Need for corporates to take sport seriously stressed at CII Summit

MUMBAI: "Corporates must treat sports as a part of their annual growth plan, a part of running their enterprise." This statement was made yesterday by the Confederation Of Indian Industries (CII) National Sports Committee chairman B. Muthuraman.

The occasion was a summit that the CII organised in association with the Tata Group. The aim was to dissect ways in which Indian companies could help build future sports champions.



Muthuraman is also the Tata Steel's MD. He noted that two members of the Indian cricket team which secured a historic win against Australia yesterday were employees of Tata Steel. They are the skipper Saurav Ganguly and bowler Ajit Agarkar. " While industrial organisations are recent they are the wealth generators. A part of this wealth should be ploughed back towards enriching the society and sports is one of those areas. Over the decades Tata Steel has supported games like archery and football where we have academies. If we did not do this then our bottomline would in fact get eroded."

He regretted the fact that most Indian companies sponsor sport events with narrow objectives such as their logo getting seen on television. "The involvement should go beyond donations. Direct involvement is needed. We at CII have started a programme called Golden Hopes for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. To this end our sports group has managed to secure funds and we will be raising more by holding two corporate sporting events. We will also be starting an award which will felicitate those companies who have made significant contributions in the sporting arena."

He also said that other companies could learn from Tata Steel on how infrastructure can be created. In this manner a successful model could be replicated such as the running of a sports academy. He also regretted the fact that sports medicine was an area about which very little is known in India. Through sponsorship doctors could be sent abroad for training. As far as funds are concerned he said that it was incorrect to depend on government agencies as they have too much of an agenda.

Former chief of the Board of Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) I.S. Bindra issued a tongue lashing to the Indian sports federations warning them to get their act together. ""If this does not happen then the efforts of corporates will yield little. It would be like taking a horse to the water and forcing him to drink. Many people who head sports federations have been there for decades. Mr. Gill has headed the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) for far too many years. A regulation should be put in place so that they can be removed for non-performance.

"At the moment Indian sports federations are lethargic. Even if you give them millions of dollars it will simply be frittered way on lavish foreign jaunts. The Indian Olympic Committee (IOC) recently sent FICCI and CII a list of fund and sponsorship requirements. However if the IOC cannot do this themselves then what the hell are they doing?"

He also said that the federations were extremely unprofessional in their attitude. He gave the example of the IHF. A few years ago IHF had signed a contract with ESPN Star Sports. However not long after the IHF signed a similar contract with another broadcaster. "How can organisations work with these federations when there is no guarantee of any kind of commitment? All sports can make money. It is a fallacy to think that only cricket can be profitable. The management issues at the federations will have to be sorted out if they hope to make any headway."

Even today after getting a sponsor in the form of Sahara hockey players are grumbling over payments. Later on in the evening a panel discussion was held. Tennis ace Mahesh Bhupathi, billiards champion Geet Sethi, writer Anil Dharkar, Bindra were some of the speakres. The session was chaired by commentator Charu Sharma. Dharkar opined that cricket has the edge because it is telegenic. "The cameras allow you to see the expression of Saurav Ganguly the expressionless Rahul Dravid. Therefore we connect with their personalities. Hockey and football are field games and so for the viewer to form an emotional connect with a player is difficult. They are also faster."

Writer Milind Rege concurred saying that a shot or a catch or a run out could be seen form different angles. "There are so many possibilities with each delivery bowled and the viewer gets different perspectives thanks to around 16 cameras that are used for the replays. Badminton on the other hand due to lack of funds has just two cameras."

Bindra said that one should not accuse television of making a monster out of cricket. "Cricket was popular much before television arrived on the scene. In fact the credit should go to All India Radio. Over the decades cricket has been marketed superbly and my hope over the years has always been that other sports would learn a trick or two."

Bhupathi said that cricket was a game of the masses. Tennis on the other hand needs investment in terms of club membership, racquets. "Interest in sports is achievement driven. Interest in tennis has picked up now that myself and Leander Paes won Grand Slam titles. Golf will slowly rise with Arjun Atwal making a name for himself on the international circuit. However sponsors are still very hard to find. I went around to sponsors for the WTA tournament and was rejected. The reason was that all the money had gone towards the Cricket World Cup."

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