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Pro Kabaddi 2021 starting date likely in July

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The eighth season of the Pro Kabaddi league (PKL), which was postponed last year due to the pandemic, is expected to be held in the July-October window.

The league has conducted seven seasons since its inception in 2014. The last campaign ran in 2019, which Bengal Warriors won.

PKL commissioner and Mashal Sports CEO Anupam Goswami has further assured that they will follow all regulations that the government has issued as a coronavirus safety measure.

“The natural window for Pro Kabaddi is the monsoon months – broadly June to October. We want to conduct Season 8 in that window,” Goswami told the Indian Express.

“We will adopt COVID safety as an ethic also, to show that an indigenous sport can be rigorous in terms of looking at the health of the players and all officials involved. The quarantine and safety measures will have to be very rigorous.”

Pro Kabaddi is telecast live on the Star Sports TV channels while live streaming is available on the Disney+ Hotstar OTT platform. That could, however, change.

Earlier in February, sports management company Mashal Sports had issued a tender to auction PKL media rights for five seasons to be held during 2021-2025.

Founded by Anand Mahindra and Charu Sharma, Mashal Sports is 74 per cent owned by Star India, which has been the current broadcast rights holder since the inception of the league.

The reason behind auctioning the media rights is understood to be a conflict of interest and increased pressure from the team franchises for a better pay structure from the broadcaster. 

The e-auction process is slated to be held on April 6. 

“We should differentiate between the role of Star as a primary investor of Mashal Sports, which owns the League, and Star the erstwhile broadcast partner,” the PKL commissioner said in the interview.

“It is very clear that PKL has become a great media asset and that it would benefit any media partner. But the role of Star in creating that media asset is not missed by anybody – it’s acknowledged by all stakeholders of PKL, including franchises. We hope Star will come in big and participate in the media rights auction,” Goswami added.

Pro Kabaddi League has witnessed tremendous growth over the past few seasons, with season 7 recording the highest viewership ever.

The Mashal Sports CEO further stated, “We’re heading into Season 8 with a very structured plan because at the end of the last season we had to come up with a new media rights deal for the teams who are stakeholders.

“Season 7 ended with 328 million viewers, 71 billion minutes of watch time. In a land of big numbers, these are exceptional numbers for a new sport. So we’ve demonstrated that we are a great media asset.

“We started in 2014 with eight teams, now we have 12. For quite some time we had the longest tenure for any front-ranking sports league in the country. We still are the biggest league in terms of the number of matches.”

Feature image courtesy: Pro Kabaddi 2021.

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