The 10th season of the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) is set to witness significant growth on increasing revenue streams and higher advertiser interest, Anupam Goswami, the chief executive and League Commissioner, PKL, said in an interview. The two-day auction for the new season ended on Tuesday.

“I do believe that very interesting and significant conversations are going on (for sponsorships and deals). I do know in case of PKL teams that most teams crossed 50% of inventory targets. Some trends were being reported very early this season,” Goswami said. “Three or four teams were in fact well on their way to (achieve) revenue targets even 2-3 months ago,” he added.

The second most-watched sport league in India witnessed overall viewership of around 222 million in season 9, growing 17.2% from a year earlier. For a growing fan base, spanning urban and rural areas, the moment of glory was when India’s kabaddi team clinched the gold medal at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, triumphing over arch-rival Iran.

“I think the Asian Games gold medal match brought in a lot of focus on Kabaddi. There is a lot of buzz around with the auctions, and then leading into the season soon after the ICC World Cup. A lovely window for kabaddi is emerging from December to February,” said Suhail Chandhok, chief executive, U Mumba (the Mumbai franchise). “We’re well on our way to achieving larger targets set for season 10. Given that we’re going back to the home- and-away format, there’s spike in the buzz and, as a result, we are expecting more commercial interest. We’d love to invest more in the grassroots of the sports, whether in an academy or the ecosystem itself, to bring in a larger impact through community. We would love to do it from a larger chunk coming in, from media rights, sponsorship, revenue, or ticket sales,” said Chandhok.

The league is going back to the home-and-away format spanning 12 cities, with the teams having a bigger purse size of 5 crore.

Higher bid prices in the auction reflects surging interest in the game, as teams show their financial prowess. India’s captain, Pawan Sherawat, for instance was picked up by Telugu Titans for 2.6 crore, surpassing the 2.35 crore bid for Iran’s Mohammadreza Shadloui in the same auction. In fact in the auction five players were bought for a 1 crore-plus valuation, against four in the previous season.

The owners also seemed very much invested in the idea of starting a women’s version of the league in the coming years. “We believe that as and when somebody, be it we or somebody else starts the Women’s league, it really will be one of the most attractive contact sports in the world. So, plans might come up regarding it in the coming few years. But surely, we’re looking at women’s kabaddi seriously,” Goswami added.

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Updated: 11 Oct 2023, 11:55 PM IST

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