India has a rich history in sporting culture, from the wizard of Hockey, Dhyan Chand, who surprised the world by helping India with three consecutive Olympic Gold Medals, to Neeraj Chopra, who has recently made his county proud. This talent pool is more comprehensive than national players, as state-level players are equally talented. However, despite the potential and talent, the condition of sports in India is often hindered by a lack of infrastructure, resources, and opportunities. The government has taken several initiatives to promote sports. However, more is needed as the private sector’s role is equally crucial in realizing the potential of Indian sports. This is where Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) comes into the picture.
CSR refers to the responsibility of companies towards society and the environment. It is a way of ensuring sustainable development and contributing to the community’s welfare. In India, CSR activities are mandated by law, and the Schedule VII of the Companies Act, 2013, lists sports development as one of the permissible CSR activities. The idea is to encourage companies to invest in sports and physical education, thereby contributing to the country’s growth and development of sports.
Despite the ruling, corporate entities’ actual spending on sports development has been relatively low in the last few years. As per the Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler (KPMG) survey 2016, only a few of the top 100 listed companies spent their CSR amount on Schedule VII specified CSR activities like training to promote rural nationally recognized sports, Paralympics sports, and Olympic sports. This is a cause of concern as sports have the potential to contribute to economic and social growth, improve public health, and bring different communities together.
But some companies have taken up the mantle of promoting sports through their CSR activities. For instance, Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) has been focusing on traditional sports such as KhoKho, Kabaddi, cricket, volleyball, martial arts, and athletics. The company has supported coaching camps, provided sports accessories and nutritional supplements. It has helped athletes compete in district-level tournaments and promoted them for state and national-level tournaments. Similarly, (Oil and Natural Gas Corporation) ONGC has been contributing towards sports infrastructure development and the promotion of rural sports in 13 states in areas of its operations. Secure Electronic Transactions Consortium (SETCO) CSR Sports foundation has invested in developing grassroots sports and self-defense training. It focusing on increasing gender parity and building life skills among young boys and girls.
The impact of such CSR activities is visible, with many athletes benefiting from the training and exposure provided by these companies. For instance, 12 JSW Athletes, including Sakshi Malik, represented India in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Similarly, Hindustan Zinc Ltd’s National Residential Football Academy in Zawar aims to tap into the talent hidden in rural areas. And, provide them with the necessary training and infrastructure to excel in football.
The importance of CSR in the growth of sports in India cannot be overstated. With the private sector’s support, sports can be transformed into a powerful tool for economic and social development. This will help in improving public health and fostering community building. However, companies need to take a more proactive role in promoting sports and physical education to achieve this. The government can be supportive by creating an enabling environment, providing incentives, and facilitating collaborations between companies and sports organizations. With concerted efforts, India can realize its potential in sports and produce world-class athletes across disciplines.