By Harsha Amarasinghe
The resumption of rugby after nearly one year has been put on hold following the tug of war between Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) and Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR).
SLAF in an astonishing press release yesterday announced that the Commander’s Cup has been postponed due to the challenges connected to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Sri Lanka Air Force after discussion with Sri Lanka Rugby has opted to postpone the Commander’s Cup 7’s tournament which had been scheduled to be held as a part of the Sri Lanka Air Force’s 70th anniversary celebration. The leading rugby teams who were due to take part in the tournament has informed the Air Force that they are struggling to follow the Covid-19 guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and hence the tournament has been postponed,” the Sinhala press release from Air Force translates to English.
Further, the chairman of Sri Lanka Air Force Rugby Air Vice Marshal Janaka Amarasinghe confirmed that the tournament has indeed been postponed although SLR are going to organise a separate rugby tournament.
“I can confirm that the Commander’s Cup is postponed. SLR can organise any other 7’s tournament but not under this name,” Air Vice Marshal Amarasinghe told ‘Daily Mirror’ while claiming that Commander’s Cup could be organised in ‘June’.
However, SLR responded through a media release yesterday (15) evening announcing that an inter club 7’s tournament will be organized along with the main sponsor Dialog and co-sponsor Daraz.
“Sri Lanka Rugby President was dismayed to learn of the article that appeared in Sinhala Media and completely denounced the article as baseless. The logistics for the Air Force Commander’s Cup tournament was organised by Sri Lanka Air Force until SLAF pulled out of organising the logistics at the very last moment. The fact that 3 leading clubs excused their participation was a fact known to Air Force since mid-February when they undertook to plan and organise the tournament. We committed to move forward and will not let down the 5 clubs that has trained hard with more than 75 players turning up for practices (for each club) sacrificing their time for rugby. Sri Lanka Rugby has taken immediate steps to take the tournament forward with a new title name and await confirmation and sponsorship from Dialog,” SLR statement reads.
However, when contacted by ‘Daily Mirror’, a source from the main sponsor of the tournament Dialog revealed that the final decision on the sponsorship would only be made today (16).
“For the reason that the status-quo of the said event is being changed, as a public listed company we have to re-evaluate the sponsorship request. Only after submitting this proposal to the senior management, we’ll be able to give a firm answer hopefully tomorrow (today),” the source from the Dialog revealed.
Sports Minister NamalRajapaksa responding to queries from ‘Daily Mirror’ said he believes that all associations including SLR ‘should keep their egos aside and prioritise the sport’.
“SLR is responsible for organising the tournament and the Air Force only volunteered to help out and I do not know why Air Force has postponed the Commander’s Cup, but they may have their own reasons. However, in terms of tournaments being organised, you could see that almost every association is conducting events.”
“We see cricket, football and even Kabaddi being played. So, all the associations must keep their egos aside and prioritise the sports, because to be very honest we have no reasons to be egoistic because we are not on top of the world in any sport. We are stuck in the bottom and if we are to rise as a sporting nation, all the associations must prioritise sports,” the former Sri Lanka rugby captain told ‘Daily Mirror’.
Main picture (L to R): Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa, SLR President Rizly Illyas and Chairman of Sri Lanka Air Force Rugby Air Vice Marshal Janaka Amarasinghe