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Ready for bigger kabaddi extravaganza?

March 30, 2017 12:04 IST

The Pro Kabaddi League will now have 12 teams, over 130 matches and 13 weeks of competition.
Urvi Malvania reports.

Pro Kabaddi League

IMAGE: Dabang Delhi and Puneri Paltan Players in action during a Pro Kabaddi League match in Kolkata. Photograph: PTI

With four successful seasons under its belt, the Mashal Sports-promoted Pro Kabaddi League is looking to add teams in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.

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

The Pro Kabaddi League is set to add four new teams to kitty, so it will now have 12 teams, over 130 matches and 13 weeks of competition

Mashal Sports is inviting expressions of interest from corporate entities interested in investing in the overall development of the sport from the ground up and participating in the success of 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.

Pro Kabaddi League

IMAGE: Abhishek Bachchan, Ranbir Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bachchan at the opening ceremony of the Pro Kabaddi League's fourth season in Mumbai. Photograph: PTI

The selection of the winning bidders will be done by a panel of eminent people based on both qualitative and financial criteria.

The process is expected to be completed by May 5, 2017, providing enough time for the new franchises to prepare for Season 5 starting in July 2017.

The intended new states 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.

Haryana and Tamil Nadu contribute a large number of players to the league 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.

In Gujarat, where the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup was held, there was a surge in public following of the sport.

Virat Kohli

IMAGE: India cricket Captain Virat Kohli, centre, sings the national anthem at the PKL opening ceremony in 2016. Photograph: PTI

Pro Kabaddi was off to a dream start in its very first season in 2014 as 435 million (according to the then prevalent ratings provider TAM) viewers tuned in.

By adapting the format so that the sport could be televised, Star India's on-air packaging of the matches and its marketing might helped the league to grow in subsequent seasons.

The popularity of Pro Kabaddi, coupled with the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup, has strengthened sponsor interest.

Pro Kabaddi Season 4 had a total of 64 league and franchise sponsors on board. 

"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," said Uday Shankar, chairman and chief executive officer, Star India.

"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," he added.

"Pro Kabaddi is an example of how a league has transformed traditional kabaddi into a modern sport," Janardan Singh Gehlot, president, International Kabaddi Federation, said. "Star Sports and Mashal Sports have created a magnificent example for the growth of India as a multiple-sports nation."

An all-India kabaddi player hunt was organised by Mashal Sports in 14 cities in association with the Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India as part of its talent development programme.

Over 4,600 participants in the age group 18 to 22 had a chance to showcase their talent.

This initiative will play an important role in catalysing the kabaddi ecosystem and providing a future pipeline of players.

Urvi Malvania