By Bhavya Chand
New Delhi, Jan 22 (SocialNews.XYZ) Rugby India Football Union president Rahul Bose -- who is als a famous Bollywood actor -- on Sunday opened up on the plans for the development of the sport and highlighted the fact that Rugby is truly a gender-equal game in the country.
In an exclusive interaction with IANS, the former Rugby player, Rahul shared the future plans of the sport's federation in India and much more.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q. What do you think of the current status of Rugby in India and how much has this sport developed over the years?
A. Rugby is played in 310 districts, which is 40 per cent of this country. So, 40% of the districts of this country play rugby but nobody knows. The development of the sport at the grassroots level is amongst these 310 districts. We have 26 states affiliated to Rugby India. One and a half years ago, we made Rugby a semi-professional sport whereby every player, who is selected for the national camp, is getting paid for those 30-40-day camps. If you go to a tournament, you get paid more per day.
The goal is to get to the top 2-3 in Asia by 2027 in the next five years because then we will qualify for the Olympics 2028. The goal is to get qualified for the Olympics. We are also developing a very big property for television and online which we will roll out next year.
Q. The challenges the federation faces when it comes to getting sponsorship?
A. Sponsors these days in Indian sports are willing to put money into sports if the price is right. All of us who run the federation --most of us are ex-national players. On the board, we have a present Indian women's captain. We have the just retired men's captain. I have played for India for 11 years. We've had out of the nine-member board, I can without a shadow of a doubt say 7 are our ex-national or state players. Some of our sponsors started at X amount of rupees per year and they've gone up to 3x. Some of our sponsors started last year at X and have already gone up to 2x. The Union Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs have also increased the money they give to us substantially over the last two years. We are very grateful to them.
Our entire constitution follows the sports code as laid down by the government. Our sponsors understood that these people are solid. Every single rupee we get, we pour into the game because nobody is trying to get power, money or any kind of glamour from this game. We are just working day in and day out to make Rugby one of the top five games in the country in the next five years.
Anybody who says that there is no money in sports in India is not working hard enough. You have to work really hard; you have to indicate a compelling presentation. You have to speak the truth and you have to set milestones so that your sponsors can judge you by that.
We are on the threshold of signing an online streaming platform that will show all our rugby games. Domestic Rugby games, Nationals will be shown online to start with. And then gradually, we will have conversations with broadcasters
Q. How has been the support from the government so far in the development of the sport?
A. The government has been very helpful, very cooperative with us. In the last two years, they have seen a real understanding and appreciation of how we are running the federation. Our game is played from J&K to Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka. The captain of the Indian women's Under-20 team is a tribal from Odisha. The captain of the Indian women's team was the daughter of a laborer on a tea plantation in North Bengal in Jalpaiguri. We have reached corners that nobody has reached to make this a truly egalitarian and a sport that anybody can play, because all you need is a ball and ground.
Q. Like Kabaddi and Kho Kho, Is the Rugby federation planning on a franchise-based league in the country?
A. We are definitely thinking about it and we will reveal everything to the press six months from now. Also I want to inform you that Rugby is a truly gender-equal sport. When we have the Nationals, we have it at the same time, same place, with the same facilities for our men and women, boys and girls. Out of our entire pool of 80,000 players in the country over 45 per cent are women and girls. Maybe it's 46 to 47 per cent now. We are truly gender-equal and if anybody wants to look at Rugby online, you will find that the women's game is as thrilling as the men's game. Unlike in some other games, it is as exciting as typical, as skillful, as fast as the men.