Athletes like Prithvi Shaw need professionals for guidance, says former Delhi Daredevils CEO Hemant Dua

Hemant Dua, who now works as a sports consultant, believes that young athletes are getting lost in the limelight and monetisation that comes along with professionalisation of sports in India.

Hemant Dua worked as the CEO of Delhi Daredevils for five years.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Hemant Dua, former CEO of the erstwhile Delhi Daredevils, is credited with giving Indian Premier League (IPL) breaks to youngsters like Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer, Prithvi Shaw and Sandeep Lamichhane. Currently working as a sports consultant, he believes that it is time player management is given priority.

The high financial earnings and their social profile makes the young sportsmen in the country vulnerable and exposes them to unfriendly elements. Here, he speaks to Sportstar on the subject:

How do you view the recent phenomenon of sportsmen earning huge amount of money? How good is it for sports?

Sportspersons earning money is not wrong. It’s reward for the hard work and grind they go through. It’s more about how many of them are able to handle the same responsibly. The key is having your feet on ground when the money and fame come into your account. The same can be achieved when athletes have good mentors and managers to guide them. Money in sports is good as it motivates and gives hope to lots of youngsters that they can also make it big. It’s the responsibility it brings along which is the key.

Sports is no longer a prize unto itself. The prize today is a contract in a professional league, generational wealth and a glamorous lifestyle. Nothing wrong till it can be handled responsibly. But, you can't expect that from 18-19 year old kids. It’s the people around them – parents/siblings and managers – who need to ensure their feet remain on ground and the focus is sports and the frills that come along are enjoyed responsibly.

What are the fallouts of young players making millions before even establishing themselves?

The young players making million is not the problem, as it’s a market force. They get paid depending on how good they are. The establishing part is relative, the more critical part as, I said above, is how they handle themselves when they get the millions. Fame and Money is not easy to handle, this is where the role of their managers comes in. Are the managers qualified enough to sensitise them? I am not sure as most of them are busy monetising them due to their large guarantees (a big problem in India) where athletes want to maximise till the sun is shining. It’s not a sprint but a marathon...so athletes should work with people who will help guide them at all points and not just monetise them.

Do you think it is imperative for young players to have qualified agents to manage their finances and suggest ways to maintain public image?

Absolutely! In India, agents don't have any prior qualifications or undergo any exams or courses. It’s not a professional industry. It’s friends and families and mom-and-pop shops who have mushroomed and flourished as agents based on their proximity to the athlete. They don't have a team of qualified financial professionals or PR associates to guide them along. For example, in the US, player agents are regulated principally by the players’ unions, which possess the legal authority, incentives and resources to develop the regulatory competence needed to improve the quality of agent representation. We need player agents to be regulated and this needs to develop into an industry which cares for the players and is sensitive to their needs on softer aspects and not just the monetary aspects.

You mentioned sensitising and educating these young millionaires. Can you elaborate?

We should understand the roles of an agent:

  • An agent can act as a mentor, assisting the player with his mental, physical, technical and tactical development.
  • An agent should be experienced in handling contract negotiations.
  • An agent can assist a player in structuring his image rights arrangements.
  • An agent can play a key role in crisis management.
  • An agent should source commercial opportunities for the player.
  • An agent should help in social media management.
  • An agent should sorting out day-to-day tasks that may arise.
  • Last, but certainly not the least, an agent can play a crucial role in assembling a team of professional advisers around a player for the duration of his career — including a specialist lawyer, accountant, financial adviser, etc.

For me, all this comes with experience and professional education, which is missing in India in most cases.

Do you feel the problem needs immediate redressal?

Yes and for me, the same starts with the players and their families. Choose the right manager and mentor to help guide through situations like what Prithvi (Shaw) is facing. Better would be to make them aware or sensitise them so that they don't land in such situations. The federations can play an active role in education from time to time and player associations, if run professionally, can also be the guide and mentor.

You picked Prithvi in the DD team. How do you look at his current status?

Sensitization and monetization go hand in hand. Prithvi was recently banned for eight months for failing a dope test. He claims it was a cough syrup that he took to cure himself and was unaware about the substance being present. This made me ponder and for me, the core of the problem is that our young athletes like Prithvi, who come from humble beginnings because of hard work and grit, are getting lost in the limelight and monetisation that comes along with professionalisation of sports in India. I believe Prithvi has tremendous talent and kids like him need to be treated with kid gloves and handled better.

Young athletes are left on their own, the mangers or agencies who sign them are busy selling them as brands to recover the minimum commitments given to the athletes and in that rat race of selling them and establishing them as brands, they lose the plot. The managers and their teams don't have established professionals who can guide them beyond sponsorship and PR engagements.

What is the role of the national federations?

The federations along with National Anti Doping Agency, and on their own, do conduct anti-doping sessions from time to time and educate athletes about what should be taken and what should not. The larger question is, are the athletes being educated regularly and managers, who are more than their friends, guarding their backs? It’s not all about merry, fame and success – sports also brings responsibility. Sooner the athletes and their mangers realize this better it’s for the industry.