Better days are ahead for rugby | Sunday Observer

Better days are ahead for rugby

11 October, 2020
Rizly Illyaz
Rizly Illyaz

The new head of Sri Lanka Rugby sees a straight road and clear field ahead to score the opening tries for his long cherished victory :

The new president of Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR) Rizly Illyaz says he sees bright days ahead for the sport despite uncertainty due to the coronavirus and was confident nothing will stand in the way of his election pledges.

He made the remarks in an interview with the Sunday Observer and reiterated that he was certain and determined that his master plan to take rugby forward will bear fruit.

“We will market all nine Provinces and we will draw in the sponsors for both men’s and women’s rugby,” Illyas declared without batting an eyelid.

Excerpts of the interview:

Q: Since being elected uncontested, what are your priorities to get Sri Lanka back on track to be a top Asian nation in both formats Sevens and Fifteens, especially Sevens?

A: In my manifesto my Committee and I have drawn up a short term two year and long term five year plan for Sevens to be in the top three in the Asian Division and in the fifth year to be No 1 or 2 consistently.

Q: But we have seen Sri Lanka perform very well a few years ago in junior rugby as well, being placed first in Asia. Why have they lost momentum and not played consistently or not progressed. Is it the structure to be revamped for us to reach decent ratings in Asian rugby?

A: Our juniors are still in the top league once again in the Sevens and what is lacking in the Sri Lanka rugby structure is the middle layer like an academy U21 and U24 and B division tournaments. We have to draw up this Program as our short and long term goals.

Q: Sri Lanka is now trying to start the Sevens first leg in Colombo and don’t you think it is safer to have the second leg in Colombo as well making it easy to follow health guidelines safe for spectators?

A: We did all to restart rugby after the pandemic with a workshop and drawing further guidelines on top of IRB requirements and all was well in place for us to get the okay to kick off the Sevens inter club tournament by end October and now you know the current coronavirus high alert status will cause some delay in getting back to rugby

The plan was to get back to rugby in Colombo and Galle even without spectators to give life to the sport we all love and also to support the economic issues faced by players, coaches administrators and businesses and the many communities that look forward to the sport. The Committee was well focused on these ensuring safety precautions and within the guidelines of the Government

Q: How are you going to cover the deficit that SLR has acquired during the last few years, even when you were secretary with Asanga Seneviratne as president and deputy with Lasitha Gunaratne as head. What is your plan to overcome this deficit?

A: We need to attract sponsors to come and invest in rugby. Even though in these difficult times there are companies having marketing budgets and we are looking at them to market their products and brands through us.

My Committee and I are confident we can find good partners.

Q: Will you bring back the referees under SLR. We saw some progress when Chula Dharmadasa was president under an interim committee and got the famous Gareth Williamson to train our referees with Dilroy Fernando also assisting?

A: We are in progress of having discussions with the referees Union and SLR has a mandate from all eight major clubs in the SLR Council to have an elite referees panel under SLR and I believe this will happen with both Unions working in parallels and in a transparent manner.

Q: How are you going to structure the voting system where the eight A Division clubs should have a majority of votes. We still see small clubs manipulating by placing Ad-hoc sides to get votes?

A: This matter was discussed at the last Council meeting and soon a Special General Meeting (SGM) will be called for the stakeholders to make a decision on this matter. As by a directive issued by the Ministry the SGM was postponed to be held after SLR’s AGM and now this will take place.

Q: The Western Province having the majority of the votes was sidelined because of non-payment of membership fees. How can such serious errors of this magnitude be corrected by the WPRFU? Don’t officials remind clubs of such non payment of dues?

A: This matter has also been rectified at the SLR Exco and Council levels and the WPRFU will be back to its full representation.

Q: Your manifesto that you put out seems a very good one, but will your Council members follow it or just sit at monthly meetings with no proper plan or structure in mind to revive rugby?

A: We have a well balanced Council with seniors and new comers who are in the corporate structure. We will see the change as we move on and the game restarts.

Q: How do you propose to bring in sponsors during this Covid 19 pandemic unless you start playing rugby? Will your Executive Committee help with sponsors as you indicated before?

A: We are currently in discussions with several sponsors. As I told you earlier we have different properties at provincial men’s and women’s rugby and school rugby. Our structure is with seven provincial unions and now some sponsors have shown interest in the northern and eastern provinces. We will market all nine provinces and we will draw in the sponsors for both men’s and women’s rugby.

Q: Will the schools section co-operate with SLR on all matters going forward. We know you had a productive meeting with the head as well. Was the outcome successful?

A: We are having a very cordial relationship and I see no reason why this cannot be so as we need to back the schools and work closely with them and the Schools Association president and secretary and Committee are doing a tremendous job on the structure of the all island schools tournament which is the feeder to the clubs and to the national side. We should support them and my Committee is committed to this.

Q: Once we pass this Covid 19 setback, what is the guarantee that there will be a proper structure in place to get rugby back on track?

A: Most certainly, there will be.