Sports Infrastructure & its ecosystem

How India is transforming Sports infrastructure and its ecosystem 

In India, sports has seen exponential growth and are considered to be the next big opportunity. Infrastructure acts as a sign of growth, and for sports in particular, infrastructure is the backbone of the sector. Sports tend to have an overall positive impact on the state of health, education and the economy at large, as it has been found by a large number of empirical studies. In the past few decades, we have witnessed countries such as America, Australia and China invest heavily in the sports domain, especially at the grassroots level to develop community sports complexes and facilities. These facilities are available to their young population across schools, colleges and universities. This has aided these countries to be some of the chart leaders and global sporting powers in world games with their athletes being able to practice at state-of-the-art infrastructure facilities. 

One of the strongest indicators of growth of a sector is noticed when the state and central level governments not only invest financially towards that sector but also take an active interest in opening the gateway for private and global investors to build the industry. Sports Authority of India, the country’s premier sports body is spearheading the development of the sector to make India an ambitious and successful sporting nation. 

While Indian investment in the sports domain is recent, the country has witnessed a spurt of growth in its infrastructure development pertaining to sports which will have a positive impact in the long run. Here is a look at some of the prominent investments and projects that the Government of India has made in the past few years with the purpose to hunt and hone grassroots talent. 

Also Read: Managing Finance in Sports

Khelo India

A flagship project of GOI, Khelo India focuses on the importance of sports in one’s life and that a fit and healthy individual is equal to a healthy society and a strong nation. It emphasizes that playing sports brings in team spirit, develops strategic and analytical thinking, pushes individuals towards their goals and takes risks. Khelo India brings the youth of the country to the forefront. It offers top-notch infrastructure with high-level training. 

The Khelo India project is divided into 12 verticals, some of which are:

– Playfield development

– Sports for Women

– Sports for peace and development 

– State-level Khelo India centres

– Talent search and development

– Community coaching development 

– Promotion of rural/indigenous/ tribal games

– Physical fitness of school children, and more. 

There are high-powered sports committees set up that scout for talented players across these verticals and offer annual financial assistance of INR 5 lakh per annum for 8 years. 

Khelo India School Games invites students for the Under-17 category in disciplines such as Archery, Badminton, Basketball, Judo, Kabbadi, Kho-Kho, Wrestling, Hockey and more. 

One of the biggest beneficiaries of the Sports budget in India this year has been Khelo India. The budget stands at INR 974 crore, a sustainable increase from previous years, to reach the grassroots level and scout for the best talent while encouraging sports across India to build a sporting nation known for its talent globally. 

Lehat Open Stadium: Synthetic Track & Astroturf for football

Under the Khelo India Program, the government laid the stone for Lehat Open Stadium in 2020. The first visuals of the Lehat Open Stadium came in 2021 with Leh, Ladakh getting its first synthetic track and astroturf at the height of 11,000 feet. The stadium is constructed on 130 kanales in the Spituk belt of the cold desert of India. In his interview with ANI news, Tsering Stobgyas told them that as a coach for marathon runners in Ladakh they had to run on roads and with these facilities they are now witnessing improvements because they are now able to measure distance and speed easily. Sportspeople and the sporting community of the state in Leh are rather thrilled and excited with state-of-the-art infrastructure in their own backyard and are looking forward to this opening new avenues of growth and employment in the state. 

The stadium is part of an extensive sports project in Leh that will also focus on winter sports and offer the country the opportunity to experience, learn and engage in winter sports in Ladakh. Ice hockey was a special conversation at the foundation stone conference by the sports ministry where they also laid emphasis on making Ice hockey one of the key sport disciplines in the nation with their Khelo India Program. 

Also Read: 5 Inspirational Sports Movies

M Chinnaswamy Stadium – India’s first solar-powered stadium 

In a joint partnership signed between Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) and The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), both parties agreed to jointly promote sustainable development and resource efficiency as well as support measures which will aid to contribute to reducing the emission of greenhouse gasses. ComSolar project under both organizations agreed to explore a photovoltaic – solar power system to be installed at the cricket stadium. In 2017, 40-kW rooftop photovoltaic solar power system was successfully installed at the Chinnaswamy stadium. The plant generates 1700 units/ day that is consumed on the premises and access is exported to Bangalore Electricity Supply Company Ltd. Not only this innovation offers a sustainable solution but also brings to the table a state-of-the-art facility that allows the government to invest their savings on training, coaching and outreach as well as earn by selling the electricity. Bringing in revenue to the state. 

