In a move that stunned the beach volleyball world, especially in America, the Beach Major Series announced Thursday that the Fort Lauderdale five-star event scheduled for February 5-10 has been cancelled due to “financial and operational deficiencies that simply do not allow us to produce the tournament.”
The Beach Major Series said in a news release, “We hope to resolve these issues quickly so that we can bring this exciting event back to Fort Lauderdale Beach in 2020.”
VolleyballMag.com reached out to the Beach Major Series, the FIVB and p1440, which lost two of its FIVB-affiliated events. Beach Major and FIVB declined further comment, but p1440 founder Kerri Walsh Jennings said in a statement:
“We sincerely value all of our relationships within the sport and we very much appreciate our budding relationship with the FIVB. It was an exciting milestone for us to host a 4-star event in Las Vegas this year. Aligning ourselves with the world leader in our sport and working to create new opportunities for the athletes and exposure in the US market was meaningful to us,” Walsh Jennings said.
.The Fort Lauderdale tournament was one of only three-five star events scheduled for 2019 — the other two are Gstaad and Vienna — in an important Olympic qualification year. Olympic beach volleyball hopefuls are judged by their 12 best finishes by June 15, 2020.
Two other events — part of the p1440 series — previously announced on the FIVB schedule have been de-listed in Florida and Texas.
“We were in discussion with the FIVB regarding hosting events in 2019, however, these events were never mutually confirmed,” p1440 said in a news release.
As a result there will not be any FIVB events in the United States in 2019. The USA Olympic hopefuls will have to compete against both jet lag and their competition, requiring significant adjustment both in Asia and Europe.
“I’m disappointed because it’s one less opportunity, not just for American athletes but for all the athletes starting the (Olympic) qualification process,” said USA volleyball’s Lori Okimura, who is a member of the FIVB Beach Volleyball Commission. “Beach Majors has done an outstanding job developing their events but the American market is a tough market to exist in.
“One of the best companies in beach volleyball had to cancel an event. There certainly must have been a valid reason. But I’m concerned, because in our sport in general we need more opportunities, not fewer.”
No one is more affected by the Fort Lauderdale decision than Floridians Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, who won the 2018 event, which also happened to be their biggest payday of the year, splitting $40,000. Dalhausser and Lucena are one of the few American beach volleyball professionals who live outside of Southern California.
“I’m super bummed about the cancellation of the Fort Lauderdale Major,” Dalhausser said. “It was Nick’s and my hometown tournament and one of the best in the world.
“It’s too bad. It’s a bummer.”
Nicole Branagh echoed the sentiments of most players.
“It’s too bad because there aren’t that many five stars to begin with,” Branagh said. “And then to take an Olympic qualifier off the table, that’s tough.”
The FIVB model shifts the vast majority of the financial risk from the FIVB to the promoter. In Europe, where the professional sports scene is less robust, the model can work in venues like Gstaad (July 10-15) and Vienna(July 31-August 5).
Pro beach volleyball entrepreneur Albert Hannemann, who owns and operates the NVL Academy, has negotiated previously with the FIVB.
“I just feel like if they wanted to help the entities that want to grow the sport in the U.S., it’s financially impossible to run events of that scale, which they make you do. We want the best players in the world here, and it’s good to play them on our own sand.
“It’s tough to do that with the terms that they give everyone right now. Pulling out of the U.S. is unfortunate. It gives us less opportunities to win another gold medal. They need the U.S. market and they want it, but they need to meet the U.S. entities in the middle.”
Hannemann noted that in American sports like beach volleyball face quite a bit of sports- and entertainment-dollar competition.
“It makes it so difficult. When you go to another country, many of these tournaments have the entire country and federation behind them to support one big FIVB event,” Hannemann said. “It’s a different marketplace in the United States, and it still has to be financially viable for an entity to work with the FIVB. It’s a partnership.
“They have to look at their side, and see how they want to grow their sport, and actually make it an opportunity rather than a disaster which it is financially now.
“For it to work here in the U.S., it’s got to be in the summer, it’s got to be in a very big city, and the FIVB just has to help, and I think it could happen.”