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Create commercially viable infrastructure

There is a need to involve the private sector in creating facilities that are sustainable and can serve communities as well.

Guru Malladi | Print Edition: April 18, 2010

Critical to the successful development of sports is the need to have world-class infrastructure. While the government, through its agencies has made investments, there is a need to involve the private sector in creating facilities that are sustainable and can serve communities as well as elite sportspersons. There is no doubt that public-private partnerships are the way forward in developing sports infrastructure around the country. But such partnerships are not an end in themselves, just the means to achieve the objective of developing commercially sustainable infrastructure. The government needs to sweeten such transactions through policy interventions such as according infrastructure industry status to sports projects for access to long-term funds, and clubbing commercial exploitation and alteration of land use to make these projects viable.

There are several examples of innovative partnership models from around the world. The Dubai Sports City, a mega project in Dubai that called for an estimated investment of over $4 billion, is a classic example of how commercial and residential development has been planned around sports facilities. Sports cities provide private developers opportunities for commercial exploitation on a larger scale. There are similar successes with standalone stadia and sporting arenas such as the New York Yankees Stadium, where half of the $1.6-billion investment has been contributed by taxpayers.

Even in India, SE TransStadia has entered into an agreement with the government of Gujarat to build a multipurpose stadium that will have an integrated complex built at an investment of Rs 400 crore. It will have a state-of-the-art football stadium with retractable seating to convert into indoor facilities for sports like basketball and volleyball. It will also have ample space for commercial areas in the form of a large underground parking, a hotel, restaurants and shopping areas.

Indian sports today promises tremendous opportunity—provided it's nurtured. The role of the government, which till now has been shouldering the responsibility of Indian sports, along with the national federations, needs to be closely examined and consensus evolved at a policy level. Today, our approach to sport lacks a long term vision. As a result, even though the government has substantially increased the committed amount to sports (from Rs 1,145 crore in the previous five year plan to Rs 4,635 crore in 2007-12), there is little to show for it. The government needs to support elite sports development through a rigor of efficient planning and policy framework, financial support and, most importantly, seamless implementation to achieve greater success in sports.

Government policy must not only be focussed on developing elite sports but also sports at a community level. As a country, it is very important that sports comes into the mainstream and becomes more participative. Given that India will be home to approximately 510 million people in the age group of 15-35 years in 2016, according to Planning Commission estimates, the government should take policy decisions and implement programmes to encourage sports among the youth.

The government and the private sector have to work closely to create world-class, commercially viable infrastructure. Without access to such facilities, we will never be able to make sports part of our mainstream. Indeed, there is a cost of building these facilities, but the cost of not developing such infrastructure is higher.

— The writer is Partner, Ernst & Young

(Views expressed are personal)

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