FIVB launches new Volleyball Nations League to coincide with 70th birthday
By Callum Murray in Paris
The FIVB, the international volleyball federation, has announced the launch of a new Volleyball Nations League, which is set to begin in 2018 and which the FIVB claimed “will revolutionise volleyball competitions, making it one of the most important events in the history of the sport.”
The new league, which will comprise both men’s and women’s competitions, takes the place of the existing men’s World League and women’s World Grand Prix series and has been developed in partnership with IMG, the FIVB’s commercial partner since 2009, and a group of 21 national federations.
For the first time, media and commercial rights distribution will be fully centralised, with IMG handling media rights distribution and production, to ensure a consistent presentation of the competitions. Meanwhile, the FIVB will seek a ‘family’ of global sponsors, initially using its internal resources, but with the possibility of hiring a marketing agency to continue the search once the league has launched and potential sponsors have had an opportunity to appreciate the changes.
Speaking exclusively to Sportcal in Paris, where the new league was launched to coincide with the FIVB’s 70th anniversary celebrations, Fernando Lima, the federation’s secretary general, said that the aim of the new league was to “play like the big guys in the world of sport. Volleyball is a sport that can be very quickly in a fantastic position by offering content that until today was not properly available. Somehow, we are reinventing the sport in partnership with IMG to play in the big league.”
Ioris Francini, co-president of WME-IMG, added: “The FIVB will now centralise all commercial rights that previously sat with local federations. That is what will transform the competition’s presentation and communication to the world.”
Previously, the national federations held on to domestic media rights and sponsorship, but Lima said that they would be compensated for giving up the media rights by receiving a share of the overall revenues. He said: “We had a traditional model for many years where the FIVB would grant organisers certain rights, including domestic TV rights, in exchange for a production feed delivered freely.
“That meant for many years if you had volleyball events in 20 countries, you had 20 different productions. Volleyball had to move away from that, like Formula 1 did. The reason we need to do it is not only because it makes sense, but it’s also about the vision: volleyball has many exciting moments that were not properly communicated to the fans. Think of the images: they usually focus on the end of the action, but fans are much more excited about what happens during the rally. Those are the moments you never see on TV.
“We needed to do something to change that; it could not be that in every game there was a different director, each with his own concept. The exciting thing is the project. However, the national federations are the shareholders in the company and receive a split of the benefits. How big the benefits will be we don’t know. We need to work on it to make it a success.”
Francini said that IMG is investing in both “production and the base,” adding: “It’s a long-term partnership, otherwise we wouldn’t make the investment. When you make changes like presenting a consistent feed and look, with a narrative, storytelling, music, light, you’re creating a product that then gets recognised. Broadcasters love that. It’s a radical change from the status quo to where this is going. It will only be fully understood once it’s broadcast by broadcasters.”
Lima would not be drawn on the budget for the league, which is being contributed by FIVB and the national federations, as well as IMG, other than to say it will be “higher than ever.” He added: “Let’s show in the best way the attributes of indoor volleyball. national federations will have the conditions to look for local sponsors with certainty. There will also be big benefit for cities, which are interested in hosting events not just for one year but can create a community around them.”
In a statement, the FIVB said: “In both the men’s and women’s leagues, 12 core teams and four challenger teams will battle to become Volleyball Nations League champion by playing in a round robin format. With a total of 130 matches throughout the league season, every team will play a minimum of 15 matches and each core nation will host at least one pool, bringing the action closer to fans around the world.
“By pushing the boundaries of technology, innovation and digital broadcasting, spectators at home will witness new and diverse angles, showcasing the world class athleticism of each nation’s best players.
“For the very first time, the FIVB, in collaboration with IMG, will take complete control of content production, maximising quality and promoting a compelling, on-court narrative, which is easy for fans to engage with and understand.”
The men’s competition will comprise ‘core’ teams Brazil, Italy, USA, China, Serbia, France, Argentina, Iran, Poland, Germany, Japan and Russia, along with four ‘challenger’ teams, Australia, South Korea, Canada and Bulgaria, which will be subject to promotion and relegation to and from a second-tier ‘Challenger League’.
The women’s competition will comprise Brazil, Italy, USA, China, Serbia, the Netherlands, Thailand, Turkey, South Korea, Germany, Japan and Russia, with Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Poland and Belgium as the challenger teams.