The Pro Kabaddi League has a weight limit of 85kg for the players, Indian or foreign, in an attempt to get a right mix of power and pace. Weigh-ins are conducted regularly and any participant not adhering to the limit is removed from competition.
Behind the scenes, the league also has another system in place as a preventive measure to make sure players are aware of the perils of passing on team/individual information to strangers, communication with outsiders without permission via person-to-person contact, phone calls or posts on social media.
The league has an Integrity Officer for each team who travels with the squad. Team managements also have their own set-up and anti-corruption protocols. The joint effort is directed at preventing the league and performers from getting entangled in corruption issues which hurt other sporting leagues in India.
U Mumba, for example, appointed ex-rugby international Sandeep Singh as one of the team managers. “Sessions are held every week on tour to remind players and support staff about things they should not be doing, or not allowed without alerting me.”
The ex-army man and former hammer thrower, whose brief is to be present at training venues, hotels and stadiums with the players and staff, emphasised: “No team member can say they don’t know or were not told. Every new player is made aware of the do’s and don’t’s; the foreign players are told in English. Players are encouraged to take permission prior to meeting anyone in hotels or stadium, be it family members, relatives or friends. Strangers are not allowed in player rooms and everyone, including me, keep mobiles in a separate place during matches.”
Supratik Sen, U Mumba CEO, explained: “Sandeep looks after not just running the team, also the ethics base, like use of mobile phones. Players are on television, the recognition and fame can do different things to your mind. There are many youngsters in the line-up. Both of us (Sen and Sandeep) played rugby for India and we know when you are young, you are gullible. Sometimes you feel these measures are intrusive and about personal freedom. If you are part of PKL and with things going wrong in Indian sport elsewhere, there is a need to keep a tight watch.” Sandeep sits at the stands when match is on, keeping an eye on the team bench.
“Trust in players is the reason for fans coming to stadiums or watching televised matches. Players get money and recognition when the sport grows. If this trust is broken, sport will get hurt. We don't allow it to happen.” Sandeep Singh, U Mumba team manager
He revealed that anti-corruption measures were set up after the PKL’s inaugural season in 2014. “The league saw it early enough that it (corruption) could be a challenge. By the second season things were put in place, by the third season, the measures became quite tight, in a good way. Teams were also encouraged to set up a system, they felt players need to be coached all the time, internally within the side. There is an Integrity Officer from PKL who questions everything. These measures are about loyalty to the sport. The league players are paid good money and should understand that, if you are doing a paid job you will be put on watch.”
Players, coaches and support staff are observed at all times. “Strangers, including girls, are not allowed in hotel rooms and team members need to inform before meeting anyone — even family members — in the hotel lobby,” informed Sandeep.
“Mobile phones of players are taken away the night before a match, to make sure they sleep early.”
Social media restraint
The U Mumba CEO focussed on the social media factor. “Players are told to be careful about encouraging anything where you may be leaking information on social media, alerts about who is in the starting line-up, who is injured. The players are getting sensitised, the younger ones need to be hand-held. Sometimes they need to be told against going overboard,” he said, adding: “We actually encourage them to use the team social media platforms to put out information, anything from banter to answering questions from fans about where they came from before Pro Kabaddi.”
“There is an Integrity Officer from PKL who questions everything. These measures are about loyalty to the sport. The league players are paid good money and should understand that, if you are doing a paid job you will be put on watch.” — Surpratik Sen, U Mumba CEO
Sen said: “Players are told against being be too nice to everyone approaching you...The senior players and internationals understand responsibility. Fazel, Sandeep Narwal, Rajaguru Subramaniam, Rohit Baliyan, Dong Geon Lee are like a guiding light for younger teammates. We have a buddy system, it works for every team. Things are going well for us, and to do well there are certain challenges to be faced.”
Replying to a query about any approaches made to U Mumba players/coaches, the CEO said: “Not really. People do come and ask intrusive questions and we have told the players to be wary. They also know there is a system in place. If an individual player says something which has never happened, action will be taken on individual cases.”
Television exposure night after night results in recognition for the performers. Asked if players are aware of the dangers of corruption creeping into their sport, Sandeep Singh said: “Trust in players is the reason for fans coming to stadiums or watching televised matches. Players get money and recognition when the sport grows. If this trust is broken, sport will get hurt. We don't allow it to happen.”
The U Sports-owned U Mumba is placed fifth and is in the running for a playoff spot.
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