Sports in India is not a sector that gets much attention or investment. The focus is either on selective sports or international sporting events. This resulted in an expenditure of 0.01% in the (pre-Covid) 2020-21 budget. The astounding fact to be noted here is- this lacuna is not due to a lack of public enthusiasm. According to FICCI, 62% of Youth are interested in Sports in India however only 1% take active participation compared to at least 50% in other parts of the world. In India, the majority of people are crazy about sports but they do not see sports as a viable profession. The passion for sports in India seldom leads to the profession due to several reasons. According to Nihal Pradeep, CEO of Dartle which is a digital community sports platform- “Sports in India are not seen as a viable career option. This is generally due to a severe lack of opportunities, lack of awareness of the sports hierarchy, lack of visibility in remote areas, and lack of transparency as the result of undue politics. The dreams of so many youths remain unrealized owing to unfair trials, inaccessible information, scattered processes and lack of a rational standard”.
The nation’s budget allocation to Sports for 2021-22 is Rs. 2.5 thousand crores i.e 0.07% of the total Budget expenditure. Although the nation’s sports budget increased in the last 10 years but remained between 0.06% and 0.09%, the budget share compared to other sectors has not increased much. This might not sound positive for Indian sport’s ecosystem. On the other hand, according to a report released by GroupM ESP, the entertainment, esports, and sports division of GroupM India –The size of the Indian Sports Industry in 2020 is estimated at INR 5894 Cr ($ 796 Mn) that is including Sports Sponsorship Spends, Sports Celebrity Endorsement, and Media Spends on Sports Properties. The single largest share of sports expenditure goes to media INR 3657 Crores, which accounts for 62% of the total spends. Sponsorship Spends takes 28% of the industry or an amount of INR 1673 Crores.
People in India are largely aware of sports given the large media coverage in the country but the focus is devastatingly selective which is one of the main hindrances for this transcending to solid results including larger participation, community encouragement, constructive information, accessibility, and better infrastructure.
Mr. Pradeep while dissecting the deep-rooted issues that hinder the growth of India’s sports ecosystem concluded that although there is a bright possibility for India’s sports ecosystem to flourish given the increasing engagement of private players, government bodies, and policy intervention. The New Education Policy 2020 has brought a very progressive approach to integrate and institutionalize sports into the country’s academic framework. However, the vision of this policy to integrate sports into the academic will only come true if there is active synergy and collaboration between the stakeholders in the sports community.
Given the country’s increasingly digitized economy and internet user base, digital platforms can be a true enabler of the vision of a sporting India. Elaborating further on the ideal system to be the catalyst to the vision Mr. Pradeep brought an example of his own venture Dartle which is a community sports platform that connects sports opportunities to opportunity seekers- “We built with a familiar and easy to use interface, our focus is on ensuring that our country prospers as a sporting nation. Our dream is to give confidence to both parents and their children to pursue participatory sports as a viable career option. Dartle envisions a truly democratic and inclusive sporting ecosystem. We want to become the sporting identity for each individual. For this, we have created a merit-based assessment using a proprietary algorithm and a specialized, standardized, transparent process of evaluation. Through this, greater opportunities can be created that are otherwise inhibited by geography, visibility and, political reasons. But this is not all, Dartle is a complete ecosystem with social media at its core”.Lastly, it seems digital platforms can truly be enriched and enable a healthy, competitive, and inclusive sporting India in the coming times.