Veteran racing driver and motorsports enthusiast Rohan de Silva has turned a new leaf in his commitment to sports, by taking the top position at Sri Lanka Badminton (SLB) and taking it to a new level. In the short period of four months, since he took over at SLB, de Silva has already made Badminton [...]


‘Hill Climb’ ace Rohan de Silva takes over SL Badminton podium


Rohan de Silva (L), a veteran motorsport driver and a keen shuttler, now leads Sri Lanka Badminton

Veteran racing driver and motorsports enthusiast Rohan de Silva has turned a new leaf in his commitment to sports, by taking the top position at Sri Lanka Badminton (SLB) and taking it to a new level. In the short period of four months, since he took over at SLB, de Silva has already made Badminton more appealing to its players and administrators, while luring the corporate sector to become stakeholders as sponsors.

For an administration run under interim committees, in the recent past, de Silva’s newly elected SLB administration had more structural work to focus on. For an ordinary individual to take over a sport that had Olympic representation in the recent past, and put its house in order, would have been a tough and challenging task. But de Silva, who has a proven track record as a leader in one of Sri Lanka’s corporate giants, the McLarens Group, it was just an issue that needed a positive attitude and decisive action.

Over the past four months, de Silva and his team have done an overhaul of the SLB, from top to bottom and, as a result, a corporate sector that once distanced itself from Badminton, is keen to come on board. But de Silva is not ‘pushing’ it, until he and his team bring SLB to a standard, where recognition will be a deserving factor in Badminton.

“I got my own group of companies to sponsor Badminton. My idea is, this year, for the first 6 months since we got elected, to get McLarens Group to sponsor, so there will be no burden on anybody else. In addition, there is also a huge ongoing media campaign to create public awareness in Badminton, and what SLB is doing to uplift and popularise the sport. The idea being that, prospective sponsors of SLB will be aware of what is taking place in Badminton. I am of the opinion that, without uplifting the standards of Badminton and without doing anything to create interest among the players, public and the corporate sector, there will be no moving forward,” said de Silva, elaborating on his initial plans.

Over the past four months, McLarens Group has pumped in nearly Rs. 3 million, as a sponsorship grant, to fully refurbish the SLB Headquarters at Maitland Place, its courts, changing rooms and other players’ facilities. The restoration is still ongoing, with the courts ready to international standards.

No sooner the new SLB administration took over, they promptly appointed three international coaches from Indonesia and three local coaches as their understudies. A testimony to de Silva’s outlook and planning to change SLB’s administrative structure.

“Bringing the sport to a certain standard, be it tournaments, playing standards and facilities, will only help Badminton go a long way. All the local tournament standards are way above what we had before. Today, four or five days ahead, SLB notifies the player what time, when and where the player should be for a match, so the parents are also aware, if it’s a junior player. It was not like that before. Likewise, there are other areas we have improved a lot, such as the umpires, linesmen, playing gear and shuttlecocks. We have made enormous strides and, as a result, sponsors are gradually approaching SLB now,” he revealed.

Under de Silva, SLB has a five-year development plan under discussion among its committee members, which includes coaching, sponsorship, training camps, overseas tours, improving courts, and maintaining standards.

As a profound initiative in standardising local tournaments, the SLB held the recently concluded Nationalised Services Badminton Association’s Open Tournament, on a 10-court area, according to international standards.

“That was an immense success, and we will go a step further by applying the same standards at the forthcoming National Championship, which will be merged with the National Junior Championship, for the first time in its history. We will have to take such bold steps, if we are to become a force to be reckoned with at regional and global events,” de Silva added.

Currently, as part of SLB’s new structural plan, a national pool and a second string squad identified as the standby pool, is being trained under the three international and three local coaches. Each pool comprises of 20 players, with an additional 20 players training alongside in the national junior pool. SLB is also on the verge of launching provincial pools in the coming weeks, to further strengthen the national pipeline.

De Silva is a champion driver who has sponsored and led a successful project to build Sri Lanka’s very own Formula Racing cars, but is no longer a competitive driver in the local circuit. Though, at 68, he takes time off, once in a while, to compete in a few ‘Hill Climbs’ during the April Holiday Season, in Nuwara Eliya. His association with motorsports dates back over four decades, during which he has competed in over 1000 race events, locally and globally, with over 700 podium finishes.

He has not represented the country in Badminton, as in Motorsports but, as a successful administrator, he was constantly approached during the past three years, by many in the Badminton fraternity, to take charge of SLB, which he has been politely declining over and over again, until he was fully convinced.

“I had my own interest in coming into SLB administration. Almost 85% of the affiliates have been knocking on my door constantly, and this time I found that I have time to support another sport, raise the bar and reach standards. I thought, before I go away from all sports activities, I should help this one sport and hand it over to someone capable, to take over and run the show. I should say, the support I get from the stakeholders is amazing, which means I can accomplish my goal in giving Badminton its due status,” elaborated Silva, spelling out his ambitions for Badminton.

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