Rugby caught on the blind side as goal posts are shifted | Sunday Observer

Rugby caught on the blind side as goal posts are shifted

7 November, 2021
Rizly Illyas: Caught in off-field scrum
Rizly Illyas: Caught in off-field scrum

Conflicts of interests, cross border politics, profits ahead of players and lethargy have pushed Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR) into a corner as a so-called eight-member Advisory Committee headed by its former president Asanga Seneviratne was installed this week raising more questions than providing answers.

Some analysts are calling it a parallel administration set up by the Sports Ministry to stifle or create a lame-duck type of exit of SLR’s incumbent president Rizly Illyas and his Committee who were elected in August 2020 and are yet to deliver on their agenda.

Ironically for reasons best known to insiders, Illyas has also being drafted into the Advisory Committee but is not willing to accept any of it on face value over fears it could be detrimental to the progress of rugby which has already suffered severe setbacks amid the Covid 19 pandemic.

“The Minister (Namal Rajapaksa) has been supportive of us and clearly told us that we can run our affairs as an elected body and nobody can be more responsible than we are. My Committee and the SLR Council are firmly behind me.

“We accept the Advisory Committee only in accordance with our SLR Constitution and will work together in keeping with proper protocol,” said Illyas.

But one of the major sticking points the Sunday Observer learns is that Asia Rugby has also been caught on the blind side although the Sports Ministry claims they have received the support of the regional organization to set up the parallel governing body for Sri Lanka Rugby which also fears interference in day to day affairs including player selections and major coaching and refereeing appointments.

The Sports Ministry has however assured SLR that the motive behind setting up the parallel or Advisory Committee is to ensure the future welfare and development of rugby.

“The function of this (Advisory) Committee would be to liaise between the Ministry and SLR and formulate a road map and action plan to resume rugby, promote and develop the sport both at club and national level,” the Sports Ministry’s Director General Amal Edirisooriya has conveyed to Illyas.

Unlike most sports in the country, rugby was the least affected by disputes and politics until now.