The role of sport on education, health and behavioural outcomes on youth segment of population has been extensively studied across the globe; still this has gained little attention in the policy realm (Sloane, 2006; Cornelißen and Pfeifer, 2007). It has been widely accepted that the partake in sporting activities in childhood and young adulthood lower medical care costs, reduces the possibility of loss of working hours due to ailments, and so forth at much later stages in life. While such intergenerational benefits from sports are acclaimed among the academicians and researchers, a few studies argued that sports often incur healthcare costs and truancy due to injuries (Maffulli et al., 2011). In this debatable issue, Pomfret and Wilson (2011), nevertheless, argued that sports participation is likely to produce a net gain for the society.

A good deal of empirical research has found positive and robust impacts of sports on reinforcing physical and mental health, youth’s school performance and peer relations (Poinsett, 1996; Taylor et al., 2015). Carreres-Ponsoda et al. (2012) found that out-of-school sports participant youths have greater participation rate in social activities than youths without engagement in any sport. Sports refrain children from sedentary activities (watching television, playing computer games, and the like), of late, which has become a serious cause of concern among parents (O’Brien, Issartel and Belton, 2018). Involvement in sport activities has considerable impact on two key behavioural aspects. These are:

  1. Competition: It is highly important for a youth to apprehend at the early age that her competition lies with herself only, and not with others, and through sports, such self-esteem and confidence develops. Besides, they learn to accept defeat at times[1] (Horn and Hasbrook, 1987; Horn and Weiss, 1991; Mahaseth, 2016).
  2. Presence of Mind: Further, sports have colossal positive effects on developing the presence of mind and espousing affirmative approaches always to solve the daily problems among the youth segment[2] (Coakley, 1983).

On public policy front, Bergsgard et al. (2007) argued that if government introduces pro-sport policies, then that would have synergistic consequences on many developmental and behavioural determinants such as reduction of the incidence of crime and drug use among youth, physical and mental health development, community rejuvenation and so forth. A step further, Raj et al. (2017) argued that sport is a remarkable tool that can radically reduce the sexual and domestic violence in “one generation”. Besides, the study argued that more research is needed on the effects of sports on socio-economic and behavioural aspects of the youth as well as parents.

It has been well-recognised that the direct and indirect spillover benefits of sports to any civilisation are substantial, and thus, this sector should gain urgent priority from the households as well as governments. More specifically, interventions from the government of different tiers is highly imperative to promote sports in terms of developing its infrastructure through increase in spending and mobilising awareness relating to the benefits that can be accrued from it among the parents and schools. To encourage sports participation among youth, sports policies, fundamentally, need to be centered on reinforcing infrastructure (Wicker, Hallmann, and Breuer, 2013). In this regard, public spending on sports at the school level is highly imperative. Swart, Swanepoel and Surujlal (2014) found that administration costs in promoting sport in South Africa has been considerably high, which leads to inadequate budgetary allocation for school sport and limits the scope for mass participation in sporting activities. As a result, the South African economy fails to develop sport at grassroots level[3]. Pomfret and Wilson (2011) critically evaluated the Australian government policy towards sports and argued that there is a need for “better-directed” sports expenditure so as to its benefits could be reaped. In the context of Germany, Dallmeyer, Wicker and Breuer (2018) found that the impact of average government spending on sports is not significant on improving sports participation. Based on this finding, the authors argued that a consistent funding is what is more important than the size of funding. Similar to this result, however, Bhadra et al. (2019) found in Indian context that despite several initiatives by the Central government, engagement in sport activity among the adolescents is less than the desired level.

The status quo of sports infrastructure in India shows a disquieting situation. The foundation of sports among the children should be introduced at the rudimentary level, and in this regard, it is highly imperative to focus on building sports infrastructure at the school level. Nevertheless, a number of studies have found that the focus from both the public and private sectors on setting up sports infrastructures in India has largely been concentrated on promoting professional level sports (Tripathi and Kapoor, 2017; ASSOCHAM-PwC, 2019), whereas it emerges to be severely lacking at the school level since a sizable portion of schools across the country yet to have playground facility (Bandhopadhyay, 2016). Apart from the shortage of playground facility in school yard, of late, the academic structure of the schools has innate tendency to put more educational pressure on the children, which overwhelmingly shrinks the duration of youth’s pursuance of sports activities (Prabu, 2015). Such academic stress is more compounded by the fact of parental pressure on children as the parents want them to excel in study only (Jain and Singhai, 2018). Since academic stress and sports activities are reciprocally related, school authorities, thus, need to carefully reassess such proliferation of its charted out courses in order to correspondingly provide adequate time that the students could devote to sports (Sharma, Kumar and Sarin, 2016).

While much of the Indian literature has emphasised on estimating effects of sports on education and health of children, there have still been relatively a smaller number of research in the sphere of sports economics, in particular, research on national and sub-national fiscal responses to sports promotion in schools through development of infrastructure is sparse. However, only what these literatures signify is that the government should prioritise sports, inter alia, through budgetary allocations to this sector in a carefully planned manner, and this study aims to address this research need, and thus, seeks to empirically examine implications of the public spending on sports at the school level in India. The paper is structured as follows: Section 2 presents the sports facilities in schools while in section 3, differing roles and priorities of state and union budgets are critically discussed and empirically analysed. Section 4 empirically examines the effects of state and union expenditures on delivering basic sports infrastructure at the school level. Section 5 concludes.

[1] For instance, if a child repeatedly fails to win a race while competing with other participants then that child, at the outset, understands her physical capability and limitations, which compels her to put more efforts to win it eventually. In other words, the scope of thinking as “I have to beat them” becomes sparse whereas “I have to win it” becomes comparatively greater.

[2] For instance, in cricket, table tennis, volleyball, football, lawn tennis, badminton, baseball and a few other sports, the ball comes to a player in a fraction of second, in which, the player swiftly has to decide and implement the appropriate counterattack. Such sort of high reflex activities in sports on a routine-basis substantially help the individuals to evolve mentally stronger, and thus, they always strive for finding solutions to any sort of issues with enhanced presence of mind and wittiness.

[3] As is well-known, cognitive development, pro-social behaviour and emotional skills are shaped early in life (Currie and Almond, 2011), therefore, sport should gain focus from the school level itself.

Kausik is Senior Budget Specialist with Primus Partners. Earlier he was Research Analyst with International Budget Partnership (IBP). He holds a PhD in Economics and his areas of expertise include Public Finance and Policy, Fiscal Decentralisation, Fiscal Federalism, Decentralised Public Service Delivery and Public Health.