Indian sports need professional managers, not politicians

Delhi, IndiaWritten By: Ravi RamuUpdated: Oct 03, 2018, 10:00 AM IST

Hima Das Photograph:(AFP)

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The key to fixing the many glitches and generating a sporting wave, if not a tsunami, across the country, is in getting the right individuals to take over the reins of our sports federations.

Sports federations have a vital role to play in an evolving Indian environment where ideologies such as sport for the masses and “Khelo India” initiatives are being vigorously promoted across all socio-economic classes. There has indeed been a long and none-too-glorious tradition of sports federations in the country singularly failing to instal a sports ethos and culture in the minds of the people.

There are isolated instances where individual guts and dogged determination, rather than institutionalised and sustained methods, have resulted in unprecedented glory for India both in the team and solitary sport. A Prakash Padukone did become the badminton world champion and world number one nearly four decades ago, more through sheer dint of personal effort and attitude than the efforts of any federation or sports body. The lamentable part is that recent achievers and path-breakers like the exceptional Dipa Karmakar in gymnastics, or a Sania Nehwal in badminton, have hardly meant a sporting wave across the masses. The reasons are many. And the best news is that it seems fixable.

The key to fixing the many glitches and generating a sporting wave, if not a tsunami, across the country, is in getting the right individuals to take over the reins of our sports federations. The honchos sitting at the heads of the federations and their band of buddies are instrumental in making sports popular among the masses and achieving international sporting acclaim. It is an imperative – the control and functioning of sports federations must be taken out of the hands of politicians and business people with vested interests and put in the hands of professional sports administrators. Once a sport is played and watched by millions of Indians across the nation, medals and money will come in. And sometimes it is the odd championship or medal which drives popularity and power. Cricket stands testimony to this.

India has unique sporting challenges because of the changes not only in modern sports but in our own economic and social resurgence. Many see sports as a means of livelihood, indeed a way out of poverty. Many a parent in India continues to see sports as a hobby, hardly a profession. What might these challenges be then?

No sport is a law unto itself. The requirement is to cooperate, collaborate, interact and integrate with new partners in the private and public domains. The imperativeness of attracting new groups and classes of the public to sports is staring us in the face. A service-oriented approach towards diverse constituents such as the government, public, national and international associations, and sponsors is a basic necessity. Funding becomes fundamental. And several new skills and orientations need to be acquired.

The path to redemption and sporting success is through introducing contemporary management structures once our old archaic ways have been dumped. Modern methods, which incorporate programmes tailored to a complex and dynamic Indian environment, will do the sporting trick. There are many international success, like the German football association, from which we can learn and tailor to unique Indian circumstances.

Exit the archaic federation volunteer-honcho. Enter the professional paid-manager. Individual skills such as marketing, event organising, fundraising, collaborating, communicating, and promoting are what the modern paid-manger in a sport typically possesses. These essential ingredients are buttressed by strategic capabilities and inter-personal skills.

Transparency and reporting are crucial, and modern sport management accounting and reporting systems are an absolute must. Planning, budgeting and time-tested but modern methods are what the professional manager brings. Some of our sports federations are bereft of such thorough systems and procedures either by design or because of their lack of knowledge and skills. This dynamic change requires to take place under the supervisory gaze of a well-thought-out governance structure.

Sports management is distinct from coaching and teaching. The perpetually acrimonious matter of team selections is a bird of an entirely different feather. But unless we get the fundamentals of sports management in place, remove the old and bring in the new professional paid-manager, the bygones of Indian sport will continue to haunt us.

The shackles of the age-old control and leadership structures must be broken. Only professional sports managers who are properly paid and rewarded on performance can lead this seismic change. Until professionalism is ingrained into our sports systems and administrations, neither will India become a sport-minded country nor will the Olympic medals come.

(This article was originally published on DNA. Read the original article)

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)