Athletes make a dash for crowdfunding

Lack of government support is prompting sportspersons to turn towards public aid.
Vishwanatha Bhaskar
Vishwanatha Bhaskar

BENGALURU: Five years ago, Commonwealth Powerlifting champion Vishwanatha Bhaskar faced the brunt of powerlifting being classified as a non-Olympic sport, which led to a lack of support when it came to the aspect of funding. “I almost lost hope due to lack of support from the Karnataka government and there have been instances which made me feel dejected,” he said.

From the Indian cricket team’s streak of glory to P V Sindhu’s recent world badminton championship feat, victory in the field of sports has been celebrated far and wide. But these are sections that have gained people’s undivided attention, with governing bodies pumping in the much-needed funding. But countless instances have been recorded over the years where personalities from different sporting events have been insufficiently funded or did not get any support at all.

Opening new doors in these struggling times are crowdfunding platforms, which have served as a lifeline for sports personalities over the years. Milaap, a crowdfunding platform in the country, has bridged the gap between the donor and recipient since 2010. “When it comes to sports, the platform has raised funds to support the dreams of various sportspersons over recent years. The Usha School of Athletics has been able to mobilise close to `30 lakh in funding for their athletes. As more such examples come into the picture, the acceptance for the platform will only increase,” says Anoj Viswanathan, co-founder, Milaap.

Bhaskar added that he eventually received a credible amount of support through the platform. “Despite my achievements in powerlifting, government bodies have hardly provided the much-needed support. Crowdfunding, on the other hand, has come as a lifeline for me and other fellow sportsmen,” he said.

Another crowdfunding platform which has raised funds is Fuel A Dream. Started in 2015, the platform has served as a boost for individuals in need. “People fund out of two emotions – passion or compassion. People relate to these emotions in the story of the recipient. We are a platform which funds innovations, charity and causes. When it comes to sports, crowdfunding has served as a ray of hope even in a minute manner,” said Ranganath Thota, founder, Fuel A Dream.

Veteran athlete P T Usha has raised funds for her students from the Usha School Of Athletics through Milaap. Speaking to CE, Usha recalls how she ventured into the concept of crowdfunding when her institute ran out of luck with sponsors. “Two years ago, the school ran out of sponsorships and we were left in a tricky situation. We ventured into crowdfunding platforms, which have worked positively for us,” she said.

Jisna Mathews (20), a student of the Usha School of Athletics, is one among the list of athletes who have gained support from the platform. Preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Mathews is a former bronze medallist in the 400m category at the Asian Games 2017 and also represented the country in the Summer Olympics, Brazil in 2017. Coached by Usha, Mathews aims to bring glory to the country at the big stage. “Athletes should be given exposure by responsible bodies. Jisna is a top athlete and has achieved a lot at a very young age but  still requires support for bigger platforms. When I started at 16, there was a severe lack of exposure and surprisingly, 35 years later, it still remains the same,” said Usha.

The Indian Women’s Sailing led by medal-winner Rohini Rau (36) had participated in the World Sailing Championship held in Spain in July. The possibility of the team to participate at the grand stage was brought to life by crowdfunding as well. Over `5 lakh was raised through Milaap. Based in Chennai, Rau had won the country’s first international medal in the sport in 2004 and ventured back into it after a five-year hiatus. Rau said, “It’s easy to blame the bodies but one cannot garner support without recognition. When it comes to sailing, the costs are as high as Formula One and it doesn’t guarantee sponsors. Utilising crowdfunding platforms has come as a major boost.”

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