On the verge of letting go; Sri Lanka Rugby

A make or break situation for Rugby in Sri Lanka


With the COVID 19 Pandemic causing significant problems around the world, economically and otherwise, many current Sri Lanka rugby players’ careers have entered a stage of uncertainty, with tournaments and contracts in limbo. 

Sevens Captain Dansha Dayan (a.k.a Danush) shared publicly his distress regarding the job security or lack thereof for many Sri Lankan Rugby players. According to him, many players are facing serious issues as many organizations, including the one he works for, have begun to cancel their contracts and cut off monthly allowances. To top that, more than a handful of players have not been paid by their rugby clubs after the lockdown and are facing serious financial difficulties.  

Whilst the players deal with these issues, Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR) officials are yet to introduce a lifeline in order to stabilize the situation. The organization and the sport could potentially be in dire trouble in that if the situation continues to deteriorate, players may consider leaving the sport in order to find steady employment elsewhere. 

The Problem

As the saying goes, there are two sides to every story – here, while the player’s point of view is important, there is also the view of the entities employing them, to be considered.

In Sri Lanka, Rugby is a semi-professional sport. And unlike the case of a Sri Lankan Cricketer, the average rugby player’s paycheck doesn’t symbolize financial stability, luxury or even a livelihood– if anything, it only shows the need for better contracts. Since players do not have ‘National Contracts’ with SLR and none of them are on the SLR payroll, players often rely on the organizations they’ve signed with to make a decent enough income at the end of every month. However, with the economic situation due to the pandemic being what it is, many of these companies are asking players to resign or terminating their contracts, leaving the players in hot water. 

This is exactly why a National Contract of some sort is of vital importance in the sport. With a national contract, players wouldn’t have to worry about switching clubs every other year or have to rely on mercantile companies that may end their contracts for reasons beyond their control. They wouldn’t even be forced to choose between club and country. But, unfortunately players are compelled to worry, rely and choose, because they need the money!

Now you may wonder why the players can’t just find a different organization to represent. The answer is simple – in the past there have only been a handful of companies that have released players for training and allowed them to make their own flexible working hours. Most organizations are strict with their 9 to 5 job roles. So, when the handful of organizations that do allow that flexibility decide to let go of their players, finding another company with the same privileges becomes a difficult task. 

To top all that, reportedly, even clubs haven’t been paying players regularly – so in these tough times, the players facing all these problems are really left with no other choice but to commit themselves full time in the corporate sector. 

But to look at this purely from the eyes of the players would not be fair. Let’s consider the position of a CFO or a CEO who has employed players in their organizations – after having cut salaries to varying degrees for their full time staff members, any top level management would be very careful of the way cash flows out of the company – player allowances is one such avenue. Not all rugby players are required to report to work daily– more than a few players are on retainers, meaning they are paid an allowance every month to represent the organization in a 2-day mercantile tournament (they may need to report to work upon the management’s request). 

So, if you were a CEO or a CFO of a company, would you continue paying that allowance? Especially if the tournament they were contracted for in the first place is called off? 9 out of 10 people would opt to let go of the players and in all honesty, it makes business sense to do so. 

Dansha Dayan’s Statement 

Skipper Dansha Dayan posted this on his Facebook regarding the issue,

Incoming SLR President, Mr. Rizly Ilyas is reported to have contacted Dayan and asked him for the details of the players who have been hit by this crisis, and according to Dayan he had mentioned 30 names, hoping for a solution. 

Sri Lanka Rugby: An example to all Sports Federations

In a media briefing held last week, Mr. Ilyas addressed this issue and went on to state that he “looks forward to contacting each player individually” and providing them with a solution. He was hopeful of introducing a contract that keeps players safe from calamities like this. He also mentioned that the last time SLR tried to contract Sevens players and form a full-time Sevens squad, many of them (players) weren’t happy” with it. But, according to Dayan, SLR had not approached players to sign any contract and to “the best of his knowledge, no player disliked signing” with SLR. 

Sharing his views on the matter Mr. Ilyas went on to state that “contracting players full-time is a vital part of developing the game of Sevens in the country” and that he plans onmaking Sri Lanka Rugby Sevens a brand that could be endorsed within the Rugby Community”. He also urged the players not to worry and that SLR takes this issue very seriously. 

But the question still lies as to when these ‘plans’ will turn into a reality for these players.


The threat that SLR faces now is the long-term sustainability of retaining players and funding. If the incoming SLR President sticks to the plans in his manifesto, SLR could achieve big things in the future. 

However, as of now, the players need a solution and they need it fast. The failure to do so could lead to the downfall of Rugby in Sri Lanka.