Sri Lanka Rugby’s (SLR) attempt to rush through a key constitutional amendment to give clubs direct voting rights ahead of the Annual General Meeting (AGM) to be held in August has run into opposition from the Western Province Rugby Football Union (WPRFU) which represents seven of the eight ‘A’ division clubs. It is also not [...]


SLR aims to give back clubs ‘recognition’ despite opposition


Sri Lanka Rugby’s (SLR) attempt to rush through a key constitutional amendment to give clubs direct voting rights ahead of the Annual General Meeting (AGM) to be held in August has run into opposition from the Western Province Rugby Football Union (WPRFU) which represents seven of the eight ‘A’ division clubs.

It is also not clear whether SLR could go ahead with the Special General Meeting (SGM) as planned on June 20 following a Sports Ministry directive on Thursday to sports bodies to put on hold any constitutional amendments until after the AGM is held.

“Our view is if the clubs want to go directly to the (SLR) Council, we are supportive but there should be a proper process. The SLR should appoint a committee to look into constitutional amendments. The SLR has a Technical Committee. They can come with their recommendations. Nobody has been consulted on this. Our decision is to get legal advice,” said WPRFU president Nazeem Mohamed after meeting their membership on Wednesday.

“My view is this has to be properly studied. It has to be done for the betterment of rugby. For example do we need provincial unions? Somebody has to think through all of this before we can go back to the old system. Otherwise it will create a bad precedent and everybody will start to change the constitution,” said Mohamed who is also vice-president of the SLR.

“We are not against giving the clubs voting rights. If that is their view we are happy to support but this (amendment) cannot be brought in haphazardly. We have seven of the clubs. We are talking to them. It has to be done systematically. We must look at the bigger picture. Whatever is good for the game has to be done. Our view is that there has to be a constitutional committee put in place with some learned and senior people to let them also go through the recommendation. The best way forward must then be taken. Our decision is we will get legal advice,” reiterated the WPRFU president after claiming to be “surprised” by a resolution brought forward by six other provincial unions at the SLR Council meeting last week.

“Clubs wrote to us two days before the resolution brought at the Council meeting. To our surprise it was signed by five of the six provinces who don’t have even an ‘A’ division club. It was not discussed with us (WPRFU). They (SLR) have called for a SGM. It is not ethical. My view is look at the whole structure. Don’t look at it haphazardly. Even critically look at whether we need provincial unions. Going forward, if provincial unions are not the way forward then you have to completely abolish it,” said the former CH&FC and Sri Lanka lock forward.

SLR president Lasitha Gunaratne said it is a proposal brought by six member provincial unions to give back due recognition to the founding clubs and it has nothing to do with elections to be held at the next AGM.

“Do you know that ‘A’ division clubs are not members of Sri Lanka Rugby? Prior to 1992 they were. When Malik Samarawickrama (former SLRFU president) introduced the provincial system the gentlemen of clubs thought this is best for SLR. They sacrificed their votes and everything. The proposal to be passed at the SGM is not the final draft. It is to recognise founder ‘A’ division clubs as full members of SLR. The provincial system will remain,” he said.

The proposed amendment encourages clubs to have more than one team to get additional voting rights.

“That is what is happening in Sri Lanka Cricket. Through the provincial system we can implement development programmes. You don’t have to abolish it. Through provinces it is easy to promote. For example, Kurunegala can form another club that will come through the provincial union. Provincial unions should be there,” said Gunaratne.

He said it was a paradox that the WPRFU who have a 48% clout in the Union are against the mandate to recognise the ‘A’ division clubs from which they feed on.

“They (WPRFU) are one member of SLR. They are not the authority of SLR. Six of the seven provinces are saying to give recognition to clubs. Now the powers are with the provincial unions. So it is our duty when we receive a written request from more than one fourth (three Unions) for a SGM we are under obligation to grant it,” he said denying it was part of an election gimmick.

“We have not declared the date of the AGM. Elections is only part of the agenda. There are so many other things. Already we have received more than two-thirds required for this amendment. Therefore we have to just go for the meeting (SGM),” said Gunaratne scoffing at suggestions WPRFU was kept in the dark.

“They did not attend meetings. They knew but they sabotaged. Now they say they don’t know. They very well knew,” he said.

Dialog sponsors the domestic tournaments and the national team. The SLR have an obligation to the eight participating clubs because they feed the national team, said Gunaratne, a former CR&FC and Sri Lanka forward.

“Clubs are the backbone of Sri Lanka rugby. It is fair that we recognise ‘A’ division clubs. I am trying to do the best for Sri Lanka rugby. We will get quality representation in the council. It will be beneficial for rugby,” he said.

SLR secretary Thusith Peiris said clubs wanted direct council representation after they were left out in the decision-making process despite being key stakeholders in the sport.

“All these discussions started actually after the referees’ matter. We want to have direct representation. Clubs wanted to put pressure on the (SLR) president. At the end of the day, provinces can appoint presidents and officials, but clubs have nothing to do with it. They have no say in the council. So clubs have decided it is high time they get back their rights. Over the 25 years clubs have come and gone but ‘A’ division clubs are same. Some of these clubs can’t play ‘B’ division rugby,” said Peiris who is set to take over as Havelocks president.

Funding or the lack of it, seems to be a key factor in influencing the clubs to take a stand.

“Clubs are not getting funds from SLR. See what Sri Lanka Cricket did during corona. They are supporting the clubs from their funds. Dialog sponsors the national team but how can they form a team without clubs participating? There are provinces who decide on rugby in Sri Lanka but don’t have an ‘A’ division club. Out of seven provinces only two play in the ‘A’ division. We are not asking to scrap it (provincial unions) but to continue to work on development of rugby,” he said.

“New clubs can play in C or B divisions. Then they will get additional votes. As founder members we want our stake back. If they don’t have any club they (provincial union) will get only one vote. More clubs more votes,” he added.

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