Increasing corporate and celebrities backing earns the sport a cool tag and Pro Kabaddi League players fetch higher bids than ever
When Asian Games gold medallist Rakesh Kumar got the highest bid of Rs 12.80 lakh for the first season of Pro Kabbadi league (PKL) in 2014, he couldn't believe his fortune. Kabaddi, mostly perceived as a rural India game, was never known to pay that high.
Three years later, not only has the perception around the game changed, but the player spends are getting higher too.
With the sixth edition of Pro Kabaddi League auction concluding in Mumbai last week, Haryana's Monu Goyat has become the costliest non-cricketing sportsperson in India. The Haryana Steelers' Rs 1.51 crore-bid that Goyat commanded, places him ahead of even Indian football team captain Sunil Chhetri. Last season, UP Yodhha bagged Nitin Tomar for a record bid of Rs 93 lakh.
Such bids are a testament to the upward trend in Kabbadi's popularity. It’s not just that the highest bid that went up by 60 percent at Rs 45.93 crore, six players hit the Rs 1-crore mark in the auction that saw 422 kabaddi players go under the hammer.
Other star players in the Rs 1-crore club include Rahul Chaudhari, who was retained by Telugu Titans for Rs 1.29 crore; Deepak Niwas Hooda who was bought by Jaipur Pink Panthers for Rs 1.15 crore; and Nitin Tomar who was bought by Puneri Paltan for Rs 1.15 crore.“We have come a long way in terms of changing people’s perception around the sport. People actually thought that kabaddi is a game for rural Indians where rough and tough pahalwans play it wearing langots. But with corporates and celebrities endorsing the league now it’s a popular sport . Kabaddi has acquired the ‘cool’ tag now,” said Sunil Taneja, sports commentator, who has been associated with Pro Kabaddi League since inception.
Pro Kabaddi League’s Rs 1-cr club
|Monu Goyat||Haryana Steelers||Rs 1.51 crore|
|Rahul Chaudhari||Telugu Titans||Rs 1.29 crore|
|Deepak Niwas Hooda||Jaipur Pink Panthers||Rs 1.15 crore|
|Nitin Tomar||Puneri Paltan||Rs 1.15 crore|
While the league is in its six season, the actual growth took off last year with addition of four new teams (Haryana, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh) and more corporates in the list of endorsers. The involvement of Adani Group, GMR Group, JSW Sport,IQuest Enterprises and cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar with the league last season gave PKL a new energy, and VIVO's association too helped.
The Chinese handsetmaker teamed up with PKL as its title sponsor in a five-year deal pegged at Rs 300 crore, making it one of the biggest sporting deals in a non-cricketing event.“With the addition of a score of talented individuals, Season VI of VIVO Pro Kabaddi League has now begun. Franchises prepared strategic plans, and were seen bidding fiercely over two days. Every squad now has an excellent amalgamation of domestic, overseas and some talented young players,” said Anupam Goswami, League Commissioner, VIVO Pro Kabaddi League.