By Harsha Amarasinghe
Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR) has been warned over the ground security up in Nittawela following Kandy Sports Club’s defeat to Army Sports Club on Saturday.
The Soldiers clinched what turned out to be a highly competitive match by just one point following a controversial decision by referee Madugalle to disallow a try scored by centre Danushka Ranjan in the last minute which could have given them a win. The delighted Kandy faithful marched into the middle of the stadium to celebrate the try even before the final whistle, interrupting the game for more than five minutes, but then the referee informed Kandy’s stand-in skipper Roshan Weeraratne and Nigel Ratwatte that he had decided to disallow the try due to an apparent knock-on in the build-up.
Since then the referee has come under heavy criticism on social media in particular, but on Sunday the match commissioner Kavinda Jayasena has revealed in his report about the misbehaviour of Kandy fans and how the authorities failed to deal with it.
“I would also like to make an official complain(t) about Kandy Sports Club rugby grounds and its officials about them handling the crowd and the difficulties and threat that we face as officials when we do matches in Kandy,” Jayasena has stated in a letter to SLR. “As you know there is not much of space between the grounds, officials sitting area (myself as the Match commissioner and Sub officials) and the spectators. It’s really difficult to concentrate and do our duties there because the spectators are right behind us hammering in to the boards and threatening the officials continuously,” the former Havelock captain states further.
In an astonishing rant he has also claimed that he and his team was threatened by one of Kandy Sports Club’s foreign supporters during the game.
“There was this foreigner, a supporter from Kandy who barks like dog(sic) (Apologize for using this language), came close to me and threaten(sic) shouting at us in raw filth calling me a cheater and the sub official Mr. Y.M.S.Rathnayake and they almost came to hit us which is really embarrassing. Referee is the one who is taking the decisions inside the grounds and we cannot do anything about it, but regret to inform you that Kandy officials didn't take any action about it and they were not bother (sic) at all,” the former Trinity forward revealed.
Danushka Ranjan put Kandy back in the lead in the 47th minute with his second try of the match and as he and his teammates walked off the in-goal area a certain Kandy fan came running into the try-line and dived over the ball.
“1stincident where a spectator comes and dive into the ground after a try score (sic) and no one taking (sic) notice of it and just letting it go. Police and Kandy officials just watching it,” added Jayasena.
Kandy wing three quarter Anurudda Wilwara – their man for the big occasion once again appeared to have won it for them when he touched down in the 70th minute and a spectator charged into the middle congratulating the players.
“Again after (the) try by Kandy SC, a spectator came into the ground hugging all the Kandy players and easily walking out of the field,” Jayasena has written of the second incident.
Jayasena has also demanded better security for himself and the match officials while also requesting not appoint him as a match commissioner should SLR fail to deal with this issue.
“Please treat this mail seriously because we as officials cannot risk our lives for this. Hence I kindly request you'll (sic) if this is the way this tournament is going to continue I am not willing to do any Kandy games unless SLR could provide proper security for myself and the match officials. If SLR is unable to meet the necessary security needed please do not appoint me as the match commissioner because I cannot risk my life for this,” Jayasena has concluded.
The Rugby Chairman of Kandy Sports Club Lasantha Wijesuriya however downplayed the incident in an interview with the‘Daily Mirror’.
“What actually happened was our fans thought the game was over when the final try was scored and they came into the field, but no damage was done as the Police was put in place,” Wijesuriya told the ‘Daily Mirror’ while claiming he didn’t notice a foreign fan of Kandy Sports Club threatening the match officials.
The former Kandy captain meanwhile went on to claim that they were ‘very disappointed’ over the decisions made by referee during the game.
“We have not made any complaints officially about the referee or the touch judges as it will not change the result. We are Kandy Sports Club and we can deal with a defeat, but I got to say the rugby knowledge of the referee as well as the touch judges were very poor,” Wijesuriya claimed.
There is no place for hooliganism in sports and Kandy should probably have a better control over their fans, but then again Nittawela is the only rugby venue in the island where one could expect a packed house week in week out and club rugby in Sri Lanka would be a dull affair without Kandy fans to state the least.