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Sports In India Need To Be A Movement: Sanjay Gupta, MD, Star India

More importantly, women cricket is also gaining popularity. Female cricketers are being recognized and have recently received financial aid from BCCI.

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Sports in India is witnessing a massive surge today. A sector which until a few years ago was in doldrums is now climbing up the ladder to become a full time profession and business.

Sports in India is gaining popularity and is evident from the enthusiasm in audience with goal scored.

Sanjay Gupta, MD, Star India and Chairman, CII National Committee on Sports added, “Last year, ISL final witnessed a 60,000 strong packed stadium two hours prior to the match. The feeling was same during the first season of the Hockey India league. The final at Ranchi stadium had a capacity of 7,000 wasn’t enough for the crowd that had gathered to watch the match. The authorities had to actually hire a 15,000 strong football stadium next door and put up big screens there to get the people of Ranchi to feel that excitement firsthand.”

He was speaking at an event 'CII Scorecard 2017' held on Thursday (6 July) at New Delhi.

Cricket is the mainstay and takes the center stage in sports in India, growing in popularity and gaining strength. Domestic T20 league like IPL and TNPL have brought in a large crop of players and cricket has become a localized game in India.

More importantly, women cricket is also gaining popularity. Female cricketers are being recognized and have recently received financial aid from BCCI. This move will encourage more women to take up sports as their career in India. Cricket viewership is reaching its pinnacle in India. The recently concluded Champions Trophy 2017 had viewership reaching Rs 42 crore.

Kabaddi had gained a new life through Pro Kabaddi League (PKL). Despite being popular and home grown in the northern states in India, the challenge was to add teams from the state because of the lack of indoor stadium. The lack of infrastructure had the sport lost in the crowd. PKL now in its 5th edition, the players have become a familiar name in household and the league is the second to IPL only in terms of viewership and sponsorship money. Vivo has recently signed a title sponsorship deal with PKL worth Rs 300 crore for 5 years.

Similarly, wrestling and badminton leagues have gained popularity and the initial point was same for all. All have gone from scratch to popularity and a lot of this can be attributed to the popular athletes in sports who attract a lot of audience with their playing style and commitment; inspiring millions to take it up as a profession.

Young entrepreneurs and businessmen are powering sports in India backed up by league owners, bankers and media.

Gupta said, “Sport in India is growing but our job is half done. Despite all the growth and glamour in the industry, the reality is that sports industry in India is just at a $ 2.5 billion size today which is nothing compared to USA which has an industry size of $ 80 billion. There are more than 30,000 sports league happening in US and we aren’t even at a 1/50th of that number.”

He added, “The problem lies with the encouragement of youth to participate in sports. Kids in India on an average play 20 to 30 minutes in a week whereas kids in developed markets like US and UK roughly play an hour a day.”

The mindset of parents, schools and businesses encourages kids to focus more on study killing their desire to play. The narrative of our society has been that academics are the way to succeed in life.

Sports are equally important and are in dire need of young entrepreneurs and people to come up and encourage it in India to unleash its power and become a world beating country.