COVID 19 pandemic has brought the whole world to stand still. Nepal, too is affected by it. 6-month long lockdown has brought almost all economic activity to zero level. Aviation industry, public vehicles, educational entities, hotels, and other activities are shut.
Government of Nepal has provided some relief to them in terms of interest rate, and has extended time to payback bank interest.
However, the sports industry has been neglected and nothing has been done or talked about it. No one has come up to discuss the impact of COVID in sports industry and no relief has been provided to them by any entity in any form.
Bizpati.com has caught up with Aamir Akhtar, the managing director of the Everest Premier League (EPL) to discuss the impact of COVID in sports industry and the way forward. Not to forget EPL is the franchise Twenty20 cricket tournament held in Nepal.
Here are the excerpts from him.
When COVID has impacted whole world, it's natural that sports too will be impacted. However, it is sad to see that this industry has been neglected completely. People look at the sports in the same traditional way and it doesn’t come under priority by many.
Obviously our players, events, sponsors, have directly impacted from this pandemic. Players have limited income, when there are no matches, they don’t earn. No sport events mean players have zero direct income. Further to this, sports ecosystem is disturbed. Not to forget the government also losses on the possible revenue in form of taxes from these activities.
If so, why don't we hear any voices of the players, event managers and sponsors?
We all are under difficult situation, and it’s time to keep calm and be patient. That’s what exactly sports teach us. Sports teach how to tackle with difficult situation. That is what sportsmanship is. So i assume that they are just waiting for the right time to come up.
Government has given various relief to other sectors, what did sports industry get?
As i said earlier, not only now, this sector has always been neglected. We have sports ministry and sports council but unfortunately they haven’t given a different thought to revive this sector.
The sad things today is that the investment in sports sector is not still treated as investment. It is regarded as some kind of help, donation or CSR. The concept of 'investment in sports sector will expand the brand has not developed. People need to develop the concept that 'yes the investment is sports is also a genuine investment.'
Sport is not still regarded as industry, where are the loopholes?
Economically developed and developing countries have given much importance to sports. Those countries regard the sports as backbone of the economy. Qatar organizing FIFA world cup, Japan organizing Olympics, UAE hosting Indian premier league, just shows how they treat sports and the level of importance given to it.
Sports should be the medium to show the whole world about Nepal. For instance, when Nepal played the 2014 world cup in Bangladesh, Nepal was reflected all over the world. Today Sandeep Lamichhane is playing overseas; it is not only increasing Sandeep's heights but also increasing Nepal's pride globally.. Thousands of youth have been influenced from Sandeep's success.
When the then prime minister of Nepal late Sushil Koirala played a role in making sure that the Indian and Pakistani counterparts shook hands, Koirala was talk of the town all over the world. By his effort the prime minister of two country shook hands, which is rare sight to see. At that time many proposed to recommend Koirala for noble peace prize.
Even today, of course after the pandemic ends, if EPL is organised, it will give message to whole world that Nepal is ready to welcome tourists. It will only add value to our tourism.
So sports should be treated as industry and that should be reflected in the policy government make and the decision they take. All the stakeholders should regard as a industry rather than just a medium of entertainment. I would also appeal FNCCI to honour ‘ Sports as an Industry’ now in their charter.
How tough is to starts sport events now?
It's very challenging for a country like Nepal where sport is of least priority. Even today investment is sports is taken as donation. But at first all other economic activities should start, then only sports event can happen. So, currently we have no other option to keep calm and have patience.
All countries are trying for economic revival after pandemic. How can sports drive the economic revival in case of Nepal?
This is big thing. For this government, ministry, and all other stakeholders should discuss and come to conclusion. But sports event driving economic revival is important thing. Since i am involved in EPL, i will link this to EPL.
When Irish players came to Nepal, government of Ireland encouraged it. When Indian players came, Indian embassy wanted to help. Similarly, when players from England and Australia were ready to come, the embassies of that country were interested to help EPL.
When Mahendra Singh Dhoni visited Nepal, and was appointed goodwill ambassador of Nepal cricket, it gave positive message all over the world. It made headlines in the popular websites likes BBC, NDTV and others. This also recognized Nepal all over the world.
We had Chris Gayle coming to Nepal this year for EPL, the charm of international players wanting to come and play in Nepal is just amazing. That is because of the cricket culture in Nepal. Not to forget international cricket council (ICC) often talks about cricket popularity in Nepal. This is how sports gives international recognition to any country.
EPL has limited capacity, under the given limited resources, we have been trying our best. At this time if government assists us and help to organize in bigger scale, then it will give whole world will see this as a positive message
When can we see EPL again?
We are waiting for situation to ease out, patience is the key at the moment. When all the stakeholders related to event feel that right time has come, we will hold the event. Everyone is waiting to see the action again.