A Colonial Hangover Many historians have noted that sports in pre-independence India possibly promoted a sense of nationalistic spirit, even as the sports we played were inheritances of our colonists, the English. Cricket, football took over from gilli danda, kabaddi, and sport acquired a distinct political context, namely, Bharat vs Britain.
Cricket in particular became a national passion and obsession over time, fueled by international successes, while other sports were increasingly ignored.Social discrimination and communal divisions notwithstanding, sport in India found its way into the mainstream consciousness. A Mohun Bagan team beat the East Yorkshire Regiment in the IFA Shield in 1911; Gandhiji himself started two football clubs in South Africa; and in a campaign based on tolerance and non-violence, acceptability of colonial pastimes led to an Indian team under the Maharaja of Porbandar touring England in 1932. Cricket in particular became a national passion and obsession over time, fueled by international successes, while other sports were increasingly ignored. The Current Scenario Now, in the 2010’s, football, tennis, badminton, basketball, kabaddi, are finding their feet. India now have a professional league for many sports, namely Indian Premier League for cricket, Indian Super League for football, International Premier Tennis League for tennis, Pro Badminton League for badminton, Pro Kabaddi League for India’s creation, kabaddi and Hockey India League for India’s national game hockey. The potential for sports in India is huge considering India is the fastest growing economy with a growing interest for sports among the youth and middle class, and an abundance of raw talent in the country. Sports like shooting, cricket, boxing, archery, badminton, tennis, and squash have constantly been putting up good performances at the world stage, which is motivating the society and the youth considerably. The Economy and Government Policy
The policy focus should be to increase participation at the grassroots level from a village school to a top ranked university and simultaneously establish Centers of Excellence and high performance centers to polish the talent in the countryIt is, however, going to be a long haul for India before it can establish itself as a true sporting power. It is the medal tally at the Olympics, and other international and World Championships, that indicates the strength of the sporting power at the world stage. The biggest economies have showcased that having a trillion dollar economy can help in producing world beaters, and setting up the best infrastructure. Most of these countries with a rich economy also have a proper sports structure and policy in place. There is a need for a policy from the government to first help create a culture for sports in India. The policy focus should be to increase participation at the grassroots level from a village school to a top ranked university and simultaneously establish Centers of Excellence and high performance centers to polish the talent in the country. Training Centers – Public and Private At present the Sports Authority of India (SAI) has 23 active regional sports centers, 58 SAI training centers, 100 plus schools, 8 Army Boys Sports Company’s(ABSC) and numerous affiliated bodies all across India which provide sports training and facilities to athletes. The SAI sports training centers cover a host of sports like athletics, cricket, football, hockey and boxing apart from many niche sports. Supplementing these efforts are the centers set up by corporates like TATA Sports Academy which also have facilities available to athletes in all sports disciplines. There are academies and centers set up by federations like All India Football Federation(AIFF), Board of Cricket control in India(BCCI), Hockey India and so on.
Most of these centers lack top class facilities, infrastructure and top quality coaches requiredMany sports veterans and retired professional players have also set up their private academies like the Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools (BBFC), Sehwag Cricket Academy. India does have the available sports academies and training centers but most of these centers lack top class facilities, infrastructure and top quality coaches required. A few notable exceptions in football are the DSK-Liverpool Academy(pictured), TFA, who have recently received 2 star accreditation from AIFF. Creating excellence at every level with a partnership between governing bodies of sports and private investors would provide a huge boost for sports in the country. The barriers to entry and red tape for such partnerships need to be removed. What have we achieved?
India's sports budget is 1592 crore, China's is approximately 55,000 croresIndia’s sports budget for the year 2016 was Rs.1592 crore with a hike of Rs.50 crore from last year. These figures are comparatively lesser as compared to a country like China which has approximately 55,000 crores allocated to their sports. The world sports economy is approx. USD 500 billion and India’s contribution towards it is less than 15%. India’s sports economy is poised to be one of the top 5 in the world in the next 15 years, but in order to reach such a milestone India requires huge investment in sports human resource development, training coaches programs, sports infrastructure, sports science, school sports, high performance centers, Centers of Excellence, sports academies and sports education. TV viewership of sporting properties are growing consistently, with IPL having 182 million viewers in 2015, ISL 429 million, Pro Kabaddi 400 million and Hockey India League with 41 million views. Advertising revenue in sports have grown significantly since the start of IPL. There has always been a convergence of the sports and entertainment industry. India’s digital population is also high and this could be one of the strengths for promoting sports in India. Part Two of this series will examine the consumers of sport more in depth and chart the way forward for sport in India.