In the build up to the upcoming 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) is striving towards ‘self-reliance.’ Crucial to that goal is the corporate partnership shooting’s governing body has entered with JSW.
The main benefit for the NRAI from the partnership is that the corporate giants will provide funding towards coaches’ salaries, psychologists, physiotherapists and all medical expenditure needed by the country’s shooters. “The government gives us a yearly sum of Rs 30 crore, but that has many restrictions on how we can spend it,” said Raninder Singh, NRAI president. “Unfortunately, the limitation of what we can pay top coaches is linked to what the Sports Authority of India permits. If I want to get a top class physiotherapist to go with our team to events, we can’t pay them more than a few thousand rupees because that is a government norm. This is where our interaction comes in, to bridge that gap.”
The move comes at a crucial juncture as the Indian contingent has been in transition with a host of junior talent coming through with the likes of Manu Bhaker, Anish Bhanwala and Saurabh Chaudhary claiming gold medals at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games earlier this year.
“At the recent World Championships in Changwon, 24 of the 27 medals we won came from shooters aged between 14 and 19. By merit, some of them were competing in the senior events,” Raninder said. “That means our growth forecast is very good, and that we are poised for Tokyo 2020 in a very substantial manner.”
He furthered credited the sudden rise of juniors to the fact that the former Indian shooters serve as coach of the youth squads. Based on that success, Raninder’s plan for the national federation to be ‘self-reliant’ includes not just a reduction in the use of government funds, but also reducing the need for foreign coaches. “I tried it with my juniors who all have Indian coaches and we are no 1 in the world,” he said. “We have taken the conscious decision to wean ourselves away from foreign coaches and develop our own talent and our own coaches for the future. After Tokyo, other than the odd one or two, there will be all Indian coaches.”
How corporate tie-ups can change the working of sports federations
Since most National Sports Federations (NSF) do not have any means to generate revenues by themselves, they largely depend on the grants received from the sports ministry and their respective international federations. A major chunk of their annual funding comes from the government. The tax-payer’s money isn’t just used to support training and competition expenses of athletes, but it’s also spent on the salaries of coaches, support staff and even the administrators. The government also is the main sponsor for the national and international tournaments conducted by the federations. However, the over-reliance on the sports ministry for funds often impacts athletes’ preparations. Because of the complex paper-work and bureaucratic process, several proposals get stuck in red-tape. There have been instances where coaches have complained about uncleared dues while athletes have had to consider alternate source of funding. The government also has put a cap on every expense. Corporate partnership means autonomy for sports federation.
At the moment, the NRAI has not consulted with the Indian shooters about the idea of reducing the number of foreign coaches available at the national camps. However, he’s left the option open for players to bring their own private coaches should they so desire.
The tie-up with JSW is expected to go on till the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. By the next two years though, the NRAI president has set a target. “While going from foreign coaches to Indian coaches, it is also my earnest desire to not be reliant on the Government of India for a single rupee. We must be a self-sustaining sport. Whatever it takes for us to get there, we’re very far from it. Therefore, we have to have strategic partnerships,” he concluded.