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Change of Clifford Cup venues

The auspicious inception of the Clifford Cup in 1950 is history now.

Who could forget the day that the Air force team led by Jeff Ratnam stormed into the final in 1965. The Army team's entry to the final in 1962, the Police teams dramatic entry in 1967 or the Navy ruggerrites sensational step-in, in 1976, after being promoted to the big league only the previous year.

And also over the years, the eligibility of the winners have also changed. Many moons ago, the Clifford Cup was awarded to the winners of the battle between Up-Country table leaders and Low-Country table leaders.

Thereafter, when the participation was widened it was converted subsequent to the Clifford Cup, League title in 1970, although they were denied the plum in the Knock Out tourney which was the second phase of the Clifford Cup tournament.

Anyhow, in 1985 Sri Lanka's premier league tournament was renamed and the SLRFU decided to award the Clifford Cup to the winners of a separate knockout tournament conducted amongst the 'A' Division clubs, at the end of the season.

Thereafter, in 1992, for the first time, the entire tournament was worked off outside Colombo and the venue was Nittawela in Kandy. That year Kandy SC emerged winners of the Clifford Cup for the first time in the history, when they registered a historic 22 points to 9 points victory over the Police SC in the finals, which was the first major cup final to be played outside Colombo since 1957.

Since 1992 the Clifford Cup is being played in Kandy which not only attracts the biggest crowd of spectators opening the game to the outstation and province as well. Records will reveal that as a result of the tournament being worked out in the outstation all schools in the Central province have developed immensely, if you take a count of the players in the Club sector over 45% of the best players in the Club sides in the Western province are from Kandy.

The decision made by the SLRFU to shift the Clifford Cup finals to Colombo this year has not only discouraged the rugby loving public in Kandy, but also builds up hatred against the Governing Body, and its Provincial associates all of them from Kandy.

In the past there were moves to shift the tournament to Colombo, both the Kandy Sports club as well as the Provincial Union objected and continued to have the tournament in Kandy.

In 2006 another attempt was made and the Governing body stood by it decision and the defending champions Kandy sports Club withdrew from the tournament under protest.

The tournament was held in Colombo much against the sponsors wishes who were not too happy with the withdrawal of the defending champions as spectator interest dropped severely besides, the tournament was like a carnival without lights.

A similar situation could occur this year as well. But reliable sources say that this move is mainly because certain members of the Provincial Union and Kandy SC representative are aspiring for top positions in the next SLRFU Executive Council.

At this rate its likely that this tournament will gradually move away from Kandy to Colombo the next year. It must also be remembered that the Clifford Cup finals in 2010 played at Bogambara Stadium attracted the highest spectators turn out next to the Bradby Shield with the gate collection being the highest ever in the history of rugby in Sri Lanka at over Rs. 550,000. Not surprisingly, the defending champions are too keeping silent this year, because KSC was very badly treated this year with player suspensions, humiliations, stepmotherly treatment from the SLRFU on several issues.

Now on Saturday the 10th, Kandy SC will play Air Force at Bogambara and on the same day Navy SC will play Havelock SC at Royal Complex.

 

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