Indian sport suffers big blow as Mittal Champions Trust shuts down
In what could prove to be a major blow for sports in India, the Mittal Champions Trust, which backed several top Indian sportspersons and provided funds for their development, has been dissolved.
The non-profit trust, funded by London-based tycoon Laxmi Mittal was co-founded by Mahesh Bhupathi in 2005, and has been associated with close to 40 athletes in the country, including high profile names like Abhinav Bindra, Ronjon Sodhi, Vijender Singh, Dipika Pallikal and Saina Nehwal. The CEO of the trust was former tennis player Manisha Malhotra.
The news of the shut-down was confirmed by Amit Bhatia, son-in-law of Laxmi Mittal.
“We believe that we did our best to help athletes at Beijing 2008 and London 2012. It is now time to hand over the reins to others to continue with this wonderful initiative,” he said.
He also shed light on the possible reason for the sudden closure of the trust.
“The biggest challenge is to be able to support athletes in a way that makes a real difference. There is a lot of disorganisation within the Indian sporting system. The lack of planning within the government and federations makes it challenging to implement systems,” he said.
The trust has spent approximately Rs. 80 crore on athletes’ development to date, and has been instrumental in Abhinav Bindra’s record-breaking shooting gold medal in Beijing and Yogeshwar Dutt’s bronze at the London Olympics.
The first ever individual Olympic gold medallist for India had nothing but praise for the trust.
“MCT was an individual’s effort to support the athletes because of his passion for sport – a family thing. They introduced professionalism in the way we ran our sport and all of us benefited from it,” said Bindra.
Although Bindra admitted that budding athletes might face financial trouble, he said that can be countered by the federations.
“We shouldn’t depend solely on the trusts. They are here only because of their individual interests and passion. It is not their duty to help us. Our federations need to be proactive and create an environment through which the athletes can profit,” Bindra said.
The immediate effects of this move are likely to extend to those athletes preparing for the Commonwealth and Asian Games, which both of which are scheduled to take place this year.
Renowned sports pundit Harsha Bhogle took to Twitter to express his disappointment at the development.
the saddest news of the morning is the winding up of the mittal champions trust. some depressing statements on india’s sports administration
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) March 12, 2014