In line with the rising number of medals its sportsmen and women are winning in international championships, India is also experiencing an increase in investments in sports, according to available data.
This increase in funding has led to an overall improvement in the country's sports infrastructure, experts said.
India won a total of 61 medals in the 2022 Commonwealth Games that drew to a close last week. Although this is slightly lower than the 2018 tally, it remains impressive, as shooting—which has been the country’s most successful sport historically in the Commonwealth Games—was absent in this year’s edition.
The 2010 Commonwealth Games that India hosted saw the country winning 101 medals, the maximum it has won so far. Although it hasn't been able to reach that figure since, throughout the last few years, India’s performance has been improving steadily.
This stands true for other tournaments as well. India’s medal tally in the Olympics has gradually moved up from just one in the 2000 Games in Sydney to seven in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
“India’s performance in international tournaments have definitely improved. Winning international medals used to be more like a dream before this millennium. But medals in world tournaments aren’t such a distant dream for Indian players today,” said Charles Borromeo, a former track and field athlete who won a gold in the 1982 Asian Games and represented India in the 1984 Summer Olympics.
Increase in government funding
Government spending on sports has been rising over several years. Expenditure on the Department of Sports under the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has increased from Rs 657 crore in 2011-12 to around Rs 1,749 crore in 2021-22. According to budget estimates, this has gone up further to Rs 2,123 crore in 2022-23.
In fact, this year’s budget has seen the overall allocation for the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports reaching an all-time high of Rs 3,062.60 crore. However, the share of the ministry in the government's overall expenditure hasn't seen much of an improvement. It was approximately 0.07 percent in 2011-12, and 11 years later, it stands at just 0.08 percent.
“The Khelo India scheme by the Central government has had a high impact in promoting sports as it provided financial support and helped spot talent through national-level scouting,” said Borromeo.
As a part of the Khelo India scheme, young talent identified across the country by scouts are provided financial assistance of Rs 5 lakh per annum for 8 years. According to government data, 2,590 players have been identified across the country under the scheme till June 2022.
“Increased funding has allowed us to conduct more grassroots-level tournaments and give more opportunities to local talent. We are holding proper competitions in all districts in the country now,” said VN Prasood, Secretary General of the Wrestling Federation of India.
Slow growth in corporate funding
Despite a dip during the pandemic year, funding by India Inc for the promotion of sports in the country through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) schemes has seen a gradual rise. But it still remains miniscule compared to the overall CSR spending.
According to the National CSR Portal run by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, out of the Rs 24,864.11 crore spent on CSR in 2020-21—the latest official data available—sports accounted for just Rs 240.9 crore.
“Corporate spending on promoting sports in India has been largely negligible when compared to government funding. Most funds for promotion of sports and sponsorships goes either just to cricket or the more coveted formats like leagues, benefiting very few,” said Mayank Pande, a member of the sports committee of the Federation of India Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).
Reliance Industries, Kotak Mahindra Bank and Tata Steel were the biggest CSR spenders on sports in Indian in FY21.
“Government programs like Khelo India and state and district level programmes have been much more visible on the ground than corporate-funded programmes. Only a few companies such as Reliance, Tata and JSW, along with public sector companies like GAIL, can be seen in the grassroots level so far,” said Borromeo.
Reliance Foundation Youth Sports works with 5,500 educational institutes across India to develop and promote sports. The high-performance centre that Reliance set up in partnership with the government of Odisha has produced several international level athletes like women’s hurdler Jyothi Yarraji, who represented India in the Commonwealth Games.
Contributions from the JSW Group also stand distinct from the rest of the corporate sector when it comes to promoting sports. Neeraj Chopra, who won gold for the javelin throw in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and silver in the World Athletics Championship this year, is a beneficiary of the Sports Excellence Program (SEP) run by JSW Sports.
Athletes supported by SEP have so far won an Olympic medal, three world championships, five medals at the Asian Games, and 17 medals at the Commonwealth Games.