Former Sri Lanka prop forward Hafeez Marso threw the World Rugby rule book at Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR) after their three-member Disciplinary Committee (DC) let off CR&FC lightly following their unprecedented act of walking out in protest during their Dialog Rugby Club League Championship second round clash against Police SC. The incident occurred on [...]


CR suspension raises more questions than answers

Marso feels there is ambiguity in ruling of disciplinary committee

Young children play football in an empty street in Pettah. The deadly Covid-19 virus that is spreading rapidly has forced Sri Lankan authorities to ban all public gatherings and also cancelled all sport activities until further notice. Pic by M.A Pushpakumara


Former Sri Lanka prop forward Hafeez Marso threw the World Rugby rule book at Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR) after their three-member Disciplinary Committee (DC) let off CR&FC lightly following their unprecedented act of walking out in protest during their Dialog Rugby Club League Championship second round clash against Police SC.

The incident occurred on March 1 when CR&FC decided to walk away from the game in the 60th minute of play after their regular captain Omalka Gunaratne was barred from being brought in as a substitute by the match commissioner as the match-day doctor confirmed that he had a confirmed case of conjunctivitis.

Police were awarded the win by the match commissioner Zafarulla Rahman since they were leading 27-16 when play was abandoned with 20 minutes still remaining.

Many former players felt CR had created a bad precedent by abandoning a match just because they were aggrieved at the decisions made by match officials and hoped SLR would act sternly and decisively to make a statement.

However, they were effectively handed just a one-match suspension with the Super Round of the league being cancelled because of the prevailing situation in the country and a hefty fine of Rs.350,000. In addition, CR’s manager Sheik Hussain and skipper Omalka Gunaratne were handed lengthy suspensions. These decisions will be appealed by CR&FC.
“We will definitely appeal and then make a statement after we finished that process. We are challenging most of it. We have 14 days to appeal and as soon as we see a window with all this chaos happening,” said CR&FC president Sriyan Cooray.
CR officially received notice of the DC decision on Wednesday March 16 following an Emergency Council meeting of SLR on Monday which approved the sanctions. The disciplinary committee of SLR comprising Suren de Silva (Attorney-At-Law), Maj. Gen. (Rtd) H.M.N. Krishnaratne and Shahid Sanghani (Attorney-At-Law).
Marso’s bone of contention is that the match commissioner has no right to make a decision.
“He can tell the touch judge who can go and tell the official in the middle. The referee is the one who can take the final call. He (match commissioner) cannot come into the field,” said the former Police star.
“Even if it was a bad decision, walking out was a big mistake they (CR) did. Whatever said and done they have to be penalised otherwise everybody will be doing this,” said Marso who also played for CR.

He felt there was ambiguity in the ruling of the DC. “It doesn’t say whether points are forfeited. Why are they calling an emergency meeting of the Council to even debate the report of the disciplinary committee. Even the Council cannot overrule their verdict. If the Council is not satisfied, then they can appoint another committee. The aggrieved party can go to the Appeal Board,” he said.
Marso questioned as to why CR’s points were not forfeited.

“According to the rule, when a team is suspended, all their points are forfeited. Before suspending a player they have to suspend the team and all points have to be forfeited. That is the rule in the tournament manual and team participation agreement, the rule book which every club has to sign. Have they gone through the WR (World Rugby) Regulation, SLR Constitution Tournament Manual and the Team Participation Agreements. When they abandon match without consent or withdraw without valid reason, points will be forfeited. Whom are they (SLR) trying to fool? Furthermore, Rahul de Silva was captain of the CR team but Omalka has been suspended. I doubt whether this is decision of the disciplinary committee,” said Marso who helped draft the SLR constitution.
SLR general secretary Thusitha Peiris admitted that there was a difference of opinion during the Council meeting with some members demanding CR be served a lengthy ban.

“Few clubs were of the view they should not be allowed to play any tournaments this season. Majority were in favour of the DC decision. It was debated and a vote taken with three against it,” he said. Peiris explained there were several mitigating factors in CR’s favour.

“CR have been a long-standing club and supporting rugby for the last so many producing national players. Last year when CH went to court and tried to stop the league, CR gave up the foreigner when they were entitled to it in order to come to a settlement. Also, it is a fact that we have only eight clubs. They (CR) are under strict warning. The DC has come up with their recommendations. We have always respected DC decisions in good faith,” he said.

