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Game Changer Part 2 - How to restart maintenance of state owned Sports facilities

Continued from here

Sadly, with what I witnessed in the decay of the Sports facility is an indication that we have not only lost the infrastructure, but also lost the spirit. The fall of PSU towns like Bhilai, Bhopal, Rourkela and rise of IT towns like Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad has led to a breakdown of the self-contained ecosystem of work and life which was built in these towns - and fall of Sporting facilities and Sporting spirit is a collateral victim of this tectonic shift in lifestyles. 

This is actually quite ironical given that the newfangled IT crowd happily pays tens of thousands every quarter even to gyms housed in a 2 BHK apartments and would also possibly pay similar sums for Sports facilities of the scale of the BHEL Sports Complex. In fact, Bhopal city itself which has grown all round the BHEL Township, would have people who would be ready to pay for membership in the Sports complex if  it was maintained properly. There are several of these medium and super-rich who would love to enjoy a Sunday brunch at the golf course or regional managers of MNCs who would pay for their children to get evening tennis or badminton lessons.

As per the interview quoted in my last post, Sports Authority of India (SAI) has several stadiums and other Sports facilities in its own control, and it can (given the proper restructuring) influence or get direct ownership of Sports facilities maintained by other government bodies such as the PSU's or ministries. The most important element - real estate to set up a facility - something which a private enterprise finds most difficult to arrange is sitting in clear sight of the SAI. 

What the SAI lacks, and what private enterprise can help create is (a) Operating Cost finance to dress up these facilities with latest equipment and (b) a sales network to scout for paying customers for these facilities. Private organizations should be enlisted as "facility" managers - the way an airline outsources its on-air food preparation and packaging to hotels or an office space employs a housekeeping agency for upkeep of the offices.

Indeed, this is an elitist approach - a sports person who comes from a poor background will never be able to get access to these "public infrastructure" originally created by public funds of the government. But, there are ways to work around this problem - since the real estate is being rented out to the private party, SAI can reserve 10% of the memberships for sports persons nominated by it - the paying elite members shall subsidize these 10% government nominees unknowingly.

Let me underscore that this is only one part of the Sports administration changes, there will be much more to be done. For example, one needs to still work out how to scout sporting and coaching talent, how to nurture and train them to international standards, how to manage the logistics of their health and medicine, how to create a talent pull market in India etc etc. Some of these problems are being solved by the recent bout of "leagues" in India - we have seem IPL model of Cricket being followed by Badminton, Kabaddi and now Football. And as I wrote in my previous post, this is an area which SAI itself needs to focus on - becoming a 'marketing agency' for Sports in India.

And hence, at least outsourcing Sporting facilities management will free up SAI's bandwidth from a major chore and more importantly ensure that capital invested in the last century on build up of these facilities through the Nehruvian socialist model is not completely wasted and we don't have to create facilties from ground up and start from scratch as Jiji sir says.


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