by OPEN Islamabad Editorial Team
Each winter fans of American Football wait for the annual championship of the National Football League (NFL) – Super Bowl. NFL remains one of the world’s biggest sports leagues. It is one of the most awaited events in the world. Elsewhere, fans of other sports wait eagerly for their favorite sports leagues to take place. Sports leagues are not recent phenomena, which have, at times, grown into larger-than-life affairs.
In South Asia, sports leagues started almost a decade ago. Like in the West, the fans love the leagues and participate in them wholeheartedly. Pakistan’s experience with sports leagues started in 2016 with Pakistan Super League (PSL), which represents top quality cricket on franchise based model. Soon after the conclusion of its ongoing third season, Pakistan’s sports spectrum is widening with the inclusion Kabaddi – the sports loved by masses, through Super Kabaddi League (SKL) in April/ May.
Historically, sports have been a source of national pride for Pakistan at the global stage. Pakistan commanded an overwhelming dominance in Squash, Hockey and to an extent Snooker and Cricket for decades. The fall from grace for Pakistan at this platform surprises and annoys many. It seems like an unending circular debate as to what the reasons may be. However, it is true that the role of the state and the private sector have broadly been non-existent in finding solutions, what to talk of implementation! In this context the anticipation of the first private sector led international sports league of Pakistan that SKL is, seems understandable. SKL may just be the game changer in terms of opening up our imagination to the possibilities in sports, and in the process altering the way we understood sports forever. With such potential for transformation, the extent of wide ranging impact multiplies with time; we may just be sitting at the edge of a sports industry in the making, with jobs creation and youth engagement likely to follow.
While the State is supposed to provide the infrastructure, regulations and enabling environment, it is the private sector that acts as the catalyst of innovation. Sport is no different. PSL is owned by Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), which is an autonomous body with Patron-in-Chief and key appointments controlled by government, however, majority of the international sports leagues remain private sector led. It would be interesting, infact important to observe how private sector led sports league develop over the next couple of years. Their impact or otherwise may possibly define the fate of Pakistan’s sport for decades to come.
In these interesting times, the risk taking from the private sector in sports has already kicked in both through sponsorships and private sector led sports leagues, of which SKL is the first in line. OPEN celebrates the spirit of entrepreneurship. Strawberry Sports Management is the country’s first professionally run sports management company, which is also bringing SKL. Besides Kabaddi, Strawberry Sports Management own international sports leagues of Football, Wrestling and Volleyball. They seem to address the expectations of millions of Pakistanis who crave for the revival of Pakistan as a global sports powerhouse. Given the enormous challenge highlighted, it’s a daunting task that requires every bit of passion, perseverance, and above all, sincerity to the cause. Strawberry Sports Management is an Islamabad based organization with national outreach. OPEN Islamabad stands by the spirit of entrepreneurship exhibited by Strawberry Sports Management.
SKL is going to be broadcast for two full weeks with international players participating in a franchise based model. It is going to be a source of pride for the entire country. The Founder and CEO of Strawberry Sports Management, Haider Ali Daud Khan, summarizes their vision as “You ought to be enjoying this challenging journey where the milestones are only as high or as low as one’s imagination. We are driven by passion, interested in success but we are shooting for legacy.”