Pro Kabaddi League: Why JSW Sports turned down an opportunity to own a team in 2014
JSW Sports' CEO Mustafa Ghouse on owning a kabaddi team and Haryana Steelers' strategy going into the Pro Kabaddi League auctions.
The 2017 season of the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) will see four new franchises — including a JSW Sports-owned team, Haryana Steelers — take the kabaddi mat.
However, it has now been revealed that the steel giants could have owned a team in PKL during the inception of the kabaddi league itself. According to Mustafa Ghouse, CEO of JSW Sports, they were approached by the PKL organisers before the league started to discuss the possibility of owning a team. However, they turned the opportunity down.
“Back when the Pro Kabaddi League started, we were approached to buy a franchise but we passed on the opportunity as Bengaluru FC had just started and we were pretty new in the business and we didn’t have the bandwidth to tackle both sports and leagues at the same time. We would not have been able to manage both at the same time,” Ghouse told Firstpost.
The first season of the PKL started in July 2014 while Bengaluru FC had come into existence just the previous year.
Asked if the decision was also partly due to apprehensions over the financial feasibility of the league, Ghouse said: “It wasn’t a decision which was financial. It was just about our ability to execute a team the way we would have wanted. But now when the opportunity to own a franchise came up again, we were very keen to explore that. I don’t think anyone at that stage envisioned the PKL to grow the way it has, including Charu (Sharma, the brain behind the PKL).
“Haryana is a hotbed for the sport as it is. But now it is up to us to use our experience and intent to try and grow the sport even more in the state,” he added.
Besides the kabaddi franchise and the football team, JSW also own Bengaluru Yodhas, a wrestling team which participated in the Pro Wrestling League. They are also in talks to own a team in the Hockey India League.
But at the moment, Ghouse and his team are focused on the upcoming PKL elections on Monday.
“We would be looking to strike a balance between youth and experience at the auctions. We have not had as much time to study the players as we would like. We’re going to do a lot of homework over the next day and a half. We’re happy our coach, Ranbir Singh Khokkhar, has a lot of experience and knows the landscape well. Hopefully, his judgment and experience will be beneficial for us.”
Ghouse pointed out that not just the auctions, the Haryana franchise would be playing catch-up when the next edition of the league starts too in July.
“We have interacted with a lot of the existing teams to get some intel. There are a lot of experienced individuals and teams already associated with the league, so we have to do a bit of catch up,” he added.
But as JSW showed with Bengaluru FC, who won the I-League in their first season shrugging off challenges from experienced teams, playing catch-up is right up their alley.
The Bangalore franchise have been pioneers in the Indian footballing scenario, having come into the I-League with a blueprint where every little detail was planned as meticulously as an international club.
Reaping the rewards of that attention to detail and professionalism, the Bangalore-based franchise went on to claim the Federation Cup in the next season itself before reclaiming the I-League title the following year. Their third season was also remarkable for they became the first team from India to make it to the final of the AFC Cup.
It remains to be seen if they can put in the same amount of attention to detail to kabaddi.
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