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The Neglected Arena: Insufficient Allocation of CSR Funds to Sports Development in India

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Neeraj Chopra
 
In a country where cricket is almost a religion and athletes like Milkha Singh, Mary Kom, and Sachin Tendulkar are celebrated as national heroes, the role of sports in India’s socio-economic development cannot be undermined. Neeraj Chopra’s recent triumph in securing the gold medal at the Javelin throw event during the World Athletics Championships has illuminated the prowess of Indian athletes on the global stage. Adding this prestigious victory to his already impressive list of accolades, Chopra’s achievement resonates as a testament to the potential that India holds in the world of sports.
Sports not only contributes to physical well-being but also fosters values like discipline, teamwork, and determination. However, despite its undeniable significance, sports often receive a disproportionately small share of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds in India, hindering its potential to drive socio-economic growth.
Marking the ethos of sports in India, the nation observes National Sports Day on August 29th every year. This date commemorates the birth anniversary of the legendary hockey player Major Dhyan Chand, a remarkable figure who not only brought glory to the country but also epitomized the virtues that sports instil in individuals. On this day, the nation reflects on the pivotal role of sports in shaping character, promoting health, and unifying communities. Yet, even as the nation celebrates its sporting achievements, the disparity in CSR funding for sports underscores the need for a more robust commitment to leveraging this sector’s potential for holistic development.
As per the National CSR Portal, the expenditure for encouraging sports in the fiscal year 2021-22 was Rs. 286.69 crore out of a total CSR spending of Rs. 26,210.95 crore. Similarly, in FY21, the allocation for sports development was Rs. 243.39 crore out of the same total. These figures illustrate a stark reality – that sports, despite its multifaceted benefits, is not receiving a commensurate share of CSR funds.

The CSR Conundrum: A Look into Allocations for Sports

The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility is rooted in the idea that businesses, beyond profit-making, have a responsibility towards the welfare of society. The Companies Act of 2013 in India mandates that companies meeting certain financial criteria must spend a portion of their profits on CSR activities. These activities encompass a wide range of sectors, including education, healthcare, environment, and social welfare. However, the sphere of sports often seems to be relegated to the background.
The allocation of a meagre percentage of CSR funds to sports can be attributed to several factors. One primary reason is the perception that other sectors, such as education and healthcare, have more immediate and tangible impacts on society. While this notion is not entirely baseless, it neglects the long-term socio-economic benefits that an active sports culture can bring.
Another factor could be the lack of proper awareness and understanding of the potential impact of sports on societal development. Many companies might not fully grasp the ways in which sports can contribute to fostering a healthier, more disciplined, and more cohesive society. Thus, a lack of awareness results in a lack of investment.

The Undeniable Role of Sports in Socio-economic Growth

Sports play a multifaceted role in the socio-economic development of a nation. Beyond promoting physical fitness, sports can significantly impact various dimensions of society.

1. Health and Well-being

A physically active population is a healthier population. By encouraging sports, we can tackle the rising burden of lifestyle-related diseases. A healthier society places fewer demands on the healthcare system, reducing the strain on resources and costs.

2. Skill Development and Employment

Nurturing sports talent requires a comprehensive ecosystem – from coaches and trainers to sports equipment manufacturers. By investing in sports, we create a demand for skilled professionals, thereby generating employment opportunities.

3. Social Cohesion

Sports have the unparalleled ability to bring people from diverse backgrounds together. Whether it’s a neighborhood cricket match or a national event, sports unify individuals and foster a sense of belonging and community.

4. National Pride and Soft Power

Achievements in sports generate a sense of national pride. They put the nation on the global map and contribute to its soft power – the ability to influence others through attraction and persuasion.

5. Leadership and Character Building

Participation in sports nurtures qualities like leadership, discipline, teamwork, and resilience. These qualities are transferable to various aspects of life, including the professional sphere.

6. Infrastructure Development

To support sports activities, proper infrastructure is essential – from playgrounds to stadiums. This infrastructure development creates a positive cycle of job creation, tourism, and economic growth.

Unlocking the Socio-economic Potential: Increased CSR Allocation to Sports

To fully harness the socio-economic potential of sports, a concerted effort is required from both the government and the corporate sector. While the government plays a crucial role in setting up policies, regulations, and infrastructure, corporations can significantly contribute through CSR initiatives.

1. Raising Awareness

Companies should take the initiative to educate themselves and others about the broader impact of sports on society. Awareness campaigns, workshops, and collaborations with sports organizations can help in this regard.

2. Strategic Investment

Rather than viewing sports as an isolated initiative, companies can integrate it into their CSR strategy. This could involve supporting sports academies, sponsoring local tournaments, and providing scholarships to young athletes.

3. Long-term Commitment

The impact of sports on socio-economic development might not be immediately apparent. However, companies need to recognize that meaningful change takes time. Long-term commitments to sports development can yield substantial results.

4. Collaborations and Partnerships

Companies can join hands with sports organizations, NGOs, and government bodies to pool resources and expertise. Collaborations can amplify the impact of CSR initiatives and ensure effective implementation.

5. Advocacy for Policy Changes

Companies with significant influence can advocate for policy changes that promote sports at both local and national levels. This can involve discussions with policymakers and supporting legislative changes that encourage sports development.

Conclusion

Sports have the power to transform societies and drive socio-economic growth in ways that extend beyond immediate financial gains. By fostering healthier lifestyles, building character, and promoting social cohesion, sports contribute to a stronger, more vibrant nation. However, the limited allocation of CSR funds to sports in India stands as a barrier to unlocking this potential.
It is imperative for businesses to recognize the long-term impact that sports can have on society and adjust their CSR strategies accordingly. By increasing the allocation for sports development, companies can play an active role in shaping a healthier, more prosperous future for India. As the nation continues to evolve, it’s crucial that sports no longer remain the neglected arena in the realm of CSR.