Last year’s FIFA U-17 World Cup was a testimony to India’s ever-growing sports market. It was a spectacle that not only confirmed the rise of football in India but also echoed a sporting culture that is evolving in the country. Helping this market grow is Athletes Today, a sports management firm that deals in sports marketing, athlete representation, sponsorship and sports entertainment.
For Abhisekh Sharma, the co-founder, this is a way to contribute to developing the sporting eco-system in the country. His journey dates to an extensive research he undertook along with the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) about two years ago. The results showed a significant number of Indian athletes chose to discontinue their careers largely due to a lack of commercial value. “The (research) results showed many budding athletes would drop out mid-way because they there was no income,” he says.
“The guys (athletes) found it increasingly difficult to afford training and meet other expenses in the long run and eventually give up on their careers. It was then that we came up with this idea.”
It has been eight months since Athletes Today was formally registered as a private limited company and currently manage 11 international athletes. They vary from Asian Games bronze medallist and an established member of the Indian women’s hockey team Sushila Chanu, 24-year-old footballer Nadong Bhutia and upcoming middle-distance runner Avdesh Nagar.
However, the journey so far hasn’t been an easy one. Once Sharma was convinced, he would approach his friend Gaurav Kalani to assist him on the plan. Though Kalani would agree, there was one condition — stay away from cricket. “It was a cautious decision (to stay away from cricket),” explains Kalani.
“It’s one of the biggest challenges that we have faced. To convince people that we do not want cricketers. It is not that we are not interested in that market, but we want to focus on other sports.”
The duo has also ensured that every player that comes on board go through a series of screenings before they put pen to paper. “Once we spot a player, we go through their videos from the past, their CV and assess how much can he offer going forward,” the 24-year-old Kalani stresses.
Both Sharma and Kalani understand the value of trust in this line of work. They realise that modern-day athletes need more than just representation. It’s about their holistic development as a player. And this venture is leaving no stone unturned on that front too. Athletes Today are also starting to venture into sports licensing as well.
Aspiring to be the best player representation company in India, Athletes Today is certainly making a difference in the lives of homegrown athletes and, guess what, they are here to stay.