Beach volleyball: the professionals lose the fun in the sand – sport

Beach volleyball: the professionals lose the fun in the sand – sport

The beach volleyball elite is currently traveling in Mexico, where there are two new host cities: A tournament in the second highest category was held in La Paz last week, and the duos have been fighting in a tournament in Tepic, on the other side of the Gulf of California, since Wednesday in the highest category not only for a total of 300,000 euros in prize money, but also for points for the world rankings and Olympic qualification. It’s a pivotal year for the pros, with the Paris 2024 games already looming on the horizon. That’s one of the reasons why they all signed the usual players’ agreement before the start of the season, with which they submit to the rules of the World Volleyball Federation FIVB.

But with a really good feeling, very few active people have apparently ticked the document. “Olympia stands in front of the door. And everyone wants to qualify for it, so everyone signs. But it grumbles because the athletes are being ignored. A lot is decided over their heads. The focus is not necessarily on us doing well,” says German international Karla Borger, who finished ninth with her partner Sandra Ittlinger in La Paz. They skip the tournament in Tepic and make a short stopover in their home country Stuttgart before continuing to Brazil, with Clemens Wickler/Nils Ehlers and Svenja Müller/Cinja Tillmann representing the German colors in the main field in Tepic.

Borger had already raved about the European Championships in Munich last August – and drew a striking contrast: “This is a cool tournament that we have rarely experienced in this form, and where you experience appreciation. Just one example: Here there is for us drinks, fresh fruit, a coffee machine. We don’t know that at all, on the international tour there is sometimes not even a player area.”

After all, La Paz also has useful tips ready – such as a warning about stingrays

In the sometimes much too hard sand of La Paz there were sometimes broken pieces, as Borger and Ittlinger recently reported in their blog “Life is a Beach”. After all, there is now a kind of organization manager who has useful tips on the shuttle service and training times. In La Paz he warned against going into the sea a few steps away – acute danger of stingrays! But the impression remains: Commerce is trumps. After all, new markets are to be opened up – Mexico is also the host of the Beach Volleyball World Cup this fall.

The background to the latent dissatisfaction is that the FIVB has dressed its 2022 world series in a completely new guise. Since then the format has been called “volleyball World Beach Pro Tour” – and is marketed through Volleyball World Aktiengesellschaft by CVC Capital Partners (CVC), an equity investment giant from Luxembourg. The majority shareholder is the FIVB, and the entire deal, as Sky News reported at the time, is said to be worth $300 million CVC has already invested in Formula 1, rugby, the Spanish soccer league and, as was only announced two weeks ago, the WTA, the global women’s tennis tour.The goal is clear: maximizing profits – and with huge returns resell.

Volleyball World, whose CEO Finn Taylor was a former manager of spectacle circus Cirque du Soleil, now markets just about everything in volleyball and beach volleyball: World Championships, Olympic qualification, Nations League, including its own paid TV and streaming channels. The total prize money for the professionals, which used to be around nine million dollars per season, has fallen massively. The fields of participants have also become smaller. In Tepic, only 16 teams are allowed for women and men; there used to be twice as many. “There are only a few intercontinental tournaments where you come out with a plus,” says Borger: “If you only use the prize money, you almost have to win.” This is a farce, especially for young duos.

Beach volleyball: National beach volleyball player Karla Borger is also president of the Athletes Germany association.

National beach volleyball player Karla Borger is also president of the Athletes Germany association.

(Photo: Peter Weber/Beautiful Sports/Imago)

In January, the IBVPA, a kind of trade union for beach volleyball professionals, therefore sent a letter to Volleyball World and the world association, in which they criticized the reduction in the number of tournaments and prize money and demanded more say. The letter, which is available to the SZ, also criticizes the sudden introduction of a new game ball, which took the professionals by surprise – and there are now far too few copies for team training.

The addressees reportedly reacted with threats to the professionals that they would not be admitted to tournaments if they did not sign the player agreement. A lawyer used by the IBVPA apparently bit on granite. In any case, the officials of the IBVPA do not concede any right to have a say, because they argue that there is already an athletes’ commission. The IBVPA was only created because the professionals in the sand were hardly heard. “The athletes’ commission is not really involved. And the IBVPA is not accepted at all,” says Borger.

As it was said in the announcement on the introduction of the Beach Pro Tour: In addition to the sporting realignment, the intention was to bring “the fans closer to the beach lifestyle”. But the pros aren’t really telling stories about the sweet life by the sea. Rather, one in which the base moves more and more away from the top.

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