Saturday, June 26, 2010

Delhi Commonwealth Games to power sports management

It’s less than a 100-day sprint to the Commonwealth Games 2010, and the charged atmosphere at the plush office of the Games Organising Committee near New Delhi’s iconic Jantar Mantar is palpable.

An army of young, enthusiastic Indian graduates, some MBAs, some just plain university grads, some with experience in sports management and many with a passion for sports, are brushing shoulders with around 70 foreign experts in what’s perhaps the biggest team event of the Games.

For the last two years, many of these young men and women have been pouring in on power point presentations, charts, diagrams and designs to create the backbone of the Commonwealth Games. If the Games go through well, they know, India will get to host more such big sporting events and sports managers will be in vogue.

The prospects are huge. Apart from the Commonwealth Games, there are a number of other sports properties which are planned in India in the near future. Up next is the ICC World Cup cricket next year, the Formula One, the Chennai Open and Sunfeast Open tennis tournaments and a few golf tournaments.

Needless to say, managing logistics, marketing, catering, ceremonies, crowd, ticketing, media, among others, will be big challenges in the future and like everywhere else in the world, young professionals with the right skillsets will get to play their part.

Consider the Indian Premier League for instance. Even those with grudges against Lalit Modi will admit that holding such an extravaganza wasn’t child’s play. Indeed, Mr Modi’s IPL had to look outside India, and finally hired IMG, to manage the show. Even team owners have had their share of problems finding the right sports managers. They have either hired former sportsmen or deputed senior executives of group companies to run the show.

“It is not necessary that these people will become good sports managers. Most do not have the kind of exposure we are looking for. But then, where are the specialists?” says Rakesh Singh, head-marketing at India Cements, which owns the Chennai Super Kings IPL team.

India Cements is in the process of creating a professional organisation around IPL, which will have 12 different verticals including commercials, sponsorship selling, logistics, player management, new player development and merchandising among others. For these verticals, they are looking for trained manpower. “We may get skilled manpower after the games,” he agrees.

For the sports professionals, however, the prospects are global. Rajan Kumar (name changed on request), an MBA, who works with the transport vertical within the OC says he has already applied to work with the London Olympic Games. “I am also about to begin approaching sports marketing firms for a job,” he says.

Mr Kumar has been at the OC for a year and a half now and says he has been trained about pitching, sourcing, planning, operations, execution, problem solving, crisis management during his stint here. “We look at minute details of sporting events, which is rare in this country.” The OC has hired 70 international experts who are working as consultants. The next big sporting event in India should see just one-tenth of this number of experts, says the official. Even other Asian nations organising big sporting events will want to use this talent as these Indian experts will definitely be less expensive than their western counterparts. The OC is spending close to Rs 100 crore a year on these 70 international experts.

To solve the problem, institutes like the International Institute of Sports Management (IISM) are being set up to train future sports marketing and management professionals. The Mumbai-based institute will run the programme in association with Jai Hind College and has experts like Ravi Shastri, Mahesh Bhupati and many others from the industry on its advisory board.

The Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad too is introducing a course on Professional Management of Sports Organisation (PMSO) this year. “With the Commonwealth Games in Delhi this year and the popularity of Indian Premier League (IPL), sports management is emerging as a new field,” says IIM-A director Samir Barua.

Ex-cricketer Nilesh Kulkarni, who is a director at Eduhub Education which runs IISM says there is a huge demand for talent from the sports industry. “There is not enough training available for sports marketing in India. Most people learn on the job,” he says. The institute has training tie-ups with large sports marketing and management firms such as Globosport, Procam International, PMG and Percept D’Mark.

Mr Kulkarni points out that while some of the larger firms have got the talent, tier-II and tier-III companies have a huge shortage of talent. “India has had many single sport events, which are large but are very specific but has not had much exposure to the complexity of multi-sports events,” says Harish Krishnamachari, vice-president of sports marketing firm World Sports Group. With the games in Delhi he feels the country will get talent in the event execution space for sure but not so much in the event sponsorship space. Over the years WSG has built up people from scratch, training them in-house. “I would certainly like to see this new trained lot,” he says.

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