The President of Sri Lanka Society of Rugby Football Referees (SLSRFR), Tony Amit is determined to clean up the stables by uniting the membership riddled with factionalism with the aim of improving the standard of refereeing in the country. “When I spoke at the AGM after I took over, I said forget the past. Now [...]


Amit vows to unite factions in Referees Society

Technical Committee comprising senior officials to conduct match reviews

The President of Sri Lanka Society of Rugby Football Referees (SLSRFR), Tony Amit is determined to clean up the stables by uniting the membership riddled with factionalism with the aim of improving the standard of refereeing in the country.

“When I spoke at the AGM after I took over, I said forget the past. Now let us all get together and rally round. This is what I am trying to do now. Get all of them back again. Then after that everything will be okay,” said the veteran rugby administrator who was elected for a second stint.

“The past referees will gradually come since I am there now. There was a big misunderstanding. This is what I am trying to sort out. I think I should be able to. We had three World Rugby guys. We are trying to bring all these people back again and put things right,” said Amit, who was president of the society in 2003 and 2004.

As a first step, Amit has requested Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR) to scrap the controversial Match Review System which has fuelled criticism against referees.

“We are going to amend our constitution to have a Technical Committee. It will comprise people such as S.W. Chang, Roshan Deen, Dilroy Fernando, Nizam Jamaldeen and Anil Jayasinghe. Since they are CMOs (Coach of Match Officials) and World Rugby Educators, they will look into performance of referees. They will do the reviews,” said Amit, admitting that it did not serve any purpose because some were biased against a particular referee.

Amit said he would brook no nonsense in future when it comes to assessing performances of referees.

“If a referee comes into the society, he has to be genuine and his integrity has to be good. When I find out that it is not there, he is out. We have put out two people. They have been demoted actually”.

He acknowledged there was an issue with Educators of Referees and would address it seriously.

“Soon as this pandemic is over I am going to have a meeting with CMOs and Educators. Either they do it the right way or they have to get out. You can’t have personality clashes. We are going to be very strict on this,” he said.

“It has been there for some time. When I went into the society back again in 2014, I saw it was really bad. After (Nizam) Jamaldeen came there is a little bit of discipline actually. My duty is now to change the structure. I don’t have to worry about discipline,” said Amit, who took over from Jamaldeen.

Asked whether foreigners were needed as coaches or educators of referees, he said: “Our guys are good but differ from person. I am careful of what I talk because I have been asked to talk like that. I don’t use filth. I let them (referees) talk. The idea is for them to come out with what wrong or good they have done. You can’t go on barracking the referees.”

He urged stakeholders of rugby to be patient with the present crop of referees.

“The future is good. They are okay now, not 100 per cent but they are okay. By next year they will be fine. All these boys went through a period of refereeing club ‘A’ division games with all the bickering and barracking and all that. I think from school games they will come off well. From there they will get better when the next club season starts for sure. That’s what they are working on,” said Amit, who was at one time in-charge of talent identification in the SLSRFR.

Tony Amit

“From 2006 for about eight years I never sighted the place. But I was very observant about referees society where they were not looking into the future. When Gareth Williams came he was only looking after the senior referees. Out of that, none of them are refereeing now. After that there was a vacuum. Then when he asked me what I would like to do, I said I like to do the development of the referees. That’s when I headed TID (Talent Identification) Department in 2014. Then I knew exactly what was going wrong,” he said.

He conceded that the standard of refereeing has sunk but there is more use of technology.

“Now it has come down but with the young fellows getting experience and exposure they will come good. Most of them are educated. Most of them have played some sort of rugby. They are all Mercantile executives. That’s the type of people we needed. We had some bad lot earlier. Gradually we are getting rid of some of them,” he said.

“It’s not like those days. You can’t just referee, you have to be smart also now. ‘A’ division referees wear smart watches. They monitor themselves when they go back home and see how much they have run, where they have gone wrong. Aaqil Jamaldeen has a camera on his chest,” he pointed out.

Language is a problem not lack of knowledge, the SLRFRS chief said.

“As head of society I don’t speak to them in Sinhalese any more. When they speak to me they have to speak in English because they have to do online exams in English. Everything is in English. We don’t want them to get embarrassed,” he said.

On the lack of consistency, he said: “May be there is a little bit here and there. But it is not so much, about 20 per cent. I also made mistakes when I started. We became consistent after a period of time. It is one area that we are working on now. There should be uniformity.”

He was critical of people who see refereeing as a lucrative career.

“Some want to hang on for money. When we refereed we did not get money. We just refereed for the enjoyment of the game. That also we have to control. The Referees Society is not a charitable organisation. However, we are the only society that has a welfare society. Almost everybody is insured,” he said.

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