The Premier Hockey League was the first of the lot, but the credit for taking the trend to stratospheric heights in the country goes to the Indian Premier League (IPL). And, like many other Olympic disciplines, Indian volleyball too is hoping to reinvent itself through its league system.
The Indian Volleyball Federation (IVF) introduced the Indian Volleyball League (IVL) in May this year. The federation divided the players into six franchises, who battled it out in the 30-day league for a top prize of R10 lakh. All matches were telecast live on DD Sports.
“Though it was not on a very big scale, our hopes are pinned on it. Volleyball players should be able to earn a decent livelihood by playing in the professional circuit,” says India skipper Sanjay Singh, who bagged the best server award in the inaugural IVL. “Volleyball is a spectator-friendly sport, so I’m sure its popularity will grow with the IVL.”
Long road ahead
The IPL has spawned clones across the Indian sporting scene, but the federations need to learn to run the show from Indian cricket’s major money earner. The prime motive should be to get better facilities for the players.
Initially, the IVF had fixed the price of each franchise at R50 lakh. But since there were no takers, the amount was reduced to Rs 10 lakh. The players ended up getting meagre amounts. While the seniors were given R20,000 each, the rest had to make do with half the amount. Moreover, travelling from one venue to the other by train or bus also took a toll on the players. “It was okay for the first year. But from the next edition, players should get substantial remunerations, otherwise the purpose of organising a league will be defeated,” says former India captain Amir Singh, who played eight years of professional league in Iran and Qatar.
Amir, whose last contract, signed in 2004, was worth R1.60 crore over two years, further says, “If the sport can gain such huge mileage in the Gulf, why not in India?”
Need to market sport
All four venues for the inaugural IVL were in south India, but the sport has a huge following even in the north.
So, the federation needs to include more venues in the next edition. “Without a dedicated and professional marketing team, the league’s aims cannot be achieved. Volleyball too needs a Lalit Modi,” adds Amir.