MUMBAI: There was a time when the organisers of the Pro Kabaddi League were sceptical of its success spilling over to the second season. However, it has exceeded everyone’s expectations to become the second most watched franchise-based competition in the country behind the Indian Premier League as per the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) data. Many players such as Manjeet Chillar and Rohit Kumar have become household names earning lucrative contracts.
In the last few seasons, the focus has, however, shifted to youth development. Through its Future Kabaddi Heroes Programme, Pro Kabaddi has scouted young talents (U-22) from different parts of the country and put them into the auction pool. Players such as Nitesh Kumar, Naveen Kumar, Surender Singh and Sachin Tanwar have all emerged through it. Nitesh was the first defender to score 100 points in a single season, while Tanwar was Gujarat FortuneGiant’s top scorer with 204 points.
“To create a successful sports-business model that can sustain for a long time, youth is the most important aspect to look into. It increases the competition within a team and overall in the tournament. FKHP has proved that in kabaddi. It also helps us work with the state associations and tap into the huge kabaddi talent pool in the country,” said Anupam Goswami, league commissioner.
The success of FKHP has also led the league organisers to change the retention policy for the franchises ahead of the upcoming season, which starts from July. Apart from the six regular player retention, franchises will now be able to hold onto three New Young Players (NYP) who have come through the FKHP before the auction which will be held on April 8 and 9 in Mumbai. The list of retained players will be announced later this month.
“If you see the stats from the sixth season, NYPs have played more number of matches compared to previous seasons. Each of them has featured in more than nine games. The young blood in the team gives the competition a new dynamic which has resulted in an increase in points scored across the 138 games played last season. Considering that, we have decided to increase the number of young players for the team. It also gives the franchises flexibility in retention,” Goswami said.The format of the competition will remain the same for the seventh edition with 12 teams vying for the title. Bengaluru Bulls are the defending champions.