Indian wrestling has been in the limelight since Sushil Kumar won bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but sponsorship is still an uphill task for the sport’s organisers.
The Pro Wrestling League (PWL), starting on Monday, grapples with financial constraints as it readies to roll out the second edition of an event aimed at popularising the essentially rural sport in urban India.
The PWL’s second edition will be restricted to a single venue due to budget crunch, after three of the six teams from last year pulled out. However, three new franchises have signed up.
“Due to limited budget, all the matches will be organised at one venue, Delhi. The team owners wanted to manage things within a limited budget, so it was a collective decision,” said Vinod Tomar, Wrestling Federation of India secretary.
The federation will look to steer clear of controversies during the event, to be held at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium.
In the first edition, there were allegations of the organisers withholding players’ fees and winners Revanta Mumbai Garuda, who defeated Haryana Hammers in the final, not being given the prize money.
With the issue still pending, the Mumbai team has pulled out of this edition.
Tomar said: “Hopefully things will be on the right path throughout this time. We have apprised the franchises to be transparent as far as possible.”
To safeguard the players’ interests, the federation has decided that all competitors must be paid 60 percent of their fees halfway through the event. “The remaining amount should be paid within a week of the tournament ending,” he said.
The league has belied hopes of expanding from six to eight teams after the inaugural edition. Tomar admitted there were teething problems in the first edition, but was confident there won’t be a repeat. “There will be a better show this time,” he said.
Wrestling was restricted to minor pickings since Kashaba Jadhav’s bronze medal at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Sushil revived interest by claiming back-to-back Olympic medals, the bronze in 2008 bettered by silver in London four years later.
Dangal has cashed in on the attention the sport has received since Sakshi Malik became India’s first woman wrestler to claim an Olympic medal, bronze in the 58kg category at Rio in August.
The Aamir Khan-starrer has mopped up around Rs.200 crore at the box office within a week of its release, after Salman Khan’s Sultan also did well.