Sri Lanka held hostage as school officials jettison deal for rugby | Sunday Observer

Sri Lanka held hostage as school officials jettison deal for rugby

18 August, 2019

Shadowy school rugby officials, most of whom have not held a ball, are holding Sri Lanka Rugby to ransom after side-stepping and turning their backs on a proposed Agreement to bring youth players into a mainstream system.

The proposed deal would have brought in a massive windfall for both youth rugby as well as the Sri Lankan team that has been fragmented without funds to contract players for national duty.

“Everything was done and ready to sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with schools rugby for an annual sponsorship of Rs. 85 million, but they (school officials) settled for something very much less (with another sponsor).

“In the MOU we detailed how the money should be spent and these are things that the media should investigate,” said vice president of Sri Lanka Rugby, Nazim Mohamed.

Sri Lanka Rugby is currently unable to pull itself out of financial instability while large chunks of funds have been pinched off for overseas schoolboy tours that in turn has made the main governing body of the sport insecure to contract players for the national Sevens team.

“We have spent something like Rs 35 million to prepare schoolboy players over the past three years for overseas competition.

This money could have been set aside to contract players for the Sri Lanka team,” said Sri Lanka Rugby president Lasitha Gunaratne.

According to Nazim Mohamed, the country at present needs Rs 30 million a season to contract and sustain a Sri Lanka Sevens squad.

Rugby is the only sport in Sri Lanka where players make themselves unavailable for the national team and prefer to play for their clubs that pay them.

Most of them have Contracts with the dominant Kandy SC, that they find profitable rather than wear the Sri Lanka jersey for a pittance while sport globally has become big business.

Sri Lanka Rugby has a commercial godfather in phone service provider Dialog but says the funds are inadequate to cover both school rugby as well as development projects.

Dialog has however shown an interest to pump in more than double the funding if school rugby gets on board.

The Sri Lanka Schools Rugby Football Association has a sponsor but have washed their hands from funding overseas youth tours which got them into the bad books of the parent body.

Schools rugby officials do not practice financial transparency and are yet to publicly show how their funds are used.

Journalists have protested to Sri Lanka Rugby that the keepers of schools rugby prefer to dodge them rather than face scrutiny even over matters like player discipline and tournament requirements.

When asked why school officials don’t want to fall in line, Executive Committee member Fazal Mohamed said: “We have told them to look at schools rugby with national interests in mind. But they are only interested in conducting school tournaments and have no national rugby interests.”