Independent body to pick National Selectors | Daily FT

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Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa invited legendary cricketers Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara to be part of the NSC, who in turn invited corporate giants such as Hemas CEO/MD Kasthuri Wilson to further strengthen it

  • NSC’s objective is creating a proper structure for sports

By Sa’adi Thawfeeq

Creating a proper structure for sports, bringing proper governance to sports in Sri Lanka and picking National Selection Committees through an independent system are some of the objectives the newly appointed National Sports Council (NSC) have set out to achieve, according to NSC Head Mahela Jayawardene.

Outlining the tasks ahead of them, Jayawardene, the former Sri Lanka cricket captain said, “We are trying to create a proper structure. Previously, the Sports Council was not given this much of a mandate on the development of sports. We’ve looked at all sports and we are in the process of creating a structure. We’ve done quite a bit of work behind the scenes of identifying different sports at what level and at international level, where these sports are and, how can we improve, how are we going to develop those sports in the next 3-5 year period. We are getting all the information.

“We never had a data room for sports in Sri Lanka, so we are creating our own data room now with all the information of athletes. We are trying to do it even at school level of gathering data on a daily basis of performances of kids from all over the island, so that we monitor their development over the years. This will happen to all sports,” he said.

Speaking further Jayawardene said, “We will have a tier system for each and every sport; how the investment will be made and what are the aegis for each association, for each governing body. They have to give us plans and on that plan we will invest in those sports and make sure that we monitor it and at the same time bring proper governance to sports in Sri Lanka. Those are the areas we are looking at – the Sports Law, the Act, and the Constitution; that’s how we can evolve going forward.”

High profile team

Jayawardene said that he had a very good team of people in his committee to fulfil the tasks ahead of them.

“Everyone is involved in it. We will keep looking at improving all schools and especially we looked at how to develop each facility going forward, taking all sports to rural areas and provinces. With regard to schools development, the Sports Minister has started the sports schools project with the Education Ministry in creating more sports schools around the country, so that they will get scholarships and they will be looked after.

“Grass root development and all that will be looked at, and once we have done all the structural and initial work, we probably will have a press conference and explain how we are planning to do everything, because we were given this a few months ago just before I left for the IPL,” continued Jayawardene.

“The time that I was there (in Dubai) I was having weekly calls with the team and they have been doing some amazing work. Even through the lockdown periods we have been working, visiting places and having meetings and all that. We will continue to do that and hopefully in another month’s time we will have a proper set up so that we can explain exactly what our plans are going forward,” he said.

The members of the NSC were picked by the Sports Minister, Jayawardene said. “Initially he invited me and Sanga (Kumar Sangakkara) to be part of the committee and to help the committee. We understood exactly the independence that he has given us to work and the mandate to do all this. We realised we can actually make a change. Then we invited a few people that we knew who had the capacity to help in the project, a lot of corporate people who have the experience of creating governance, structures and mechanisms, so that we have the right knowledge of people to do it. A lot of them have sporting backgrounds and we are getting a lot of advice and information from the international council who have done this kind of structure in their respective countries and see how we can incorporate them as well.”

The NSC comprises a diverse band of eminent people. Apart from Jayawardene and Sangakkara there is Julian Bolling, Kasthuri Wilson, Dilantha Malagamuwa, Major General Rajitha Ampemohotti, Rohan Fernando, Rowena Samarasinhe, Ruwan Keragala, Lt. General Shavendra Silva, Supun Weerasinghe, Yaswanth Muttetuwegama, A.J.S.S. Edirisooriya, Sanjeewa Wickramanayake and Thiyumi Abeysinghe.

Selection process of picking national selectors

Under the present Sports Law, the National Selection Committee is appointed by the Minister of Sport, which according to Jayawardene is a direct influence of politics that some bodies like the IOC and even the ICC will not recognise.

“Technically what we’ve done is the NSC got involved this year and appointed the National Selection Committee. We are trying to have a more independent system so that two members from the NOC are there as well. They will get involved in selecting the National Selectors for each and every sports body, then they will select those committees,” explained Jayawardene.

“Obviously the names come from the respective sports bodies. They will verify those names and make sure that they are the right people and then recommend it to the NSC. Through us we will send it to the Ministry for approval, which currently is in our law. We cannot change that but what we have done is make it more independent so that the Minister or anyone will not get involved.

“Once the selectors are appointed, they will then send those names for approval to the Minister. The process is that we have selected the independent selectors, we will adhere to that and we will allow them to be independent and select the National Teams.

“If there are any issues, we have an Appeals Committee now headed by a retired judge and comprising prominent lawyers and various other people in the country. If there are any issues pertaining to any selections or any other in associations or whatever, they can refer it to the Appeals Committee, which will act independently as well. They will conduct the inquiries and recommend what can be done. We are planning to bring in regulations so that even if there are serious allegations and various other things we have sanctions and all that in place,” Jayawardene said.