Government, Sports

What’s left for sports?

Continued lack of government support for sports has led to associations asking for corporate money

CHENNAI: Nearly 50 to 60 per cent of the budget allocated to the Ministry of Youth Welfare and Sports is spent in paying salaries of government appointed coaches and administrators, according to P Prabhu, President, Tamil Nadu Gymnastics Association.

The state government in its budget for the year has allocated 165 crores for the Ministry of Youth Welfare and Sports.

“Also, the money for competitions and advanced training is controlled by Govt. appointed officials of Sports Authority of India and Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu. Hardly any money reaches the hands of the associations,” said Prabhu.

The association plans to set up 50-100 gymnasiums across the state to initiate kids at an early age. “Pallikaranai, Mogappair, and Salem have such centres – but for the rest, we need the government to provide us infrastructure,” he said.

In 1988, Moscow had about 250 international standards gymnastics centres. Whereas, Chennai today has only one.

Gymnasts in India train on old mats with old methods. But, those in Japan use feeds from 8 cameras to better their technique. Not only camera analysis, but modern-scientific tools such as Bio-mechanics help monitor the gymnast’s movement while a combination-routine of jumps, flips, turns, and somersaults is performed, according to Selva Maruthi, Head Coach, Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDAT) Gymnastics Centre, Velachery.

“The government does little on its own. If I ask for facility, the association should ask for money. We should demand. For nearly 20 years, no coaches were appointed. The government appointed me to this centre in 2012. If the government does this, how will sports develop?” said Maruthi.

However, the earlier State-led system is now being replaced by put-the-money and take-the-money logic of the corporates. BCCI used the popularity of cricket on TV to sell broadcast rights and helped corporates recoup the money through advertising. The success of Pro-Kabaddi league (PKL), Indian Soccer League (ISL), and Premier Badminton League (PBL) has bolstered sports administrators to shun government funding and seek marketing money from the corporates. They have begun to think that greater visibility on TV, mass participation, and wider-audience base would help nurture their sport.

For several sports, such as gymnastics, this wasn’t even an option the associations would consider two years ago.

“Associations should only depend on government for infrastructure. They must think differently and find more corporate participation for their sport,” said Prabhu.

Coach Maruthi warns against the move: “Associations try to commercialise the sport, but, if it is commercialised, the government will reduce funding and stop providing infrastructure. So, it is better if it is under government funding.”

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