Extensive changes proposed in University-level sports

The eight-member committee, appointed by the Union Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs in March this year and headed by Olympian Labh Singh, has recommended wholesale changes in the conduct of sports and games at the University-level.

Entrusted to prepare a Comprehensive National University Sports Tournament and Development Framework, the committee in its report submitted earlier this month has among other things mooted the constitution of University Sports Federation of India, a thorough overhaul of the competition system, a pruning in the number of disciplines in the all-India Universities calendar, introduction of special league tournaments, enhanced honours, cash awards, scholarships and grace marks, digitisation of the sports data repository and the development of LNIPE, Gwalior as a mother institute for university sports.

The 68-page report, prepared after two workshops in Gwalior (on May 8 and 9) and Bengaluru (July 6 and 7) and extensive meetings with all stake-holders and accessed by The Hindu, has quite rightly pointed out the flaws at various levels in the current system, while pointing out the necessity to close the critical gaps that exists in the University sports system today so as to bring it back into the National mainstream.

Terming the present system in a state of total mess and even far behind than the existing National sports scene, the committee notably points out that the nation must realise that university students across the world, since the 1990s, have been consistently increasing the share of medals won through each passing Olympics.

India’s quest for a fair share of medals, therefore, can be achieved only with efforts to effectively tap the talent from among the 3.5 crore student community which as of now rests idle, in over 800 universities across the country.

Making a case for an increased investments in sports, the report says that the country should resort to smarter and more innovative strategies where, inter alia, it can use the massive human resources at its disposal and improved technology.

“We have achieved much in cricket and surely, it is replicable in other sports disciplines too. Spreading sports consciousness and keeping Olympism constantly in the public eye should thereby be our mantra from now on.”

Expressing its dismay over the manner in which sports management is conducted currently by the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) and left it to a one-man army (an officer of the Joint Secretary rank) and two clerks as one small part of 15 departments, required to conduct 57 tournaments without getting a penny from the parent body by itself should portray the need for an immediate total revamp.

It is against this background that the committee appears to have arrived at a decision to recommend the creation of a University Sports Federation as a long-term measure and the immediate appointment of a National university sports steering committee until measures are taken for the constitution of the recommended federation.

Likewise, the report says that the increased number of disciplines in which competitions are conducted at the University level currently has only left the system completely overloaded.

This number can be effectively pruned from 57 to 44 with focus on the Olympic Games, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games besides those with enormous popularity.

To realise the dream of more Olympic medals, the committee has also recommended that nine disciplines — athletics, archery, badminton, boxing, hockey, shooting, tennis, weightlifting and wrestling — should be treated as high priority.

As against the present practice of having tournaments across four zones and at the all-India level, the committee says the proliferation in number of universities in the country over the years justified the need to increase the zonal tournaments to eight.

Besides, to capitalise on the glamour element in sports, it would also be ideal if special league tournaments are conducted in the high priority disciplines and selected sports.

The committee has also called for the immediate implementation of the National University Games under the ‘Khelo India’ project of the Union Sports Ministry, by introducing professionalism and commercialisation with a view to raise the standard of domestic competition.

In addition, the committee has also recommended increased cash awards between the scale of ₹30 lakh to ₹5,000 across various levels while stating that the awarding of the Maulana Abdul Kalam Trophy should henceforth be restricted to international competitions after getting more views on this from an expert group.

The committee, also comprising Sagar Preet Hooda, Y. Kishore, Anil Kalkal, T. I. Manoj, Iqtidar Mohammed Khan, R.K. Sharma, Kalpana Deb besides the chairman, also has touched upon various other aspects relating to University-level sports including admissions under the sports quota, winter sports, inclusion of Paralympic events in inter-University tournaments, awarding of grace marks besides exploring the possibility of conducting a National Sports Lottery to ensure a steady inflow of the required funds.