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The Centre is Urged to Elevate the Status of Sport

The Confederation of Sports and Recreation Industry (CSRI), India’s apex body and voice of the sports and recreation sectors, has urged the Central Government to elevate the status of sport by declaring it an industry.

“Sport is not just a physical activity but it is a full-fledged sector. India is a sports loving country, and sport has the power to glue the nation on TV,” says Rajpal Singh, Director General of CSRI. According to the organisation, India should make the most of its excellent performance at the Tokyo Olympics and the recognition of sports as an industry will bring more success and will help the country to develop into a genuine sporting nation.

A Huge Gap Still Separates India from Successful Sporting Nations

“For the last few years, Pro Kabaddi and Indian Super League have started capturing sizeable audience, thereby increasing players’ salary and economic opportunities beyond cricket,” says Singh. Nevertheless, there still exists a huge gap separating India from the other successful sporting nations.

“The market size of the Indian sports industry was about Rs 80 billion as compared to Rs 4800 billion of the USA in 2018. In terms of major sports icons, they are largely from one sport, whereas in the USA heroes come from multiple sports,” highlights Singh.

The Country Needs a Fundamental Shift in Policy

According to Rajpal Singh, a fundamental shift in the country’s policy towards sport is needed in order to allow further economic development and creation of talent. “India needs to increase its market size of sports, create talent development mechanisms and develop an environment to attract investment. It is imperative that the government should declare and recognise this sector as an industry.”

The paper by CSRI highlights several areas where new policymaking could greatly benefit the sector. These include granting sport projects eligibility to get bank loans and seed capital, lowering GST and import duties for sports equipment that India does not produce, introducing Sport Facility Design as a schooling subject, recognising and legalising betting on sports, and establishing a national sports lottery.

Sports Betting

A recently published Esse N Videri study titled “Sports Betting, India’s Favorite Invisible Giant” writes, “Betting on competitive sports in India is notoriously illegal, with few notable exceptions. Nevertheless, the practice is immensely popular and commands a huge market, both offline and online. Assessing its size and penetration is challenging, namely because of missing regulatory standards and government recognition.”

The paper quotes different estimates on the size of the Indian offline and online betting market starting from ₹3 lakh crore (roughly $40Bn) according to the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), going through ₹6 lakh crore ($80Bn) as per the Justice Lodha Committee report, and reaching ₹10 lakh crore ($130Bn) according to Doha-based think tank Centre for Sports Security.

Offline and online cricket betting, or cricket satta, is estimated to take 80 percent of the overall size of India’s betting market. Estimates by the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) from 2017 show that India is losing roughly ₹2 lakh crore ($26Bn) every year due to black-market betting on cricket. Such vast amounts of money can make a big difference if used for the development of sporting India or other purposes beneficial to society.

“If gambling is legalised, that mountain of dirty money would stop going to the criminals and could be collected as tax. The government currently loses out lakhs of crores of rupees annually due to the illegal gambling black-market. That money can be spent cracking down on other forms of crimes that are more harmful to society,” says Jay Bhardwaj, a senior Supreme Court lawyer.

“And world over, sports and infrastructure are funded through the national lottery. We need to recognize and regulate sports betting,” stresses the Director General of CSRI.

Tax and Duty Levy

Sports equipment should not be treated as luxury products in terms of applying import duties and GST, says Rajpal Singh, who is also VP of India’s Rowing Federation, and gives the example of rowing boats and luxury yachts which fall in one and the same bracket.

“And when you add 28 percent GST, it becomes two or three and half times the actual cost of a boat. This is why, except for the Army and some rich clubs, many state associations don’t have boats,” he explains. #livehyd #hydnews 

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