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CSR VISION: What is the situation of Sports in India and where SAI fits into it?
I. SRINIVAS: Today sports are managed by the autonomous bodies and they govern and manage sports in the country. But when it comes to amateur sports you need many inputs and it is very difficult for the federations to mobilise resources to access these inputs. Therefore, across the world, there are several government or semi government setup which extends support to the sports bodies.For example in UK there is UK sports, in Australia, there is Australian Sports Commission, Australian Institute of Sports of body.

Similarly SAI was setup in eighties, to for similar purposes. The uniqueness of SAI is that it is an all-encompassing body. At the apex level it has interface with the National Sports Federations and it extends all types of support for training and development of the National Sportsmen to represent the country in the international tournaments. In our technical terms we call it as an annual calendar of training and competition. And invest about 200 crores per annum on this.

At the next level, we implement a large number of tailor-made schemes for spotting and developing talent.This is another core function of the SAI. For this we have around 250 centres across the country, and by variety of tests you scout and identify the talent.

There are battery of tests, which help us to judge the power, stamina, strength, physical capacity. Then we look at their performance record, and the capacity to perform in organised competitions at school level, district level and state level. So through a mix of these we take them. But in remote tribal areas, where people never had opportunity to participate in organised competition, we test them only on the first parameter. If there is a natural talent, we try to see to which modern sport is can be linked to and developed. This way we have a range of techniques to identify talent. We have about 100 residential schools and sports hostels, with around 10000 kids, for developing talent. In these facilities we prepare feeder grade for the national competitions. So they will come out as sub-juniors, juniors, seniors etc.

Then SAI functions in the coaching development system where we have institutions like National Institute of Sports, Patilala, where coaches are trained. We also have physical education systemand award BPEd and MPEd degrees.

Event management is another function of SAI being the technical arm of the GoI. So we host major events, competitions at our venues.

The last role of SAI is community connect. There are facilities where school children can play and enjoy by paying nominal fee and get coaching too.

SAI thus, has a broad mandate and such kind of body does not exist elsewhere. In most countries there are specialised bodies but not as SAI.

CSR VISION: How do we see this broad role of SAI in terms of benefit, strengthor weakness?
Essentially this is strength as there is lot of convergence and cross-cutting relationship among these. But if SAI becomes a big monolithic organisation and develops bureaucratic processes, it will be weakness. But that all depends on what kind of work culture we pursue. Strategically this is a strength. Till now I have not seen any structural issue in this.
CSR VISION: India has huge population but, winners are few. What are the challenges that SAI faces in generating awareness for sports?
Sometimes we make wrong comparisons comparing population with numbers of medals achieved. There is no correlation between the two.The real comparison has to be done for athlete population vs. number of medals. India today has around 5000 athletes in all categories put together. While in Cuba, which is of the size of Delhi, has 25000 athletes. This is because sports is the way of life in Cuba. Sports is one of the major ingredients of nation building in Cuba. It is very sports centric society.

But in our country sports is marginalised and is not even in the side-lines; forget being the way of life. This is a pity that we do not recognise the importance of sports. Sports contributes to many traits. It is a powerful tool for education, leadership, youth development, maintaining peace. So it’s just the way you look at it. When one plays, sports he is physically fit, healthy, disciplined, team spirited, has capacity to digest failures, has hunger for victory, develops sense of belongingness and promotes national pride. Everything can be achieved through this one activity. It is cross cutting activity. So it should be a mainstream part of curriculum on par with academic subjects and not an extracurricular subject.It is a misfortune that the subject that makes you physically and mentally strong is extracurricular. Rather it should play catalytic role.

There are many empirical evidences in UK and Australia, where they have focussed on school sports for youth development, community development and character building. But we are not faring well as we are poor on community sport. Participatory sport is minimal. School sport is non-existing as it has been made extracurricular and parents thing it to be digression and waste of time.

This is resulting in poor competition structure. When we don’t have a strong competition structure at school, the level at which you imbibe sport, how can one excel at higher levels. This is the age when the capacities can be honed but you close it out. India thus, does not have sport culture at school, college and at university level.

Another issue is that whoever is coming to sport today are largely from rural background. They see it as a means to get employment in government organisations like Railways. Most of the sportsperson come from poor family in rural India.

But, it should change and become broader. Everyone should be encouraged to join sports in school, college, university. This will give strong foundation to sport of country. Without strong foundation, there can be no peak. These are systemic issues and the entire ecosystem has to be corrected.

CSR VISION: What are the policy initiatives by SAI for promoting sports? 
SAI through the ministry in the Central Advisory Board of Education pushed the agenda of sport as an integral part of school curriculum. We had limited success in terms of

a) CBSE has integrated sports and physical education in the school curriculum, and 
b) In RTE, it is mandatory to have a physical instructor and access to playground.

