Sport is an asset and should not be considered something we do just for recreation,” says Hakimuddin Habibulla, who has played a key role in drafting the right to play bill, 2012 which will soon be introduced in the Haryana assembly. Habibulla, a national level swimming champion who represented India in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, is well placed to make such a demand. The founder and principal consultant at Bangalore-based Winning Matters Consulting, a management advisory that helps organizations engage with Indian sport, first met Haryana government officials last year at a sports conference. Habibulla, who believes that sport is integral to the socio-economic development of a society, pushed ideas to propagate sports on a larger scale.
The right to play bill guarantees the residents of Haryana the right to play and access sports facilities, irrespective of age. The bill makes stakeholders such as the state government, educational institutes, local authorities like municipal corporations, zila parishads and so on responsible for providing sporting facilities and services. “When we talk about education institutes, we often don’t look beyond schools. The bill will ensure that even colleges and universities make sure everyone has the opportunity to take up sport.”
Habibulla was clear that development of sport in India cannot be done without the help of the state, which is the agency that can create an enabling ecosystem through its policies and programmes. The bill was drafted by Habibulla and his team after a three-month long meticulous research during which they looked at global best practices, domestic legislations, and tried to understand how the department of sports and youth affairs was working to improve sports infrastructure in the state. From conceptualising to finalising the draft, it took about 12 months for Habibulla and his team from Winning Matters Consulting.
Habibulla, who is in his mid 30s, had to give up sport to pursue academics, as happens to most athletes from middle-class families. After completing his graduation in engineering, he left for the US but decided to come back in 2006. Soon after he and two friends started Go Sports, a sports-talent management consultancy. They represented swimmer Virdhawal Khade,shuttler Anup Sridhar and tennis star Rohan Bopanna.
In 2008, Habibulla and his partners started Go Sports Foundation, a non-profit organisation which supported athletes with funding, training, equipment and making sure that they had the right environment. In 2010, he started Winning Matters as he thought it was the right time to work at the micro level. “With Go Sports athletes were making progress but there was still need for a structure to build confidence among the stakeholders of Indian sport,” he says.
Habibulla hopes that once the right to play bill becomes a law in Haryana, other states will follow its example and take sport more seriously. One feature of the bill is keeping track of sports facilites and services provided by educational institutes and others. “The department of sports and youth affairs will register and monitor their progress,” he explains.
The Haryana government, says Habibulla, has been very proactive and kept in close contact with his team at all levels of drafting the bill. “For sport to develop in India, the state has to be the key facilitator. You can have companies supporting or giving money, but it is the state which has to lead the development of Indian sport.” For Habibulla, the bill is just the beginning of something he hopes can play a monumental role in developing Indian sport.