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
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.