The start of July is the half-way mark of 2020, which has been an eye-opener more almost every one of us. The global crisis triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way the world runs. Of course, sport is a microcosm in that same universe which has taken a major blow. It was during mid-March when sporting action took a halt across the world and so in India. At a time we are seeing few of the tournaments – mainly European football leagues have seen resumption with games being played in empty stadiums, it yet seems a distant dream for India.
The slump in the Indian economy could completely change the game for India’s sports ecosystem. However, there’s no concrete answer to what lies in the future. To look at the bigger picture, while several sports might still see a new dawn, the future of other sports stare at uncertainties.
While Indian cricket saw the cancellation of multiple series which were planned, it would still sail with the revenue model favouring the lion’s share going to India, England and Australia. The cancellation of the IPL will cost the BCCI, the tournament’s broadcasters and the franchises at least Rs 3,000 crore
While the Indian Super League (ISL) final could be held in an empty stadium in Goa on March 14. The I-League season was halted on March 15. The season was eventually called off with 23 matches left and Mohun Bagan were crowned champions. Though Indian clubs have continued their inroads the transfer market during the lockdown, there’s no affirmative note on when the next season will be able to kickstart.
The FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, originally scheduled to be held in India in November 2020, has been postponed, which was supposed to fetch big revenues for the country.
The United States Tennis Association (USTA) announced that the 2020 US Open will be held from August 31 in New York. There are amendments aplenty, of course, like no spectators and a range of stringent restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But perhaps most controversial is the USTA’s decision to do away with qualifying rounds completely, thereby depriving lower ranked players a chance to fight for an entry in the main draw besides pocketing handsome prize money and valuable ranking points. The doubles draw has also been trimmed from 64 teams to 32, while mixed doubles axed. With events getting cancelled in tennis, there has been a concern that lower-ranked players who depend on competitions will be financially hit.
Other Olympic Sports
In Olympic sports, each international federation receives money from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) depending on their audience and size. With the postponement of the Olympics, the IOC is likely to freeze these payments. This, in turn, is set to affect the ecosystem of several sports in India.
While the Olympics still looks like impossible venture next year, track and field athletes will have a hectic time 2022, with three major tournaments lined up one after another. The World Athletics Championships will be on from July 15-24, by the Commonwealth Games (July 27-August 7) and the Asian Games from September 10. After no training for over two months owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, elite Indian athletes are struggling as they make efforts to get into shape again. Following all safety guidelines, training has already resumed at the National Institute of Sports (NIS) here, but since no sporting contest is likely in the near future, they are struggling to find motivation.
Uncertainty over Olympic qualification hangs upon Indian sportsperson. From archers to table tennis players and boxers, who all were waiting to improve their show and sail to the Olympics at the qualifiers, now remain unsure about the future prospects and staying in shape remains their sole focus.
Swimming is one of the sports that have been worst hit owing to the pandemic. The situation got worse this week with the Ministry of Home Affairs extending the lockdown on swimming pools until July 31. Having lost a chunk of their annual income with no summer camps this season, many swim centres are either paying partial salaries or have let go of their staff. With one-dimensional skill and the job market volatile, the coaches, who belong to an unorganised sector, are doing odd jobs to stay afloat. Swimming pools across the country remain closed due to the pandemic, leaving the likes of Virdhawal Khade, Srihari Nataraj and others in a fix. Six swimmers have attained the B qualification mark for Tokyo Olympics. Their goal of achieving the A mark keeps getting distant as swimming facilities stay inaccessible. The Swimming Federation of India is aware of the problem. Officials are trying to get swimmers back in pool for training, making requests to the government, but nothing has happened so far.
With six more months to go in this year, eyes will be on the top brass of federations to decide upon how to bring the sporting fervour back in the country with new amendments and regulations.