Dialog Clinch ‘A’ Division Rugby Deal
By T.M.K. Samat
HENCEFORTH till 2017, they shall be called Dialog League and Dialog Clifford Cup Knockout – after being called by another name for fourteen long years, the change will take some doing to get used to.
Caltex had been keen to preserve its identity with Sri Lanka’s premier A division rugby tournaments for a fifteenth year and held more than a few rounds of discussions with the SLRFU in that regard. As well, the SLRFU held exploratory talks with two big-name corporate entities, both with previous involvement in rugby sponsorship. In the end, however, the sheer scale of the telecommunication giant’s offer clinched the deal. The financial value of the Dialog deal wasn’t revealed at the media briefing, Wednesday, but one rugby official describes it as “too good to turn down being worth nearly four times more than last year.”
Dialog isn’t a stranger to rugby sponsorship. It was one-time team sponsor of the CR&FC and lent support to many of WPRFU’s endevaours in the past.
Apart from contributing millions to the SLRFU kitty, the new sponsor has also agreed to continue the practice initiated by Caltex: to advertise the two tournaments at their expense. “For a long time the union hasn’t been exactly in clover, and so the Dialog sponsorship deal is hugely welcomed,’’ said an ex-co member on condition of anonymity. “It won’t be long before the Union’s financial woes are over.”
The union, for its part, was keen to extract the best price for the two A division tournaments, conscious that the 2012 season was a far superior product to what the union offered in the past. The brightest sheen on the coming season is the inclusion of two foreign players in all of the competing clubs – as opposed to last year’s confinement of foreign inclusions to only the four bottom-placed team of the 2010 league
The concession given to the lowly clubs of 2010 inspired closer competition and greater excitement, with the championship coming within the grasp of Kandy SC, Navy and the Havelcoks, in the final fortnight of the competition – a dramatic transformation of the one-horse races of not long ago.
As well, fans will get to see a ninth team joining the competition: the newly-formed Up Country Lions, based in Nawalapitiya and under the apparent patronage of Sport Minister, Mahindananda Aluthgamage.
“We’re planning to expand the A division to 14 teams,” said Asanga Seneviratne, the new SLRFU President – adding that Kurunegala too might have been a part of the 2012 competition but for the aspirants delaying to in forward their application.
There is also a move to enlarge the league season by conducting it on a home-and-away basis. In previous seasons all the competing clubs played each other in only the first round. The second round was broken up into two compartments – the top four and bottom four teams competing in separate groups.
“With nine teams, each team will have played 16 league matches, as opposed to the ten of last year. The league season itself would’ve seen a huge 144 matches,” said the afore-quoted ex-co member. “The proposal has been sent to the clubs for study, and given the proposal’s sponsorship potentiality (a longer season means longer advertising exposure); I don’t think the clubs will find it objectionable.”