Infographic: How much has the Pro Kabaddi League grown in five seasons?
The Pro Kabaddi League is back better and bigger as the twelve teams in the fray are set to battle it out on the mat for more than three weeks, starting from the 7th of October 2018 at the Jawaharlal Indoor Stadium in Chennai In the sixth edition of the lucrative league.
Since its inception in 2014, the Pro Kabaddi League has essayed its role as a feeder for Indian kabaddi and has laid out a platform for some of the best talent all across the country to showcase their talent and even carve out a career for themselves.
A game that finds its roots in the wide domain of India’s history, Kabaddi as a sport has certainly been rekindled with the institutionalizing of the PKL, which currently sits in second place in the standings of India’s most watched sports league, behind the Indian Premier League.
Going by the recent statistical studies, the Pro Kabaddi League was viewed by a record 312 million viewers, only 100 million viewers less than the count taken for the Indian Premier League.
What makes the 312 million a staggering figure is that fact that the league was watched by almost three times the number of people who watched the FIFA World Cup, one of the most followed tournaments on a global level.
Big names from all across the country from various fields such as cinema, politics have all played their part in contributing to the Pro Kabaddi League’s growth. Abhishek Bachchan is the co-owner of the Jaipur Pink Panthers while his co-stars Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan have all been spotted in attendance.
Apart from the movie industry, sports stars such as Sachin Tendulkar, PV Sindhu etc have all come out to the stadiums to cheer on their favourite teams, adding to the glitz and glamour of the Pro Kabaddi League.
Small start, big benefits
When the league was first brought to the masses in 2014, the eight teams in the competition were asked to pay a sum of USD $250,000 to participate. Although that presented a large business model, one of the biggest drawbacks was the reach into the urban population.
The first season did produce a lot of fireworks which was viewed by close to 86.4 million viewers across the world and with a bright future in store for the league, Star Sports, in 2015 announced a 74% stake in the league’s parent company, Mashal Sports and renamed the organisation as ‘Mashal Sports Pvt.Ltd Star India’
Back then, the deal was the biggest sponsorship tie-up for a non-cricket sport in India, marking the league as one of the most successful ones after the Indian Premier League.
The Pro Kabaddi League has been played for five seasons now, with two seasons being played out in 2017 alone. The fifth season, in particular, witnessed two more teams namely the Tamil Thalaivas and the UP Yoddha making their debut in the lucrative league.
In the last few months, global tournaments such as the Asian Games and Wimbledon have been contested, that have also enjoyed a fair share of viewers. However, all of them a far cry from the staggering figures of the Pro Kabaddi League.
The Asian Games that were contested in Jakarta, Indonesia reached a high of 112 million viewers and close on its heels was the FIFA World Cup and the Commonwealth Games at 110 million and 88.5 million views respectively.
Apart from the 312 million views for the Pro Kabaddi League, the Indian Super League stood third at 270 million viewers while the Premier Badminton League could not find interest in a lot of the viewers, coming in fourth at a relatively poor figure of 35 million viewers.
Kabaddi’s popularity is rising on a meteoric level
Once Star Sports’ contract as the main sponsors of the Pro Kabaddi League came to a close, the battle for the sponsorship eventually began ahead of the fifth season and in the end, Chinese handset maker Vivo Electronics Corporation bagged the deal for a record sum of Rs. 300 crore for a period of five years, sending social media into a tizzy.
Back in season one of the Pro Kabaddi League, Rakesh Kumar emerged as the costliest player, bought for a sum of 12 lakh rupees. Now, close to four years down the line and five seasons later, the highest bid from the auctions ahead of the sixth season went for more than twelve-times that amount, highlighting the meteoric rise of the league.
Monu Goyat hogged the limelight at the end of the auctions as he pocketed a record 1.51 crore rupees, the highest-ever pay for a non-cricket athlete, breaking the previously held record of 1.50 crore rupees that Bengaluru FC paid to sign the services of Sunil Chhetri.
Not only has the money gone up, the influx of the players looking to participate in the cash-rich league also skyrocketed to a total of 181 players in this season, underlining the constant development of the league with each passing season.
In the upcoming edition, Iranian Fazel Athrachali, one of the most popular figures for his prowess in the defensive unit will be leading U Mumba and will also be one of the better-known faces from the international quota, which will see players from across nine countries taking part in the league.
The sixth edition of the league is fast approaching and with that, a whole lot of excitement as some of the best kabaddi players will be contesting across twelve teams, which will certainly prove to be a feast for the eyes for the kabaddi fans, old and new.
The league is set to be telecasted across eight channels in five different languages apart from the online streaming. Over 130 matches set to be played for the next three weeks. Are you ready for the kabaddi storm? You'd better be!