20 Sep 2017
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Pro Kabaddi League’s expansion plans

MUMBAI: With four seasons completed in a span of two years, the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) is now set to expand to up to four new geographies.

With the addition of these new teams, the PKL is gearing up to surpass other Indian sports leagues in terms of geographic representation (teams from 11 states), number of matches (130+ matches) and duration of the league (13 weeks) in Season 5.

The intended new states for the PKL have been selected very carefully. Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat have been primarily chosen for their high affinity towards kabaddi with massive fan bases, significant on-ground presence of the sport and potential commercial value to sponsors and advertisers. Both Haryana and Tamil Nadu contribute a large number of players to the PKL, as well as leading public sector teams in the country.

Along with Uttar Pradesh, these states have a rich cultural tradition of highly popular local kabaddi tournaments. The intrinsic popularity of kabaddi in India has been most recently demonstrated in Gujarat where the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup has led to a huge surge in public following of kabaddi.

Mashal Sports is inviting expressions of interest from corporate entities having a vision for investing in the overall development of the sport from the ground up and participating in the success of the PKL through their active involvement as a franchise team.

Mashal Sports will shortlist selected interested participants and invite them to participate in a transparent tender process. The winning bidders will be selected by a panel of eminent people based on both qualitative and financial criteria. The process is expected to be completed by 5 May 2017, providing enough time for the new franchise to prepare for the fifth season starting in July 2017.

The PKL became an instant hit with Indian sports fans in its very first season in 2014 as 435 million viewers tuned in. This modern league in India’s ancient sport of kabaddi has continued to grow from strength to strength in subsequent seasons. Its cumulative viewership growth of 51% over four seasons is the highest for any sports league in India. Within a span of two years, the PKL has captured the imagination of Indian viewers.

Significantly, the high popularity of the PKL and the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup has evoked continually surging sponsor interest.  PKL 4 had a total of 64 league and franchise sponsors on board. This growing interest from sponsors from diverse sectors of the economy mirrors kabaddi’s pan-India appeal.

“Even for an optimist like me, the response we have seen for kabaddi is surprising. Having seen its affinity in the country, it would be a disservice to the sport if we do not grow it further. All stakeholders have decided to come together to expand the league and given the pace at which this is growing, it might be just the first in a series of expansions in the coming years,” said Star India chairman, CEO Uday Shankar.

International Kabaddi Federation president Janardan Singh Gehlot stated, “Pro Kabaddi is a truly unique example of how a modern league has transformed the much-loved but traditional kabaddi into a modern sport. Star Sports as well as Mashal have created a magnificent example for the growth of India as multi-sport nation.”

An all-India kabaddi player hunt was organised in 2017 by Mashal Sports, in association with AKFI, as part of its talent development programme across 14 cities in India. Over 4,600 participants aged 18–22 years got a chance to showcase their kabaddi talent. This initiative will play an important role in catalysing the on-ground kabaddi eco-system and providing a future pool of players.