But this needs to be further absorbed to make it way of life and many campaigns are needed.
CSR VISION: What is the action plan for engaging stakeholders?
The Stakeholders for sports include federations, associations, state governments and their bodies/offices, players, government, society and media. All have to work in a constructive way. We can have divergent views, but there has to agreement on common purpose.
They can engage at 5 levels.
  1. Participation in sports for health and fitness. 
  2. School sports for education, for talent identification and grassroot development for amateur competitive sports
  3. Senior level amateur competitive sport. This is currently being governed by federations. 
  4. Professional leagues like Kabaddi
  5. Complete commercialization of sports.

Like WWE which are more of entertainment including IPL. It is just like any other business and is out of context talk.Professional leagues in India are half business. By them we can give financial security to our players. For example these days only cricketers get money, but others are in pathetic situations. Gradually we are working on it. Recently, SAI has undertaken a MoU with All India Football Association and is working in a collaborative and constructive way. They are helping us to improve our coaching programs, to integrate their certification with our coaching program and talent identification so that we take better students in our hostels. In competition structure, we are trying to have more age group completion structure. It is a good example that can be emulated.

CSR VISION: How about other federations. Are they not willing to coordinate with SAI?
The push should have to be from both sides. This is not one way traffic. I am happy that after football, several others have approached us for similar relationship. Once this happens, there will be better synergy and it will benefit sports.
CSR VISION: This kind of paradigm shift is recent. Any reasons for this?
For everything there is a time. I believe time today is ripe to build upon or else we miss the bus. Things are changing, people are investing, and State governments have pulled up. We should take advantage of it.But the most crucial seeding of sports is school. You can make sports the tool for the empowerment of children.
Everyone must play. It should be inclusive; abled and differently abled both must play.
ISHRINIVAS1CSR VISION: What more can be done to improve the performance of players?
For players to perform, the whole ecosystem has to change. Things have to be looked in holistic manner e.g. the type of nutrition they get, sport science support they need, type of infrastructure and equipment needed has to be on par with best international standards. I think in terms of inherent potential, they have demonstrated their potential.

But, situation today is such that there needs to be a facilitator who has important role. In big countries, huge amount is invested in facilitatorto make a sportsman performing. It is generally assumed that 95% effort is done by athlete and the balance 5% is what is given through these inputs sport science and other. E.g. Badminton in India is an eye opener and can be replicated in other sports. For that an ecosystem has to be created.

CSR VISION: How can SAI build a Sporting Culture among Indian youth?
SAI cannot reach each and everyone in the country, it has limitations. But it can create awareness. It does it by networking with state governments and its sports bodies/directorate. But, we need more interaction through workshops, seminars and more acceptanceshave to be build. Our efforts are just one-tenth as of now and I am open to any suggestion to increase it.
CSR VISION: Do you have any plan to engage with companies under CSR? If so, what are they?
My view of CSR is investment and I want investment and partnership; not donation or contribution. Be a partner and reap the benefit. Companies will gain a lot by this investment. TATA Football Academy and Archery Academy is an example. They have not commercially exploited sports but have invested as a human development activity. It is an example. What can be better to empower under privilege children.

There is enormous potential in new CSR law. We will have to make products which will be attractive to the corporate who are willing to invest.

For this SAI offers a huge opportunity to companies. We have 250 centres. Companies can adopt any one of them and we will add the company’s name to it. Let companies put management expertise and SAI will put its technical expertise and lets work together for betterment. This will give them visibility and concrete ground activity. Coal India has already partnered with us in supporting Football and Table Tennis. Few other PSUs are in line. We also welcome private players.

CSR VISION:  It is alleged that politics in Federations is harm to the game. How will that be addressed?
There are many reforms happening in management of federations and I think they are moving in right direction. Barring few exceptions, federations are restructuring to professional mode. The same thing should percolate to state associations.
CSR VISION: What is your plan to engage with Schools in sports promotion?
We are working on a plan, not directly connected to schools, but on accreditation of institutions and federations and linking it to the government funding. Based on the rank, funding will be done. This is indirect reform, but this requires trust and cooperation of federations and institutions. Otherwise it will be a paper exercise. For this home work is already done, only government approval and other formalities are pending.
13. Any other information you would like to share with our readers.
The real challenge lies in talent scouting and up scaling the efforts. E.g. for each position of Football, there has to be at least 20 contestants of the same calibre. There is huge pool of talent in country that we can become world beaters; we have raw material. This has been vetted by foreign coaches and experts.
Only effort needed is that it has to be nurtured and polished. Today, 99% federations have no financial strength and government cannot fulfil their requirement. Here industrycan come forth. They will get exponential return for this investment. Only thing needed is trust. This is an ocean of opportunities for them. 

About the author

CSR VISION is India's (probably World's) first monthly magazine in print devoted to CSR and Sustainable Development for bringing together all stakeholders of SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT at a global and local levels and act as a platform for promoting strategic CSR and sustainable development practices through dissemination of information and knowledge.