By Harsha Amarasinghe
According to Illyas the teams that finished in the bottom half including the forces, will be allowed to field one overseas player each during the season.
"Over the last few years, Inter-Club League Rugby Tournament has not been as competitive as we would like to. Of course, there were few close games but we are talking about the most important domestic rugby competition and we expect it to be much more exciting and competitive, and one possible option (of doing so) is the addition of foreign players.”
“However, if we allow all the clubs to have overseas players, I don't think that would solve the problem which is why I believe the teams in the bottom-half need strengthening. With one really good foreign player, I believe the teams from the bottom-half would be able to compete against top-half sides and that eventually would make the tournament more competitive," Illyas told Daily Mirror yesterday.
The attendance for most of the Inter-Club games has also not been great in comparison to the days when foreign players used to take the centre stage in Sri Lanka. A very little amount of spectators gathered for certain games played in Colombo which should worry the sponsors as well.
"That is also something which we have to think of. Sponsors are spending a lot of money and crowd not turning up in numbers is a problem. I think that is down to the fact that the league has not been competitive enough. I sincerely believe that the attendance for games could be hugely improved through the addition of foreign players," added Illyas.
It was earlier revealed that SLR could implement a format which is similar to the one used in Super Rugby.
"Of course, we have been planning that and the format could be very close to the Super Rugby, but we are going to add some more segments into a fixture especially off the field. We want everyone to come and enjoy the game and have a real good time," claimed Illyas.
Foreign players could indeed light up the Inter-Club League Rugby Tournament as it was the case earlier and that could certainly improve the attendance of fans.
In terms of competition, the teams from bottom-half have occasionally turned tables on title contenders; most notably Air Force Sports Club pulling off a miracle win over Kandy Sports Club a couple of seasons ago in Ratmalana.
However, they have struggled to find the consistency to be seen as a genuine contender for the title.
Police Sports Club though made a huge progress a few seasons ago when they made it to the Clifford Cup final beating some top teams at the time such as Havelock Sports Club with the Fijian utility back Apisai Naqalevu at the heart of their success.
Yet they were absolutely dominated by the far superior Kandy SC in a one-sided final played in Nittawela where Kandy's overseas players such as Oscar Ouma - now a regular member in the Kenyan Sevens Team set up excelled in front of a packed house.
That is why Illyas' foreign-player system actually makes sense.