Peiris clarified that Omalka was penalised for representing club while he had sore eyes and putting others in danger. “The club says he was cleared but when Dr Sankalpana checked he was not 100% clear,” he said. Marso, a retired Deputy Inspector General of Police, wanted to have the final say.

“To be fair by everyone, in the best interest of the game; can the recommendation of the Disciplinary Committee be made public as a matter of transparency. Moreover, it is the right of every citizen empowered by law (RTI – Right to Information Act). Understand that the findings of the DC is a VERDICT or an ORDER not recommendations. It can be either held or repealed only by the Appeal Board. The Council has no power to overrule or alter the decision of the DC. If it is the case, then there is no point of having any of these committees,” he summed up.

Issuing a statement, SLR general secretary Thusitha Peiris stated CR&FC is suspended from participating in any further matches at the Dialog Rugby League 2020. Effectively they also forfeited their second round game against CH & FC and barred from the Super Round matches.

A financial penalty of Rs. 350,000.00 was imposed on CR&FC. “This financial penalty has been imposed taking into consideration the gravity of the violation and the fact that if CR is imposed with a longer period of suspension it would tantamount to indirectly prejudicing the rugby future of its players including eight National players who were not parties to this misconduct,” it stated.

The DC also recommended that CR&FC manager Sheik Hussain be suspended from participation in all forms of the game of rugby for a period of 12 weeks (12 matches) commencing from March 13.

Omalka Gunaratne handed a suspended sentence of one year from participating in all forms of the game of rugby for a period eight weeks (eight matches). In the event of any future misconduct committed by Omalka Gunaratne the said suspended term to become operative against Omalka Gunaratne from the date of such misconduct.

Match Commissioner Zafarulla Rahman to be warned to be more specific and accurate in his reporting of incidents to SLR in the future and he has been warned to be accurate in submitting reports to the SLR in the future.

Assistant coach of Police SC SP Lalith Leelarathne has been warned to cooperate with the Match Officials if not action to be taken against him according to the World Rugby Regulations and the Sri Lanka Rugby Tournament Manual.

Considering the present epidemic of Corona Virus disease (COVID – 19), SLR also decided cancel the Dialog Rugby league Super Round, Cup Championship and the Plate Championship which was scheduled to be played from March 20 to 29.
The standings of the Dialog Rugby League was decided based on the points table as at the 14th week given below:

Kandy SC – Rank 1 – 82 points
Police SC – Rank 2 – 60 points
Havelock SC – Rank 3 – 53 points
CR&FC – Rank 4 – 49 points
Army SC – Rank 5 – 37 points
Navy SC – Rank 6 – 31 points
CH&FC – Rank 7 – 25 points
Air Force SC – Rank 8 – 08 points
It was also decided to declare the Dialog Rugby League Cup Championship and Plate Championship winners as below:
Cup Championship
1. Kandy SC – Cup Championship Winner
2. Police SC – Cup Championship Runner Up
3. Havelock SC – Cup Championship 3rd Place
4. CR & FC – Cup Championship 4th Place
Plate Championship
1. Army SC – Plate Championship Winner
2. Navy SC – Plate Championship Runner Up
3. CH & FC – Plate Championship 3rd Place
4. Air Force SC – Plate Championship 4th Place
Clifford Cup Draw
It was also decided that is the country’s situation returns to normal, to commence the Dialog Clifford Cup Knock Out Tournament from April 3 according to the following schedule.
Friday April 3 CR&FC vs Army SC at Racecourse 4.15 pm. (QF-1)
Saturday April 4 Kandy vs Air Force at Nittawela at 4.15 pm (QF-2)
Saturday April 4 Havelock SC vs Navy SC at Racecourse 4.15 pm (QF–3)
Sunday April 5 Police SC vs CH&FC at Racecourse 4.15 pm (QF–4)
Tuesday April 7 Winner Quarter Final 1 vs Quarter Final 2 at Nittawela at 4.15 pm
Wednesday April 8 Winner Quarter Final 3 vs Quarter Final 4 at Racecourse 4.15 pm
Saturday April 11 Finals at Racecourse at 4.15pm

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