After-match crowd hooliganism rocks Peterite-Isipathana rugby blockbuster | Sunday Observer

After-match crowd hooliganism rocks Peterite-Isipathana rugby blockbuster

23 July, 2022

For two years non-rugby followers breathed a sigh of relief that the Covid 19 pandemic had forced school rugby players and spectators off the arena that prevented crowd violence which had been firmly rooted and growing beyond control on several occasions.

But last Sunday that peace was shattered at one match involving St. Peter’s College and Isipathana College who were the hosting team at Havelock Park where a section of a packed venue erupted into a violent frenzy after the latter pulled off what was relatively an undisputed 29-17 victory.

Unlike in past seasons there was not a policeman in sight to deter or control the mob violence that went on for almost 10 minutes.

The crowd outburst which was unexpected in the context of the match only undermined a high quality game of rugby by both teams that showcased remarkable sportsmanship before, during and after the game when both parties came together to shake hands.

But numerous were the claims and counter claims how and why the violence broke out with one eye witness alleging that a Peterite supporter in the crowd sparked off the moment by confronting the assistant referee over a try conceded to Isipathana that prompted the supporters of the host team to react.

The Sunday Observer was also witness to two spectators grounded and assaulted by another group near the goal posts at the opposite end of the Havelock clubhouse.

Last Sunday’s incident followed the infamous attack on the referee after S. Thomas’ College hosted Trinity College in what was called a “friendly” match at the same venue which has the best seating capacity but very little or no security to check the invasion of a massive crowd on a scale that was witnessed.

An official of the Sri Lanka Schools Rugby Football Association (SLSRFA) said crowd control measures and security matters at the inter school League championship are left in the hands of the host school which is responsible for the safety of players, patrons and match officials.

However the host school Isipathana said they had sufficient security personnel at the match and the crowd invasion took them by surprise as the two teams played a well contested game upholding the spirit of fair-play.

“We had over 20 of our security personnel at the ground apart from the old boys of Isipathana to cover everything and ensure the safety of players and match officials. But we never expected what happened.

“There was no indication or tension to suggest that there was to be a breach of security as the two teams played good rugby,” said Shabeen Siddique a former Isipathana captain and Number Eight and member of the Isipathana Rugby Committee.

He said the Peterite supporters should take responsibility for provoking the incident by showing dissent towards the assistant referee after the match.

But with the stakes at schools rugby rising with every passing year and commercial partners cashing in for mileage in what has become the most physically patronized domestic sporting event in the country, tournament organizers and host schools are expected to come under more nightmares as large crowds invade the field to either celebrate with their players the moment the match ends that also provides an opportunity for mayhem.