MUMBAI: Kabaddi for long has been neglected as a sport in India. Or at least that has been the popular notion. But here are some interesting stats: there are over 4,000 clubs in the country, with live spectator audiences attracting over 50,000 people for a single game. Without the need for expensive infrastructure, 700,000 schools play the sport. Astonishingly, at a global level, 32 countries are affiliated to the International Kabaddi Federation (including Germany, Italy, Japan and Korea).
But now with the launch of the Pro Kabaddi League by Mashal Sports and the International Kabaddi Federation (IKF) the prospects of this indigenous game seem to be changing for the better. To be held between July-August, this year, the game is doing all that it can to gain eyeballs.
With sports broadcaster Star Sports bagging the broadcast rights for the Pro Kabaddi League, the sport is looking at greater visibility. Star India COO Sanjay Gupta, after the channel got the broadcast rights had said, “Our association with Kabaddi is in line with our stated objective of transforming the sports landscape and enabling the growth of a multi-sport culture in India. Pro Kabaddi will build an ecosystem that can potentially take this game to the next level. We plan to offer an immersive and engaging experience for the Kabaddi viewers.”
The league will be played on specially developed mats, in state of the art indoor stadiums across eight cities. Top Kabaddi players from across India and the globe will participate in a show of intense competition and sporting camaraderie. Having Star Sports as the official broadcast partners for Pro Kabaddi league will help bring the game to life on television with super audio-visual transmission quality. The game and the event are designed to take television by storm.
There are leading corporates and individuals who have ended up owning the eight franchises. They are: Kosmik Global Media for Bangalore, Kalpathi Investments for Chennai, Rana Kapoor of Yes Bank for Delhi, Abhishek Bachchan for Jaipur, Kishore Biyani of Future Group for Kolkata, Ronnie Screwvala,Unilazer Sports for Mumbai, Uday Kotak of Kotak Mahindra Bank for Pune and Core Green Group for Vizag. By roping in Abhishek Bachchan as one of the franchise owners, Mashal Sports plans to use all tools at their disposal to make the game more attractive.
Each of the franchise will have to spend between Rs 45–50 million annually which includes a nominal franchise fee.
With media rights partner frozen, the sports management company is eyeing one title sponsor, three co-sponsors and some partners. The company will share 80 per cent of the revenue from the central pool with the eight franchises. Marketing partner World Sport Group will receive 10 per cent, while the remaining 10 per cent will be retained by Mashal Sports to fund the expenses incurred for organising the league.
It is expected that Mashal Sports will incur an annual expenditure of Rs 100-150 million on the league.
The Pro Kabaddi matches will be preceded by a player auction, where each team will be getting an equal opportunity to build its squads. Almost 100 players will be auctioned, out of which 72 players will be Indians and the rest will be international players from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, South Korea, Italy, Germany, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand and Sri Lanka.
These players have been shortlisted by the International Kabaddi Federation as well as the Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India, giving the amateur Kabaddi players a chance to perform at a professional level. The prize money for the league is a lucrative 10 million rupees ($165,800) which many hope will add prestige to the league.
The league promises to take the sport to a whole new level of prominence and ensure that stars such as Navneet Gautam, Ajay Thakur, Rajaguru Subramanian and Rakesh Kumar become the new sporting heroes of Kabaddi.
The lineup of sponsors for the league has not been revealed as of now. But Pro Kabaddi will have robust social media marketing strategies. Sports enthusiasts, in India and all around the world, can keep track of the match.
Each franchisee will not only have their team colours and star players, but also create their own fan following with innovative media outreach strategies, scores, players as well as participate in the game through social media platforms such as the Pro Kabaddi league website www.prokabaddi.com, twitter handles @ProKabaddi #ProKabaddiRevolution and Facebbok page Prokabaddi.