. All Football lovers must unite for the betterment of the game. The Sports Ministry must produce the ‘Red Card’ and say, “Enough is enough.” ‘Produce or Perish’, should be the motto. FIFA must not disregard the pleading of a nation that has been at the mercy of people whose climb to fame has been at the expense of the game. Cargills and Dialog must suspend further funding until proper re-organisation is undertaken and a responsible team put in place. Then Football can kick off.

The Sports Minister’s right to extend any term in the hierarchy should be only on undeniable evidence of achieving Asian standards in Football. He should lay down guidelines and regulations to people at the helm, to submit plans and programmes to promote and develop the Sport at least for a year. If they fail to produce fruitful results at international competitions, the Minister must have the courage to request them to gracefully step down from their positions. The respective Football Leagues should conduct their domestic tournaments annually on time, and submit a comprehensive report about their progress in the Sport, along with their annual financial statements to the Sports Ministry, to qualify for their voting rights at the Annual General Meeting of the Controlling Body.

In the light of the norms and prerequisites for effective Football administration, the Sports Minister must ensure the use of Ex-National players or, persons with technical competence and managerial skills of an infinitely higher grade. What the Sports Minister should do is to appoint a National Technical Committee which, amongst many of its other functions, it would screen candidates for positions in the respective Football Leagues and within the Controlling Body. It is the principle that matters in this instance, and for the greater good of the Sport, men who have excelled at the highest level in Football, should essentially guide its destinies. Not every Tom, Dick and Harry.

I conclude by quoting the common talk in town– “Are these guys fighting for top positions, to develop Sri Lanka Football or, for personal glory and other benefits.”

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