An actor, a director, a former India rugby player and now a sports administrator — Rahul Bose has donned many hats in his long career. Having represented India in rugby for eleven years — between 1998 and 2009 — Bose had seen the struggles and challenges that a player goes through to chase his dreams.
And that’s why when he took over as the president of the Indian Rugby Football Union last year, Bose knew that his immediate target would be to create a high-performance ecosystem for the players and to ensure that the players are paid well and taken care of by the board.
On Wednesday, as Capgemini came forward to sponsor Rugby 7s in India, Bose spoke to Sportstar on the road ahead to further popularise the sport in India.
As the president of the Indian Rugby Football Union, what’s the immediate target to develop the game in the country?
The immediate target is to create a high-performance ecosystem for the players. We have a top-notch South African coaching team, we now have a full-time strength and conditioning person — then there is a physiotherapist, and a massage specialist — these were not seen earlier. Apart from them, we have received support from Abhinav Bindra and from Odisha. We have KIIT which is now the home of all the camps. We are also working on the mental fitness of the players, and also paying our players, getting insurance done for them. So we are doing all this at the high-performance level.
As soon as I took over as the president, I decided that we are going to do high-performance and grassroots. I cannot reveal details about the grassroots programme, but a month from now, we will be unveiling a 20-State grassroots programme. The first priority of the Board was to get these two programmes — grassroots and high-performance — going. For this, we need money. We have money from here and we will get money from somewhere else, and after this, the next step will be to get more tournaments and tours. Let’s spend more money on that front.
Simultaneously, we have streamlined our Sevens calendar and our 15s calendar. We have rationalised it; earlier, it was all over the place. We will have a national Sevens, a national camp and then an international tournament. There will be a similar drill for the 15s.
This is a crazy year for us. We will be funding 12 international tournaments, including hosting the Asian tournament. It’s not cheap, it goes into quite a few crores. To raise this money, you cannot be charismatic and just smile. You need to have a solid presentation. We had to come up with a presentation for the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and they have increased our allocation, it is quantumly bigger than what it was 10 months ago.
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You spoke about paying the players. Are you looking at introducing a contract system for them?
Hundred per cent. We have to. As soon as you start paying the players, whatever little it is, the idea is to raise this. I don’t want a single national player to leave rugby due to lack of money. That’s a crime. Today, it could be ₹60,000 for a 30 or 40 day camp, tomorrow it will increase. The idea is to ensure that players get money and are happy with what they are doing. It’s a game played by very poor people, so it’s not that my needs will be a crore a year, but you must give the player something. Every month they should have at least ₹50,000-60,000 just to live off it.
Is it only restricted to the senior players, or is it across the board?
Everybody who is called for the national camp. If there are 40 players, they are on a graded system from week one to week seven. As you go from cut to cut, your pay increases till such time you play the game. After the game, if you win gold, silver and bronze, there are also incentives and money. The attitude of this Board is simple — don’t sweat over the small stuff, if we have to spend money then please do that. It’s important to have an eye to see what makes a player happy. That’s really important.
The bigger thing than this is the insurance. So many of our girls got government jobs in Odisha, and it’s a big thing for them. So, slowly, slowly, we want to reach a point.
Rugby was earlier popular in a few centres. Going forward, what’s the plan to expand the game across cities and venues?
We have got a ground and we are in the process of building a centre of excellence which will be like the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru. For now, I won’t reveal where it is (laughs). I spoke to the architect yesterday and asked him to get the plans ready as we need to submit those to the particular State government. There is so much happening, but then, what’s the point in just talking? We need to show you guys the result.
You can easily say that currently there are about six to seven centres — Patna, Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Madurai, and Hyderabad. Going forward, we want to multiply it to 12 or 13 venues where we can have national tournaments. Ideally, you should have that many venues in the country so that a player doesn’t need to travel all the way from Kanyakumari to Kashmir.
The advantage of my film career is that I know people who know the right people, so I have met several ministers and secretaries of States. There’s so much happening and hopefully we can take things forward.