Under the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP), capital expenditure of INR 9,069 crore (FY20-FY25) has been earmarked for developing sports infrastructure in the country. This includes close to 90 NIP and some of these projects and NIP include (work-in-progress projects):

  1. Manipur Sports University Project
  2. Visakhapatnam Sports City Development Project 
  3. Amravati Sports City Development Project and more. 

Also Read: Kabaddi – India’s Fastest-Growing Sport

Sporting Leagues in India

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)’s the brainchild and one of their most successful undertakings, the Indian Premier League for T-20 format of cricket is one of the most sought-after sporting leagues across India. Not only the league hones grassroots Indian talent, but also makes the state level, university to school level cricket a serious sporting activity that can lead the athletes to a stable career in cricket for a number of years. With of its kind offering to their sports frenzy nation, IPL’s format has led to multiple job opportunities developing across the nation. These include team managers, data analytics, coaches, trainers, facility and operations managers, sports journalists, sports marketers and much more. 

Inspired by IPL, Pro Kabbadi League (PKL), a men’s professional kabaddi tournament has seen mega success since its first launch and changed the dynamic of the game from mud to mat.  With a strong viewership that matches IPL and FIFA, PKL is famous for its penetration to Tier-2 and 3 India towns and has been responsible for the development and growth of hundreds of players. They have developed a world-class model to make the sport of ancient India, Kabbadi, more accessible for consumption on TV and live. 

Both these leagues are known globally for their multi-million dollar success models. This has led to the development of jobs and start-ups as well as enhancing the lives of many players they select from grassroots levels. These are just some examples that showcase the vast untapped potential of Indian sports culture. 

Also Read: Rise of Sports Tech start-ups

Government encouraging Public Private Partnership Model ( PPP) 

India has witnessed a large number of private sector players that have actively participated in and developed the sports infrastructure in India. They are a key stakeholder in the Indian sporting ecosystem. Private entities contribute towards the development, maintenance and growth of sports facilities and talent development. To keep building community sporting infrastructure and nurturing new talent, heavy investments are required. Along with various initiatives the centre and state governments are undertaking to make India a sporting nation, they are also encouraging investments through the public-private partnerships ( PPP) model to build modern infrastructures and high-performance centres across India that are at par with global offerings. These high-performance centres offer international coaching and training, data analytics-based speed and athletic improvement, mobility drills, improving overall physical and mental health tools and much more. 

In India’s Sports Revitalization Action Plan, NITI Aayog encourages private sector participation in building the sporting infrastructure of the country. These PPP’s allow for adequate risk sharing amongst stakeholders and involve parties who have expertise in it. These PPPs include the modern form of ROMT ( Refurbish, Operate, Maintain and Transfer) as well as old forms of RMO ( Renovate, Modernize and Operate) and BOT ( Build, Operate and Transfer). 

While some large corporations fund holistic sports programs as part of their CSR, others have also been investing in academics and high-performance training centres for a wide range of sports disciplines; hockey, football, tennis and athletics. 

India is also witnessing a growth of start-ups in sports that are now addressing issues of underutilization of sporting facilities. These sports tech start-ups are offering world-class services for finding and booking playgrounds, training for various sports disciplines, education/ academic learning in sports, facility marketing and branding, operations management and outreach, data analytics for improving the performance of individuals and teams and much more. The joint and collaborative efforts of both the private and public sectors are necessary to promote the overall infrastructure development in the sports industry of India. 

While some challenges need to be overcome that address the land bank across the nation to build sports facilities, managing and their effective utilization, the recent initiatives by the government and their PPP model show the sports sector is set to grow leaps and bounds in the coming years. Needless to say, this growth will bring along new employment opportunities, entrepreneurship projects, start-ups in the race towards becoming unicorns and an increase in revenue for the state. 

MBA Sport Management program at MBA-ESG

Author: Mankiran