‘Chak De! India’ brought into the limelight the untapped potential of offbeat sports. However, their future still hangs in balance owing to lack of funds. The need of the hour are federations and corporate India to come forward and finance these sports. The India Sports Marketing Forum (ISMF) 2008, organised by the exchange4media Group in the Capital on September 12, discussed this issue in detail in a post-lunch session. The ISMF was presented by Indian Cricket League (ICL) in association with e-sense.
The session on ‘The role of federations and corporate India in the development of sports’ saw the participation of panellists like Adille Sumariwala, Working President, AFI and National Selector, Seletor; Amrit Bose, Secretary, Indian Hockey Federation; Jitendra Joshi, Co-founder, Sportz Village; C Rajshekhar Rao, Editor, Cricketnext.com; Raghavendra Patnaik, COO, Cornerstone Sports & Entertainment Pvt Ltd; and Sukhvinder Singh, Senior Marketing Manager, All India Football Federation. Ayaz Memon, Sports Editor, DNA, moderated the session.
Memon commenced the session with a question as to whether the federations/clubs were doing enough for the development of sports. To this Sumariwala commented, “All associations are honourary. They don’t have money. You need companies to sponsor it. Also, the Government isn’t transparent and doesn’t clear teams till the eleventh hour. Hence, we need professionalism and transparency in the system.”
Bose pointed out, “I hope you know that the women’s hockey team is the only team that has given the country 10 medals. When Sardar Balbir Singh took over as coach of the team, the Government refused to fund us. The federations are poor and corporate houses don’t come forward to help. No one is scared of accountability and transparency. Women’s Hockey Federation is a transparent organisation and is the only one to give monthly scholarships to its players.”
Patnaik noted, “The real problem is funding. Looking at it from a sovereign point of view, I feel that we have talent in abundance, but don’t have funds. Sports require infrastructure, opportunity and funding. Let’s put our heads together and identify credible sources to encourage sports.”
Singh said, “I feel football will go a long way because it is played in 207 countries juxtaposed to cricket, which is played in just 11 countries. This is an interesting time for us because Bharti Airtel, AFC and FIFA have realised the potential of the game and are willing to help develop it India. We are hoping by 2011 we will be amongst the top six countries in this game.”
Taking the discussion further, Rao said, “At some point, federations have to be attached with people rather than big names.” To this Memon asked, “Do politicians support the federation?” Rao replied, “Politicians associate themselves with the federations to gain mileage. We should rather depend on professionalism.”
Joshi remarked, “The entire focus has been on winning the gold medal. Is that the sole meaning of development of sports? No. It is the broad-basing the sports. Let’s aim at giving a great experience to people who visit the stadiums. Create a culture of sports in the country.”
Sumariwala added here, “Broadbasing sports can be through team efforts of federations and champions. They go hand-in-hand.”
Bose said, “A handful of federations come forward to fund the teams. Media and marketing are the sole entities who can help in running the federations. Politicians join us and get mileage in their portfolio, but not at the cost of the federations. They help us get clearance at the eleventh hour and they are the ones who can conveniently go and fight our cases, which others cannot.”
Sumariwala concluded the session by saying, “We give politicians their role in federations, you use your politicians to the best of your ability.”
The last session of the day was on the topic ‘2010 Commonwealth games – Jump start India into becoming a sporting nation’. The session was moderated by Prof Avinash Singh, journalist & sports enthusiast, and the panellists included Novy Kapadia, sports commentator; Rajul Kulshreshtha, CEO, Motivator; and Manav Singh, GM, Gemba India.
Singh began the discussion by saying, “We were enthralled to win one Gold and two Bronze medals in the Beijing Olympics recently. This achievement made us realise that we should resort to professional training of coaches and umpires. We are still two years away from the Commonwealth Games, and so it is high time we started on this.”
Kapadia said, “W need to go a step forward and get people to appreciate sports other than cricket and request BCCI not to organise T-20 matches during the period of the Commonwealth Games 2010 in India.”
Kapadia further said, “We put unnecessary pressure on our players who represent our country on a global platform, we need to be more realistic in our expectations.”
Kulshreshtha remarked, “Commonwealth Games 2010 is in the news for all the wrong reasons. Will this game raise enough ROI? Why aren’t we focussing on the positives? It will raise the awareness of sports in the country, if marketed properly.”
Singh of Gemba India felt, “Sports is a product that captures passion. The Commonwealth Games 2010 is building up a brand to attract corporates. There is huge opportunity for brands in India and there is also a good chance for sports to market it well.”
Taking the discussion further, Kapadia said, “Terrestrial networks got the rights to broadcast the Commonwealth Games. DD suitably changes dates as per the convenience of the ministers, but the scenario may change gradually if a private channel like ESPN or Ten Sports got the rights as they would not reschedule the telecast at the beck and call of the ministers.”
Concluding the discussion, Kapadia said, “All sports have certain hierarchies. In India, we tend to overreact and start comparing every sport to cricket. Let Olympic sports get recognition and train its players. Professionals have to come forward. A rower should not be compared to a basketball player, but at the same time, this does not mean that we can disregard him and not give him his due.”
(With additional inputs from Pallavi Goorha)