Sprinter Hima Das created sports history by winning the gold medal in the women’s 400 metre event at the IAAF World U20 Championships on July 13, 2018. Hima registered a time of 51.46 seconds in the final at the Ratina Stadium to become the first Indian athlete to win gold in a world championship across all age groups. From Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan, the accolades are pouring in for the 18-year-old even as you read this.
Hima had done well in the earlier rounds as well, winning Heat 4 with a time of 52.25 seconds. She emerged on top in the semi-finals as well, winning her race in 52.10 seconds. While we applaud her feat, let us consider what it would take India to produce more teen sport stars like Hima.
Last year, India spent roughly 3,200 crores on sports infrastructure and training through in annual Union & State Budgets. It’s a small sum compared to the 9,000 crore-figure that nations like the United Kingdom spend and you understand why we had not struck gold yet. With the government stretched out in its budget allocation, it’s time for corporates to step in to nurture teenage sports stars.
Corporate spend in sports has transcended the glamorous sports like cricket to Badminton, Wrestling, Hockey, Football and Kabaddi. In 2017, Sports advertising spend was 12% of the total advertising expenditure of INR 61, 233 Crores. Sports sponsorship rose to Rs 7,300 Crores in 2017, a growth of 14% over the previous year.
While the figure is impressive, when you look closer, you realize that the spends were largely for Ground Sponsorship, Team Sponsorship, Franchise Fee and Media Spend. Athlete Development falls somewhere at the tail end of the spectrum of ad spends. Not even an iota of the monies are going towards grassroots sports development. Consider factors like building awareness, promotion, participation, infrastructure, competitive platforms, athlete and sports ecosystem development.
Corporates in general are keen to support youth but stop short of calculating the financial return on investment. Limited understanding of the impact through sport, access to professionals to guide and advise on sports, and lack of a unified agenda on sports are other factors that prevent corporates from exploring this direction.
If we have to emerge as a dominant sporting nation, we have to start supporting sports through Corporate CSR funds. Several of the country’s heroes from the akharas of Haryana or rickety gymnasiums in Tripura have emerged from humble backgrounds, underlining the power of sports as a tool for social transformation. Tata Trusts is focused on strengthening this shift in momentum by actively working in underserved parts of the country, reawakening aspirations and fostering a culture of hard work and excellence among children.
GoSports Foundation (GSF) is a non-profit venture working towards the development of some of India’s most talented emerging and elite athletes, competing in Olympic and Paralympic disciplines. Joined by India’s only individual Olympic gold medalist Abhinav Bindra, former Indian cricket captain Rahul Dravid, All England Badminton Champion Pullela Gopich on their Board of Advisors and the former physiotherapist of the Indian Cricket Team, John Gloster, as their Head of Sports Science.
Their mission to “professionalise sports” in India is premised on the belief that sporting champions are created when the right talent gets the right support at the right time. Meanwhile, Reliance Foundation Youth Sports is aimed at revolutionizing grassroots sports in India. Starting with football in 2016, RF-YS provides schools, colleges and athletes with a never-before-seen platform to showcase their skills and passion for sports. The most deserving athletes are given scholarships and an opportunity to be scouted by teams, the coaches of the schools and colleges are provided with training programs and the institutes are provided with football equipment.
With more initiatives like these, it won’t be long before the nation boasts a formidable team of young international sports achievers.