In India, the popularity of sports largely depends on the viewership it attracts. In fact, according to the KPMG report, “The business of sports”, Indian sports viewership (TV) has increased by 30% in the two years of 2014 and 2015. The increase in viewership was mainly due to events like the ICC Cricket World Cup and other league-based events like the Indian Soccer League and the Pro Kabaddi League.
However, in the same report, a number of disheartening facts have come to light, which do not bode well for the future of non-cricketing sports in India. According to the report, India’s sports sponsorship market grew by 15.2%. Of this, cricket alone got 52% of on-air sponsorships, 61% of team sponsorships and 64% of endorsements.
As is evident from the statistics, none of the other sports events (apart from the leagues) manage to gain significant sponsorships. Along with the perennial problem with infrastructural facilities, lack of sponsorships is the other major reason why India continues to flounder in international events, when it comes to games like hockey or athletics.
Even when Indian teams do manage to earn significant victories in games other than cricket, the sports hierarchy seems to remain intact. For instance, on the same day on which India lost to Pakistan in the ICC Champions Trophy final, the Indian hockey team trounced Pakistan in a Hockey World League match. However, the Sports Ministry deemed it fit to install giant LED screens at the Major Dhyanchand National Stadium (a place synonymous with hockey) to allow people to watch the Champions Trophy final.
Decisions such as these go a long way in eroding the faith of people in sporting events. What then is the Indian government doing to promote and develop sports other than cricket in India? Sadly, not much. Gurbaj Singh of the Indian hockey team perfectly captures this sentiment in the video, when he mentions that even though they qualified for the Hockey World League semi-finals, they couldn’t capture the hearts of people. And the government is as culpable for this lack of interest and faith as the people themselves!
In that respect, this ad for the Hockey World League by Star Sports, for the purpose of garnering support for the Indian hockey team, is indeed a timely one. As it is, people’s interest in hockey seems to have been re-ignited due to India’s recent victory over Pakistan. In the ad, members of the Indian national team speak about their achievements in the recent past and their desire to carve a glittering future for India’s national game. The question we need to ask ourselves is, are we helping them or contributing to their quest at all?
At the moment, the hockey team’s quest seems to be a lonely one. As Paul Van Ass, coach of the Indian team, says: “The world knows about it, but India doesn’t.” It has achieved in one year, what it couldn’t in 15 years. We should therefore make it a point to support them as much as we can, from this point onward – even if it entails cutting down on our viewership of cricket.