Like every other sector of the economy, sports is also likely to be adversely impacted in the short term. At International and National level, there will be an impact on Broadcasting, Sponsorships, and Match Ticketing which are the three main revenues for sports. Out of these, sponsorships and match day ticketing will be directly impacted. Broadcasting may recoup some of the losses if games restart in empty stadiums.
Amateur outdoor sports are also likely to see a dip as long as social distancing norms are advised.
Meanwhile, Sports has been one of the key components for outreach and re-engagement with the Kashmiri youth for governments. A reduction in sporting events will have an adverse impact. In the meantime, government needs to transcend cultural differences and bring people together.
Sports is the only platform which is conflict neutral, religion neutral, reflects the idea of co-existence and diversity of all the two newly created Union Territories, J&K and Ladakh.
Absence of sports activity at ground zero in these two newly created Union Territories diminished the expectations amongst the youth with regard to sports who some years ago had started dreaming of their careers in the field of Sports.
Youth across the two newly created Union Territories especially in Kashmir region enthusiastically used to participate in sports activities in various sports disciplines in past, but from past more than a year, the number of youth participation has decreased. As everyone is aware that children below 18 age are much more prone to radicalised activities which can further the radicalised mindset of the Youth- Sporting activities at ground zero could help in countering such activities at the first.
It is only recorded on files and documents that large number of youth at a fake estimate of 1, 20,000 are associated with the sports, but the reality is something different that not more than 20,000 have been benefitted from last one and a half year with strong impetus of zero activities especially in last nine months.
J&K State Sports Council actively engaged youth only in September 2016 in multi disciplinary sports activities ranging from organizing coaching camps in 18 districts of the state, followed by largest Sports Carnival- first of its kind through implementation of Khelo India Scheme at village and Block levels in 16 districts of the state. Youth have participated in 88 blocks of the state at that time.
The enthusiasm and excitement that was created at that time amongst youth mainly in the age group of under 17 & under 14 Boys and girls is being understood as a medium of expression of youth energies of otherwise anarchic young generation that has fallen a victim to long turbulent turmoil in the valley.
But unfortunately from August 2018, J&K State Sports Council has failed to understand the concern of taking this youth Sports Engagement programme in continuity without break to sustain the effort for bringing a Paradigm intellectual shift in the targeted derailed youth generation.
The recent sports activities at Gulmarg raised questions from several quarters due to corona virus threat. When advisory for huge gatherings was already issued, why the event was still held? Was it because of pressure from influential event managers for sake of the money that was given to them by risking lives of people. Meanwhile, lot of young entrepreneurs also raised questions on awarding of contract without following due process of tendering. The Secretary Sports Council later came up with the statement on allegations.
It is apt to mention here that Sports Council never attempted to plan Programmes that shall be mainly designed for youth population who don’t have a right to vote. This perceptive part of population is not directly involved in political process but have had been used by anti social and opportune elements to derail certain processes.
Failed events, spending huge amount of money crossing 30 lakh rupees on events that eventually get failed and futile enquiry is ordered, release of money to blue eyed Sports associations, preferring collaborative events with private schools rather than government schools, utilizing funds on personal laptops, gadgets and other personal stuff, extra fuel bills for official vehicles- everything is being done that suits the persona of officials at Sports Council, but the bigger question of Youth Engagement into Sports remains the same.
There is a saying that If we could untie our wings and free our soul of jealousy and hatred, we and everyone around us would fly up like doves. Diplomacy in sports is important but should remain limited only to transcend cultural differences and bring people together, not to hurl invectives within chairs no matter who is what! The contractual employees of Sports Council are without salaries from past more than 10 months without any genuine reason. And these are those employees who are working hard day in and day out to keep the online/virtual things alive. More than 150 youngsters who were trained at National Institute of Sports, Partials under Prime Ministers special package were engaged as community coaches who used to train youngsters at village levels. Their existence proved fruitful. They used to work on a mere salary of Rs 5000/month. Now from past more than one and a half year they find themselves nowhere. Neither their salaries have been released since then nor their services are being utilized.
Despite assurances from former advisor to Governor Vijay Kumar, their case was taken up and processed in a file. After that no one knows the fate of that file when report was sought from council authorities on that matter. The present advisor to LG, Farooq Khan who holds the sports portfolio was keen to solve the issue of more than 150 community coaches, but one could act only when anything is being placed before. Neither their file nor any report is being produced before advisor for rehearsal of their grievances and utilization of their services for larger reach out of sports promotion.
Our activities should have had the intention to bring about change in certain cases. Yelling fervour sometimes remains linked to victories or losses and will never benefit anyone at end.
Amid corona virus, sports in India including in our Union Territory is locked. Outdoor sports can’t be an option. But Indoor sports can be an option. Sports Council could have started with individual games like badminton, table tennis and other individual games.
They could have warmed up their coaches for preparing of online videos which could train and help youngsters to stream in. Instead they came up with videos showing champions practicing at home. One fails to understand that sportspersons and youngsters need proper guidance and trainings through online by coaches.
Let us wish for sane conversations and be courteous first to own chairs and then to outsiders.
Sportspersons of J&K were not given the status they deserved except in the year 2016 when some of the star players were given employment to influence budding sportspersons they had on their performance. But questioning on their employment is itself a big mark on the claims of ‘Making JK a Sports arena’.
I consider them as ambassadors of harmony and peace. Giving them recognition and encouraging them will inspire their sportsmanship and they brought laurels to the State.
Conversely, the constructive engagement in Sports and Sports related activities with continued vigour and vibrancy is the need of the hour. Enquiry into financial corruption including tendering process of events, outcome of enquiries, and wrongly audited accounts, favouritism in financial aid to blue eyed Sports associations need to be enquired and corrupt officials behind the screen shall be brought to book.