September 27, 2001

Money On Their Minds

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Generally, if a sport has survived for over 100 years, one would not anticipate rule changes that drastically alter the way the game is played.

In that century, strategies and training regimens are modified and perfected by participants who believe these fundamentals will apply to the sport for their entire athletic careers.

Not so, says the Federation of International Volleyball (FIVB). This organization “has the mission to govern and manage all forms of volleyball,” and is “aimed at developing volleyball as a major world sport,” according to its website (www.fivb.org).

While browsing background information, one instantly recognizes how important money is to the FIVB. It prides itself on doubling the TV audiences in America and Asia, generating some of the highest TV ratings in media events, and awarding the most prize money to athletes. These statements are evidence of an organization that built its foundations on money.

After all, it could have mentioned accomplishments within the volleyball community, but instead chose to rave about its financial endeavors.Ticket sales and Neilsen ratings are on the minds of everyone involved in the sports industry. Money is the driving force of a myriad of marketing ploys designed to bring more fans to the game, but there is a line between acceptable and absurd. Never has this line been crossed with the fervor demonstrated by the FIVB’s plan to “heighten interest” in the sport of volleyball.

One can imagine the scenario that played out in the FIVB’s boardroom. Inresponse to shouts of “We want more money!,” the President calms the flaring tempers of the board members with a solution.

“People just don’t understand our sport,” he begins. “If we could make the game easier to comprehend, everyone would love volleyball! We could be gazillionares!”

The room erupts with cheers upon hearing they will be gazillionares, and, forgetting their responsibility to every volleyball participant in the world, the board members quickly draft and approve several rule changes.

While considering these modifications, the board members must have disregarded the millions of athletes and coaches who have spent lifetimes playing under certain fundamental rules. No doubt, each participant believed these rules inalienable, as they should have been. Alas, the FIVB tossed all reason and accountability out the door for greediness and frivolity. Under the old rules, for a team to score a point, it had to be serving. Each game would be played to 15, but a team had to win by at least two points.

This season, and apparently all future seasons, a team can win a point at any time, even if it is not serving. Also, games will now be played until 30 points. The other significant change is that if the ball hits the net as it goes over on a serve, it is in play. The old rules stated that when the ball hit the net on a serve, it was out of play regardless of where it hit.

These changes are absurdly radical. The FIVB claims the new rules will attract more fans by making the game easier to follow as well as making the game more exciting for people in the stands and on the court. I doubt the average American considers football an easy sport to follow, but that does not diminish its popularity in the least. The fact that you have to think about the game and how it’s played is one of the aspects of sports that attracts fans. Also, the dives, jumps, and spikes should be enough to satisfy the players’ need for excitement, and certainly every fan likes to see athletes sacrificing their bodies to win.

So what was the reason behind these changes? To raise excitement and bring in more spectators? That is what the FIVB would have you think. It is a convenient veil to pull over the real origin: a few more nickels and dimes.

Perhaps the game will not change that much, and maybe the players will find that the change in scoring is not that drastic.

The fact of the matter is that the FIVB did not institute these changes primarily for the good of thegame. Money is the root of all evil, and that is the bottom line in this situation.


Archived article by Katherine Granish