ASFS is made up of sports-loving people who are driven by passion, not money – Rohan Fernando | Daily News

ASFS is made up of sports-loving people who are driven by passion, not money – Rohan Fernando

Rohan Fernando is driven by a passion to give back to the country through sports.
Rohan Fernando is driven by a passion to give back to the country through sports.

The newly formed Association of Sports Federations Society (ASFS) is a complimentary organization to the National Olympic Committee (NOC) of Sri Lanka and the Ministry of Sports and not positioning itself as a rival body in governing sports in the country, says former Sri Lanka oarsman Rohan Fernando.

“This (ASFS) is not a replacement for the National Olympic Committee. We are not going to be a rival to the Olympic committee. We are not going to overpower the Olympic committee. But we believe that there is a much bigger prospect and inclusiveness that can come into sports,” said Fernando who had previously served in the NOC as president of the Amateur Rowing Association of Sri Lanka (ARASL).

“I joined the NOC during the time of Roy de Silva (former president of NOC). At that time all members were in the Executive Committee and we met once in two months. So whatever issues we discussed and we put forward a lot of proposals. I was on the building project of the Olympic House and because we had an inclusive organization at that time, I felt that we could do a lot of work,” said Fernando.

“I was never an office-bearer (at NOC). But now the (NOC) constitution has changed. There are only office-bearers’ meetings. The membership meets once a year if there is an AGM (annual general meeting). But AFSC wants to meet once in two months. I feel we are an organization complimentary to the sports ministry or the NOC, rather than a competitor or parallel. We want to be a complimentary organization to develop sports,” declared Fernando in an interview with the Daily News.

MEDAL PROSPECTS

Asked what made him form this society or association, he said: “If you look at the sports arena of Sri Lanka, you have the Ministry of Sports which is the supreme authority in terms of local sports, sports development and positioning Sri Lankan sports for medal-winning prospects in the global arena. But what we have seen up to now since 1948 is we have won only two silver medals in the Olympic Games through Duncan White (1948) and Susanthika Jayasinghe (2000). Since then none of us in Sri Lanka can see any medal prospects in the foreseeable future.”

There are two things we can do, he says. “We can hope and pray and adopt a wait-and-see policy or some of us who are really driven by sports to achieve, can come out with some sort of a structure to support the ministry of sports in deciding on policy and having a broader dialogue with all the sports (association) in Sri Lanka. There are 66 sports disciplines registered. We can bring all this experience and expertise to a common platform in defining how sports should be progressed for achieving future medal prospects,” explained Fernando.

He felt there was a gap between the sports ministry and the actual implementation of their policies.

“The Association of Sports Federations Society is where all the sports-loving people who are driven by passion, not by money and who do not condone politicization or corruption in sports. We believe that we can come up with an action plan… short, medium and long term action plan to come out with a national agenda together with the ministry of sports. That is our objective and what we have defined in our articles of engagement,” he said.

SYSTEM

In a veiled criticism at the functioning of the NOC, he said ASFS wants to change the system of being an exclusive organization.

“The National Olympic Committee consists of 35 sports which are primarily involved in participation and acting as the intermediary between IOC (International Olympic Committee). Today it has become an exclusive organization for a few people and few sports. NOC is limited to the Olympic family. Outside the Olympics, there are a lot of sports. For instance, there is netball, powerlifting, and kickboxing. There are so many sports that are registered in Sri Lanka. There is Angampura, a martial art of Sri Lanka. There are quite a lot of sports that are being practiced. That’s why we feel without having this affiliation, we can have an open forum where we can have a discussion on a regular basis,” he said.

The ASFS wants to assist in the governance of sports bodies which need help.

“For instance, a small organization may not have the necessary knowledge and the resources even to put forward a proper document to the ministry asking for development funds or whatever it is. As you know once you put a proposal to the government, it has to be on ARs (Administrative Regulations) and (FRs) Financial Regulations. That kind of knowledge some of the associations don’t have in the sports administration. That’s why you find a lot of issues taking place and the government going to disband some of these associations and call for interim committees,” he explained.

AUDIT

“I don’t think there is any fault in them. It is a lack of knowledge and education as to how to govern this organization. For instance, if the accounts are not submitted by 28 March, you (association) stand to get disqualified and you must have the AGM before the 31st of March. But what happens there are two aspects. One is the law and two is the applicability of the law. I know a fair amount of these associations have given the audited accounts after passing by the committee for audit. Up to now, they haven’t got the certificate of audit from the government without which they can’t have the AGM. I think the current administration has realized this unnecessary problem created by previous ministers. I have been made to understand they have issued a special gazette notification that for this year to overcome this problem, they have extended till 31st August. From next year they will apply the law and they will also be given ratification that you don’t have to wait for auditor general’s report. The AG (Attorney General) can nominate an audit company and they can get the audit done through those companies. That was the law that prevailed before. The AG doesn’t have the capacity to undertake all these audits on a regular basis. I think the new move or new Gazette will resolve this issue,” he pointed out.

Fernando insisted that national associations are not members of ASFS or rather membership is by name.

“This is not a combination of federations. For example, I am from rowing but the Amateur Rowing Association of Sri Lanka is not a member. Similarly, the Boxing Association of Sri Lanka is not a member but its president Dian Gomes is. Anybody who is a sports enthusiast with an interest in a sport can join,” noting that it is virtually a private members’ club.

“We don’t want to have a competition, overpowering or run parallel to the Olympic movement. The NOC is an organization in the Olympic Charter. We don’t want to be recognized by the Olympic Charter,” he reiterated but was critical of the existing system of governance.

“Everybody in Sri Lanka knows there is something wrong with the system. As the governance, there is something wrong with sports also. That is why we people have come together to find solutions, find opportunities and to sit with the government decision-making bodies,” said Fernando who is driven by the passion of sports to give back to the country.

“I have no role to play in the NOC. You can only play a role in an inclusive operation. In an exclusive operation, you have no role. We can stay outside and watch the time pass by or we can get involved, get together and do something for the country because we have benefitted immensely from sports as sportsmen,” said Fernando who failed in his bid to become head of the NOC last year.

“We feel we have to give back something to sport and that is our national duty and our (ASFS) involvement is very much as per the statutes of this country. The freedom to associate and freedom to express. Those things are primary in our constitution and even in the global arena, freedom of association is granted. It’s our human right. I have the freedom to associate in this association. Nobody can deprive me of that,” said Fernando, a tea taster by profession who is a successful entrepreneur.

He railed at officials who play musical chairs in national sports bodies and the greed for power driven by monetary gains.

“Most of these organizations when they started had nothing, only the die-hard enthusiasts. As the organizations grew, when there is money, all sorts of people want to be a part of it. We have seen that happening. Some of them have not even played a sport and they even change associations to hold office. We have seen the degeneration of sports in this country. We were the cynosure of all cricketing eyes and after we came back the man who gave leadership to the organization (Ana Punchihewa) was kicked out,” he said alluding to what happened with the cricket board after Sri Lanka won the World Cup in 1996.

“Our association will be made up of people who are passionate, who have the means and who have the expertise,” declared Fernando.


 

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