Mar 15 - 21, 2010

Commercialization in popular sports is a widespread phenomenon today. Stadiums and arenas bear the names of businesses, while sponsors' logos appear on athletes' clothing and equipment, on the facilities in which they play, and in the titles of the events in which they compete. Media companies invest enormous amount of money for the rights to broadcast sports events and advertisers pay a premium to promote products during the screening of these events. This factor imparts good as well as bad impacts on the standard and spirit of games by making some of them like cricket a glory and overshadowing others. In Pakistan Cricket has been the most marketable game leaving less room for the rest of the sports.

In spite of exorbitant patronage by the sponsors sports in Pakistan have taken a nosedive over the years and we are struggling at the international level even in games like hockey and squash in which Pakistan were once regarded as the biggest powerhouse. Pakistan have won the cricket World Cup in 1992 and the hockey World Cup on a record four occasions while clinching three Olympic titles. But their last major victory came 15 years back when they won the 1994 Hockey World Cup in Sydney. Recently the Hockey team has lost Word Cup with awfully bad performance ranking number twelve amongst twelve teams. In Squash Pakistan has been exhibiting spectacular performance. We produced an unlimited supply of world class players for over forty years starting from Hashim Khan to Jansher Khan. But for the last ten years, Pakistan have not seen any of their players getting even in the top-ten world rankings which is in stark contrast to the fact that in the eighties the country used to have around five or six players in that elite club. Pakistan have suffered similar decline in athletics, boxing, wresting and several other sports over the years

The sports are down in the dumps these days. The people who are at the helm of affairs portray that everything is hunky dory in national games are either fools or are insincere towards the cause of this sport. The gloom is visible everywhere, from the Cricket to Hockey to Squash. From the mood and morale of the players to the officials' apathy, you can find countless reasons why things are going down from bad to worse. Law and order situation in Pakistan is also responsible for deplorable circumstances. Not many professionals from the world circuit feel safe in Pakistan which is why world ranking events here seldom attract any good players. The net result is that in most cases an international ranking event is hardly much different from a national-level contest where most of the seeds are home-grown players.

The biggest problem for the games in the country is not posed by poor results or rankings achieved by our players but it is the negative attitude of the people at the helm of national sports that is causing the most fatal blows. Politics immensely being played in the sports boards. Favoritism is rampant at all levels from executive bodies to the teams. Independent bodies are not formed to promote sports. Pakistan Cricket Board is patronized by President of Pakistan and headed by former army officials who seldom have any practical knowledge of the game. Pakistan Squash Federation is still under Pakistan Air Force. Funds are showered on useless activities and players are deprived of their rights. Executive Body members get free air-tickets and even daily allowances to play tournaments abroad. Management committee members travel abroad with players who are of no help to them. That facility should be provided to all leading players but there should be proper monitoring.

Sports bodies need to introduce scholarships for leading colts with the best of them getting training abroad. Paying the boys in cash on winning junior titles only tempts them to carry on playing on the youth circuit. There have been countless cases when overage players have played and won junior titles just for the money.

Athletics has been the most neglected game unless today when the superb performance of female sprinter Naseem Hamid, who won gold medal in women's 100 metre race startled the world. It was a good sign that the women of Pakistan had also started excelling in sports. In recognition of this achievement Athletics Federation of Pakistan awarded a cash prize of Rs100,000 to her. However most of the old star athletes are overlooked in the present system. The major reason for this issue is that no sponsors are interested to promote these games and make these payers national stars. There is huge money poured in cricket and squash but no body is there to take care of those athletes, who won Gold medals for the country. They were honored at that time but most of them died in acute poverty.

Excessive commercialization of cricket has some disadvantages too. If the team loses the game, the major concern for the concerned people is not the defeat but there is something beyond it which is called Commercial losses to the concerned corporate houses, media giants and the sports commentators who depend a lot on such event.

Commercialization has given a major blow to the magical words like playing for the glory of sports. We no longer hear that it's the participation that is more important rather than winning or losing. Cricket has been glorified enormously consequently exerting pressure on players to win by fair means or foul. Take the example of Shahid Afridi attempting to bite the ball despite knowing that dozens of cameras are catching this view. Cricket board has recently announced intense punishments for cricket players including life time bans on two players. The Sports Board and ministry needs to rethink its policy about punishing or rewarding the players. One of the reasons why our past players were able to make it big on the international level was the fact that they got ample support from the authorities.

Pakistan need a sports policy which could benefit common man and promote sports spirit among masses. Lack of public support is also a major reason for players' underperformance in other sports. Nobody wants to watch them play. Which hockey or football player would strive to score a second goal when facing empty stands?

As a matter of fact at the national level, sports create integration, discipline and a sense of brotherhood and comradeships. Sports create awareness, bring cultures together and create bridges even in the case of traditional rivals. In order to encourage sports, private corporate sector funding needs to be prompted towards other games like athletics, squash, boxing etc. There are scores of oil and gas companies, banks, cellular companies, beverages and major tea brands which are engaged in patronizing bigger sports like cricket and hockey also need to focus on individual sportsmen by providing them scholarships and employments.