A clarification dated 13th August 2018 signed for the Attorney General, on eligibility to hold office and interpreting the Sports Law, is worthy of being read. This communication is in relation to a query by the Legal Officer, Ministry of Sports, arising from a clarification sought by Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR). The opinion is as [...]


One leg in the field, the other outside is a Technical Offence


A clarification dated 13th August 2018 signed for the Attorney General, on eligibility to hold office and interpreting the Sports Law, is worthy of being read. This communication is in relation to a query by the Legal Officer, Ministry of Sports, arising from a clarification sought by Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR). The opinion is as follows: “I have examined the relevant statutory provisions, SLR Constitution, By-Laws and Regulations of World Rugby and Laws of the Game of Rugby Union, and state that, Section 10 of the SLR Constitution categorically stipulates, inter alia, that SLR shall be subject or comply with the Domestic Laws, and Rules and Regulations of World Rugby and International Olympic Committee Orders.” What is important is that about the Domestic Laws which I believe is not limited to the Sports Law.

This is relevant because, at most times, the learned men of the Disciplinary Committee have been shy of accepting the Domestic Laws as well as provisions of the SL Constitution. Similarly, World Rugby Regulations have been ignored in the past, as in the case of the appointment of a Chairman to the Appeal Board.

The clarification that states a Coach is expressly disqualified. The contents of the letter suggest the clarification sort was to give meaning to Match Officials (MO) who, according to the Regulations gazetted under the Sports Law, cannot hold office in the governing body.

It thus rules out MOs who include Referees, Assistant Referees, Touch Judges as well as others who, it is said, are on the field and assist a Referee. These include Match Commissioners, Citing Commissioners, Coaches of MOs as well as TV MOs. Looking at the composition of the current Council, it looks like a number of them are not eligible. On the other hand, if they want to remain in the governing body, they will have to give up their status of being MOs.

However, the question arises, as there are other areas or Regulations which use terms such as Performance Reviewer or Assessor, and not Coach of MOs. Also, the role of Match Commissioner is in a different document and may not necessarily mean assisting the Referee but in organising a match. The vacuum probably is the result of what information was given to the Senior Additional Solicitor General.

The problem roots deeper in the quagmire of SLR, as people disregarded all that, to show a level playing field. This interpretation has ramifications to other sports where there are MOs in the hierarchy. These include Boxing, Netball, Football, Judo, Chess, Rowing, Cycling, and Volleyball to name a few. Will this effectively put a spoke in the Administration and Management of Sports in Sri Lanka?

An interesting piece of note in the preamble is a reference to applicable statutes which, in this case, refers to the Sports Law. But it also leaves room to infer there is a relevance to read the SLR Constitution along with the Laws of the land. This is something that some have opined they are not interested in the provisions of the Constitution or other applicable Laws and practices of the country. It also gives room to infer that the SLR Constitution recognises the provisions of World Rugby. The need to fall in line with Laws is an important area which, in a state of arrogance, has been neglected.

Reading the interpretation and trying to digest the implications, I was told that Jason Dissanayake was not available for National Duty due to personal reasons and not because of injury. Shiyam Sideek, the Kandy SC representative in the SLR Council, speaking on behalf of the Club, explained to this Column. The reason being personal, he said, the Club was of the view that being in Bahrain is no sin. The personal reason could be that he preferred to play for the Club. That is because he is contracted and it is the Club that butters his bread. The dilemma has surfaced many times, while the issue remains unresolved and pops up again and again. Given the interpretation and the possibility on the Laws of the land need to be considered, can one deny the right of the Association to bar him from representing his Club.

The problem of Club versus Nation is not unique to Sri Lanka. New Zealand Rugby (NZR) which was thought of as having a hold on its players, compared with England, recently hosted a summit with leading agents to tackle mounting concerns about player retention.

Contracting by Clubs outside of NZ is fast becoming NZR’s greatest challenge in this age of the millennial and fast expanding digitals. Players are no longer content to bide their time to pursue a long and distinguished Test career. This is despite the image of NZ being more with Rugby than any other Sport or economic activity. When a player status in Sri Lanka, vis a vis Club/Nation comes up, SL has to think that the problem surfaces in NZ, despite that Rugby plays a large role in contributing towards NZ’s national identity. On the other hand, Lanka bawls loud in fora here and elsewhere, about country before self.

All Blacks Captain Kieran Read and Beauden Barrett pocket in excess of US$1 million, with all revenue factored in at home and therefore, do not need to go elsewhere. But for the others, the lucre at home is a big drop compared with the two at the Top-End. Yet, it is not that panic stations have not been reached, but NZR is worried by the flood of talent signing overseas deals.

UK is contemplating a salary cap from £ 7-12 million per-season, in the coming years. That alone is big compared with NZ. The SL National team has no fear of players playing elsewhere, as Club Rugby in Asia is not a money spinner, as in Europe. The problem is within our shores.

The spine of many outstanding European teams is such numbers 10, 8, 12 and Locks is filled and drives up prices. But they also break the spine of National Teams.

The identity of NZ, as I said before, is associated with Rugby. And it means a lot to them. Rugby in Sri Lanka, despite being popular, will not come anywhere close to being a cause to lose a National identity. It is remote, despite Cricket to some, needs to be assigned to the Ministry of Disaster Management.

So, in the land of the Kiwis, there is talk to attract private investors, to put large sums in a Trust, to help fund player retention? Inevitably, this would come with expected access to players for promotional purposes and potential influence.

Can SLR hope to contract players to the National Union with attractive terms? Can they at least get a private consortium to manage and/or fund player contracting and through them, allow access for promotional and potential influence.

With a financial statement showing holes, as pointed by the Auditor General, can one expect people to put in money, when people responsible are still being tolerated?

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


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