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Pro Kabaddi League (PKL): Transformative Journey, Impact on Indian Sports and Future Growth

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Kabaddi, a sport deeply rooted in Indian tradition, has undergone a remarkable transformation, thanks to the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL). This league not only brought commercial success to the game but also transformed it into a viable career for aspiring young players. Particularly popular in northern India, with a stronghold in the Kabaddi powerhouse state of Haryana, the PKL has given rise to training academies in villages, molding raw talent into professional athletes. Beyond the mud-filled traditional version, the PKL has turned kabaddi into a high-energy entertainment spectacle, drawing players from diverse social backgrounds. Notably, players like Rahul Chaudhari and Pawan Sehrawat have ascended to celebrity status, commanding substantial bids in player auctions. With massive viewership, often surpassing other major sporting events, the PKL has reshaped the landscape of kabaddi, though the journey towards similar recognition for women’s kabaddi is still underway.

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Origin of Pro Kabaddi League

PKL | KreedOn
Image Source: Sportskeeda

PKL is a very important part of India’s sports. It started in 2014 by Mashal Sports and the Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India. They wanted to make kabaddi a professional sport. Kabaddi is an old and traditional sport of India. Many people in villages played kabaddi, but it was not as popular or well-supported as cricket.

The first season of PKL was in July 2014, and it was very successful. The league had a format like the IPL in cricket, which made many companies interested and invested in it. The league had eight teams from different Indian cities, which made it more exciting and connected to the people.

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Since it started on July 26, 2014, the Pro Kabaddi League has had many big moments. In Season 5, they added four more teams, showing how kabaddi has become popular across the country. In the 2022 auction, Tamil Thalaivas made a record bid of INR 2.26 crore for Pawan Sehrawat, highlighting how much more valuable players have become financially over the years.

Evolution of the League

Kabaddi | KreedOn
Image Source: Pro Kerala

PKL has grown a lot because it cares about grassroots kabaddi. The league’s organizers have done a lot of work to make the sport popular at the grassroots level, by organizing competitions, programs, and talent hunts for schools and villages. These efforts have helped to find more skilled players and make more fans from a young age. Young kabaddi players now have a chance to follow their dreams and play for their favorite PKL team.

PKL’s format has also helped it to succeed. The league’s matches are short and exciting, which makes more people watch them. The matches last only 40 minutes, which is good for people who are busy and have less time. The scoring and rules are easy to understand and enjoy for new fans.

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PKL has evolved a lot since its inception in 2014. Pro Kabaddi has become the second-biggest sports league in India after cricket. It has introduced new teams, new formats, new rules, and new technologies to make the game more thrilling and engaging. It has also expanded its reach to international markets, such as the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. PKL has transformed kabaddi from a rural sport to a global phenomenon.

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Reasons behind Kabaddi’s Popularity

The Star Power

kabaddi | KreedOn
Image Source: Sportskeeda

Star players like Rahul Chaudhari, Pardeep Narwal, and Monu Goyat have made the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) super popular. They’re like cricket superstars, with fans cheering for them. These players not only play amazingly but also bring a bit of glamour to kabaddi, making it more exciting.

The Way Forward

PKL | KreedOn
Image Source: Inside Sport

As PKL gets ready for its 10th season, it shows what can happen with a clear vision and people’s love for the game. While PKL has already done a lot, there’s more to do. They can go to more cities, focus on women’s kabaddi, and even have tournaments with teams from other countries.

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Fan Engagement

Fans | KreedOn
Image Source: Lenskart Blog

One big reason PKL is so successful is its passionate fan base. Kabaddi has always been loved in India, and PKL turned matches into a big show. With cheerleaders, music, and fun activities, they made it like a carnival. Fans, dressed in their team colors, cheering loudly, and waving banners, make every PKL match feel like a celebration. PKL also uses social media and other platforms to keep fans excited all year round. Things like merchandise, fantasy leagues, and mobile apps make the connection between the league and its fans even stronger.

kabaddi | KreedOn
Source: Statista

In 2022, the Bengaluru Bulls emerged as the most-watched team in the Pro Kabaddi League, with a staggering 119 million viewers, as reported by Statista. The Puneri Paltan and Tamil Thalaivas followed closely behind in terms of TV viewership. It became the second most-watched sports league in India saw a total viewership of approximately 222 million, marking a 17.2% increase compared to the previous year. Their involvement helps the sport reach more fans.

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PKL – Diverse Viewership and its Growth

Image Source: Economic Times

Looking at reports from BARC, which studies viewership, we can see that Kabaddi has become super popular. More and more people, from both the countryside and cities, are tuning in. The shift to the mat and the faster pace of the game in the PKL make it really exciting, attracting a diverse group of fans. The increase in viewership is fueled by the expansion of the audience in regions such as Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Tamil Nadu.

Sponsorship and Brand Engagement

Period Sponsor Tournament
2014–16 Star Sports Star Sports Pro Kabaddi
2017–19 & 2021-2025  Vivo Vivo Pro Kabaddi

Sponsors and brands have played a big part in making Kabaddi grow. How well they talk about the sport on their own social media makes a difference in how many people watch. Over the years, VIVO PKL has attracted a wide range of brands as sponsors, including Tata Motors, Gillette, Thums Up, Bisleri, AMFI, ShareChat, Parimatch and TVS, among others. 

PKL – Global Talent and Versatility

Global Talent | KreedOn
Image Source: The Bridge

Players from other countries, especially from places like Iran and South Korea, have joined the league. They bring toughness and excellent skills, making Kabaddi even more versatile and competitive. Their contributions add a global flavor to the game.

PKL – Player’s Value

Pawan Sehrawat | KreedOn
Image Source: insidesport,in

Increased bid prices during the auction indicate a growing interest in the game, showcasing teams’ financial strength. For instance, India’s captain, Pawan Sherawat, was selected by Telugu Titans for ₹2.6 crore, surpassing the ₹2.35 crore bid for Iran’s Mohammadreza Shadloui in the same auction. Notably, five players were acquired for a valuation exceeding ₹1 crore, compared to four in the previous season.

As the Pro Kabaddi League gears up for its landmark tenth season, the anticipation is palpable following the remarkable journey of the past nine seasons. The league has not only elevated Kabaddi from a local pastime to a career pathway, bringing fame and financial stability for male players, but it also highlights the need for further progress in women’s Kabaddi. From its humble beginnings, the PKL has become a sports phenomenon in India, fueled by its origin story, dedication to grassroots development, captivating format, star-studded players, and engaging fan experiences. With the eagerly awaited 10th season on the horizon, it’s undeniable that the PKL has reshaped the sporting landscape of India, promising to shine even brighter in the years to come with its ongoing evolution and steadfast fan support.

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