Indian pay-television broadcaster Star Sports has acquired rights to the Pro-Kabaddi League, the latest property which aims to transplant the successful model of cricket’s Indian Premier League into a different sport.
Around 100 players will enter an auction early next month and Star Sports will broadcast the eight-city league live from July 26. Terms of the agreement have not been disclosed.
Rakesh Kumar, who captained India to 2010 Asian Games kabaddi gold in Guangzhou, told the Reuters news agency that the new league will aid the sport’s move towards professionalism.
“Kabaddi is only shown on television when we win gold at the Asian Games and sporadically during the nationals but now we have a confirmed, quality broadcaster for the league, public interest is bound to rise,” he said.
Charu Sharma, a key figure behind the league and managing director of the Mashal Sports agency, said India's success and kabaddi's popularity in rural areas of the country gave the tournament boasting R10m (€120,000/$165,000) in prize money a strong chance of success.
Sharma added: “Kabaddi is our unique heritage. Our lack of respect for what is our own is simply mystifying. It's tailor-made for television. Played by extremely athletic sports persons in a small indoor arena, under the lights, on a coloured mat… it's a spectacular one-hour of good television.”