Discussions are currently underway of a possible change in the hotly contested Schools Rugby League as the Sri Lanka Schools Rugby Football Association (SLSRFA) is on the lookout for a transition in the format to accommodate more teams keeping the competitiveness intact.
The Singer Schools Rugby League is one of Sri Lanka’s most competitive sports leagues with the participation of over 100 schools across all divisions and attracts the largest crowd following in the country.
To enable a competitive league, the schools are divided into divisions I, II & III. In each of the subdivisions, the teams are further segregated to segments of A, B & C.
The ‘A’ Division of the league sees the participation of the top competitive schools’ teams in the country for the league title that will decide the best in the country.
However, going down the vertical towards the ‘B’ & ‘C’ segments in each, the competitiveness also has seen a decline over the years.
“We are still in the old system, we need to improve the structure. We are trying to formulate a way to develop the division II as well” added the secretary of the SLSRFA Denzil Darling on the suggested changes.
According to suggested amendments, there is a suggestion to include 16 teams in the top division and progress down in order to increase the competitiveness in the system. This means that initially the teams will be bunched as groups of 16 and later shortlisted to the silverware hunt.
“One of the main intentions is to increase the competitiveness in the league. In the Division II & III, the competition is not great.”
However the SLSRFA is in no hurry to implement these amendments. “We will be wanting to take the opinions of the school principals, the master in charges’ as well as the rugby committees before coming to a decision” added Darling as his governing body looks to take the opinions of all its stakeholders before coming to a decision.
Pre-season preparations are already underway in almost all the schools with many schools employing new coaching units in a bid to be the best in the country. With nearly five months to go for the start of the vibrant 2018 season, it will be in the best interest of everyone that these changes be finalized and tabulated before end October.
Read about the new coaching appointments,
- St. Anthony’s appoint new coach
- St. Peter’s get new assistant
- League winning captain back to Isipathana
- S. Thomas’ employ new coaching staff
- Sanath Martis back to St. Peters
Just last year, the SLSRFA changed the order in which the tournaments are conducted, backdating the sevens competition to keep in line with the national and international events. The decision that was taken last year proved to be fruitful in terms of the players and for shortlisting national sides.
The current system
ntroduced in 2014 by the Sri Lanka Schools Rugby Football Association, the league structure is played as two rounds of teams initially playing in a group of 5 or 6 teams and later qualifying to the respective title contests.
The ‘A’ division league has twelve teams contesting in each segment in two groups of six. After each team plays each other in the group, the top four teams of each group in being promoted to the cup contest.
The bottom two teams of the two groups are joined with the top four of the lower tier and they contest for a Plate championship.
In an example, this year’s school’s structure in Division I after the first round group stages looked something like this.
Group IIA Group IA Group IB Group IIB
After the conclusion of the first round games, the bottom tier teams in Group IA & IIA (3 from IA and 2 from IIA) D.S. Senanayake College came in as a last minute inclusion, hence the disparity in the groups were grouped with the top team in Group IB and the top two in IIB.
While the top tier schools play for the cup, the lower set of teams are given purpose as they contest for a Plate title.
This system is practised in the lower sub-groups C & D with the Bowl and Shield offered.
Prior to 2014, the league had the stereotype format with eight teams playing each other once in the tournament. This was abandoned to pave way for the 12-team structure.
ThePapare’s take on the matter
While it is in all fairness that the SLSRFA plans of including more teams in a segment, the question lies whether it will address the issue of competitiveness. In contrast, it might adversely affect the competition in the main structure.
In this year’s tournament, we saw two newly promoted schools, Prince of Wales and D. S. Senanayake not winning a single match in the first round, making a clear division in comparison with the rest.
With the governing body taking the concerns of its stakeholders, the ardent fans would believe that the best decision will be taken based on the current circumstances to benefit the players as well as the fans.