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An athletic tomorrow: dream or reality?

An athletic tomorrow: dream or reality?
When Sport and India come together, in spite of a series of options available, the direction has been extremely uni dimensional. The country’s love for cricket, followed by the Indian Premiere League has ensured the right pumping of sponsors leading to the high profile sport that it is today. As for other sports, football too has been quite popular within the country. However, the popularity has been limited to the diversity in the acceptance of the sport only within a few states in India. Football though did see the light of the day after there were funds pumped into creating the Indian soccer league popularising the sport all over again. Just like Cricket and Football, there are a number of other disciplines the country participates in. However, recognition is what most of them lack. It is unfortunate that Mary Kom was more popular as a film than the athlete that she is. Sushil Kumar as a wrestler had to make his way to a popular reality show on television for many in the country to know what he stands for. The thirst for glory sadly lies in the hands of a capitalist regime which if they chose, may push a number of art forms from stranded to surrounded. 

Advertisers form a major market as far as sporting in the country is concerned. The revenue generated by these advertisers not only serve as the marketing for the sport but also happen to fund the sport in totality. Kabaddi as a sport was considered a village time pass just a decade ago. Many Indian villagers and small folks from the small town practiced the sport for fun knowing that it may never go beyond that. However, things took a dramatic turn when Star Sports decided to initiate the pro Kabaddi league. It is now a career choice that one can make. Over a couple of seasons down, many pundits even predict that Kabaddi, might just be the next big thing in India. As unfortunate as it sounds, sport today needs the push both in terms of endorsements by celebrities and revenue by advertisers.  

If the ESP properties Sportzpower report released on the 6 April was to be considered, the sports sponsorship nationwide has increased by a whooping 12 per cent in comparison to last year. This accounts to an increase from a sum of 4616.5 crores in 2014 to 5185.4 crores sanctioned in 2015 for the sports budget for 2016. However, if the total ad spending all over the country was to be brought to the table, sports only accounted towards 10 per cent of the total revenue spent on advertising otherwise, excluding cricket as a sport. The total revenue raised in 2015 for ad spends was a sum of 49,758 crores.  Sports pundits also state that with Football doubling the allotted spends and Kabaddi getting four times the money expected, the revenue gathered for Cricket has actually dipped causing concern for many in the BCCI. There was a rumour moving like fire within the Board of Control for Cricket in India stating that Sunil Gavaskar could probably be forced into retirement from commentary. As bizarre as the reports sounded, it makes complete sense now considering the fact that the dip in revenue might just be the reason for the BCCI to cut down on its otherwise lavish payments it offers to the cricketers and the commentators. 

Endorsements too play an important role in the growth of a player economically. If the engineering had to be reversed, many in India start with idolising a player and then move to the sport. It is hence that endorsements play an important role in popularising an individual and the sport in general. As for International players, Tiger woods and lionel Messi still lead the list of endorsements. 

Here in India, with the likes of Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar, it does appear next to impossible for anyone else to be a part of the league. However, these endorsements don’t do cricket any good as the sport itself is far bigger than any athlete practicing the sport. However, as change has been a part of most of 2015, it appears that 40 per cent of the entire budget dedicated towards endorsements are occupied by Indian women; namely, Mary Kom, Saina Nehwal and Sania Mirza. If we were to head back in time, Badminton was a sport that was played for decades in India till Saina Nehwal bagged the world number 1 changing things for the sport in India. Today Badminton too has a league of its own, probably not as big as the others, but well promoted with every possibility of getting there.  

Vishwanathan Anand has been the sole bearer of Chess in the country. His achievements in the discipline speak for themselves but chess as a sport is yet to gain that popularity in the country. Abhinav Bindra too is another name that brought shooting to the mainstream and disappeared again before he could win another accolade for our country at the prestigious Olympics. There are many more such names which fit the frame of excellence in their own disciplines, which lack the right push to take things forward. In an egalitarian society many would argue that sport in itself should be an entity that can gather and hold on to the interests of its viewers. As true as it is, in the commercial capitalist market, as a corporate would put it, sales has its own importance. 

It is hence that the biggest example of popularity in sport, Cricket is no longer about Cricket. The gentleman’s game began with a format where two teams struggled for over five days in order to survive and win. That though in order to suit the tastes of its viewers was worked on leading to the one day format and the T20 today. Cricket in the process of change lost its discipline but gained in popularity with revenue it generated. It is hence that the motion for debate still remains, is this growth in sponsorship a boomerang or a just a genuine boost?
Shayak Roy

Shayak Roy

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