Pullela Gopichand wants a law to free sports from politicians, bureaucrats

He called upon the government and other stakeholders to streamline the processes so that athletes could just concentrate on training.


Published Feb 26, 2024 | 12:45 PMUpdatedFeb 26, 2024 | 12:45 PM

Pullela Gopichand. (X)

Legendary shuttler Pullela Gopichand was, on Sunday, 25 February, extremely critical of politicians and bureaucrats running sports administration in the country, saying that the government should bring a law to ensure only professionals and people who understand sports are at the helm of affairs.

Speaking during the News9 Global Summit in New Delhi, the former All England champion, who runs a badminton academy in Hyderabad producing top players said, “One legislation, I would love to see is the government telling that we (sportspersons) are not under bureaucrats, sports administration is not under politicians. But sports is managed by professionals and people who know stuff and who are sportspersons.”

He also called upon the government and other stakeholders to streamline the processes so that an athlete could just concentrate on his training and performance without having to bother about other issues.

“From policymakers, there are two important things. For performance, there are too many people involved, there are the (sports) associations, government, private parties, and managers; there’s a whole ecosystem,” he said.

“It needs a set of people who are committed, whether it’s players, coaches, and support staff, and an ecosystem which builds performance. We need to keep that isolated from the rest of it. So, I would say ‘boss get this done for us (athletes)’,” he added.

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Education just as important

While Gopichand was happy with the phenomenal success and growth of sports in the country, he also pointed out the flip side of it, saying that kids could be leaving education for better prospects in sports.

“We have grown too fast as a country in sport, we are still pushing forward in big force and that is amazing. But, I think, we need to look at the entire ecosystem because all it takes is one generation of failed sportspersons to show to society, or society will see it and say, ‘there is no use playing sports’. I don’t want that to happen,” he said.

“What is also happening is that kids, players are taking up sport (and) leaving education. For some, it’s happening at nine (years of age) and that is a big case of concern. Because, at the end of the day, sport has a very thin margin of people. We have people speaking about how there are 6,000 kids across various sports who are given ₹6 lakh or ₹3 lakh a month (year from the government),” he added.

He wondered what will happen to the “5,600 people who don’t make it (to the top)”. “Where are they going for their jobs? Are they skilled enough for their next journey?” he asked.

“Thousands of people take up sport and a very small percentage is successful. What happens to the huge number who don’t make it? How are we going to ensure their lives are secure?”

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