Kandy SC requests for change of venue in century old Clifford Cup | Daily News

Kandy SC requests for change of venue in century old Clifford Cup

Defending league champs Kandy Sports Club’s participation in the upcoming Clifford Cup knockout tournament will depend on whether they are granted their request for a change of venue for their matches.

Kandy SC has written to the president of Sri Lanka Rugby on March 10 with copies to the chairman tournament committee and the sponsors, requesting for the venue to be changed from Pallekele to Nittawela.

At the moment Kandy SC are not happy with the venue they have been designated. Kandy SC’s first game is on Saturday against Air Force SC and if they win the semi-final on March 19, they will play in the final on March 24. All these matches are scheduled to take place at Pallekelle.

The Clifford Cup is arguably the oldest tournament in Asia. This is how the cup came into being. It commenced in 1911 and has been played since 1950, for a year the tournament was not held having completed 69 seasons. It was In 1911 the wife of then acting governor Sir Hugh Clifford was a keen follower of the game, and was keen to present a trophy and which was done for an annual fixture. Where Up-Country versus Low-Country, and expressed a wish that a match takes place in Colombo on her birthday, 26 August, between teams representing the Kandy United Services and All Ceylon. Due to unforeseen circumstance date was put off by a week and was played on 2 September 1911, where the Kandy United Services team beat All Ceylon by 25 points to 0. The Kandy United Services team was made up of members of the Army and Police force and the All Ceylon team composed entirely of European expatriates.

The tournament was suspended until 1926 due to the war. In 1925 when Sir Hugh Clifford returned to Ceylon as the Governor of Ceylon, Lady Clifford, who was keen to revive the Clifford Cup tournament, donated another trophy for the competition in 1926 called the Clifford Cup. It was awarded to the winner of a quadrangular tournament between four teams Up-Country, Low Country, Ceylonese and Kandy United Services. The Cup was eventually won by Low Country who beat Kandy United Services 14-3

The competition continued till 1938, when it was disrupted by the advent of the Second World War. In 1950 the Ceylon Rugby Football Union decided to grant official status to the league rugby tournament and the Clifford Cup was converted to an inter-club competition played among eight clubs, Kandy Sports Club, Dimbulla Athletic & Cricket Club, Dickoya Maskeliya Cricket Club, Uva Gymkhana Club, Kelani Valley Club, CR & FC, CH & FC. Havelock Sports Club won the inaugural cup for that year, ending an undefeated season defeating Dimbula A & CC, 13-0.

In 1961 five ‘affiliated’ rugby clubs, Police, Army, University, Air Force and Navy from Division ‘B’ were invited to play in the tournament against the ‘constituent clubs’, forming a 13 team competition. The format of the competition was also changed, where by all 13 clubs had to play each other once on a home and away basis in alternate years and at the end of the league season the best eight teams competed in a knock-out tournament for the Clifford Cup.

In 1985 the rugby league competition was renamed the John Player “Gold Leaf” Rugby Championships and the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union decided to award the Clifford Cup to the winners of a separate knock-out tournament, conducted among the ‘A’ Division Clubs, held at the end of the regular season.

In 1992 the Clifford Cup final was held in the central hills at Nittawella grounds, it was after 1957 that the cup final was played outside Colombo where Kandy SC for the first time won it defeating Police SC by 22-9. That year both CR & FC and CH & FC pulled out. The Cup final, since 1992, has been held in Kandy with the exception being in 2006 when it was switched back to Colombo, resulting in Kandy SC withdrawing from that year’s competition in protest.

That year the cup was won by CR & FC who defeated Havelock SC, 37-5. In 1998 the SLRFU decided to suspend the competition due to security concerns relating to the civil conflict however they reinstated it the following year. Since 2006 the cup final was held continuously in Kandy until 2011 when it was agreed to alternate the finals between Colombo and Kandy.

Kandy SC has won it 22 times in 26 tournaments since 1992, CR FC 14 times first in 1952, Havelock SC 13 times first in 1950, Police 8 times first in 1970, CH & FC 7 times first in 1957, Army 2 times first in 1973, Dimbulla A & CC 2 times first in 1953, Air Force once in 1986 and Navy once in 2014.


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