Ladies and Gentlemen,
The call for change in the BB community has never been louder, nor has the level of discontent with the current leadership been so vocal. The reasons for this active voicing of discontent are legion, ranging from a paucity of monies to relegate to the competitors, to a stagnation of interest that festers like a malignant tumor, eating the sport from within. Now should be a time of unparalleled opportunity for Body Building, with the upcoming three-man tussle for the Sandow, a range of young, well-developed talent, and the resurgence of many, battle-tested veterans, a second golden age seems poised to erupt. This, sadly, does not seem to be the case. With athlete morale at an all time low, prize monies continually deteriorating, and once strong competitions folding faster than a Las Vegas Poker Pro holding a 7 high, although not technically dead, Professional Body Building is on life support, placed on machines to keep the patient alive. This fix for this is as complex as the causes behind the condition, solutions that need men of leadership and vision to implement them, and to make them successful. What follows is only one set of common sense solutions to increase the commercial viability of professional Body Building, to insure an improved quality of life for the participants, to increase profitability for promoters, and the organizations that sanction them. This is by no means the only, nor is it maybe the best solution. Some of the steps listed here would seem to be crucial, upon introspection, to the future of the sport.
1. A Total Re-design of the IFBB tournament methodology: The current system of limited tournaments, and small “Invitational” only serves to reduce the opportunities of many body builders to qualify for the O. What follows are fixes proposed to address the current issues:
a. Implementation of a “cut” system in “open” tournaments: By opening the registration to any athlete, currently competing with a Pro-Card will swell the ranks of competing athletes, thus allowing a “cut” that would occur after pre-judging. Any athlete who makes the “cut” would be guaranteed monetary compensation. Top 15 would probably be a good cut line for each tournament, with the 15 highest finishers guaranteed to take home at least a small stipend.
b. Implementation of a required minimum: Too many athletes try and compete too sparingly, thus depriving the public a chance to see their favorites on stage, under the lights, and to judge their competitive merits. By implementing a four-competition minimum, the IFBB could ensure that a credible amount of top name athletes are present at every event. This would also bring strategy into play, as athletes would be forced to develop strategies that would allow them to peak for the major tournaments (those carrying exemptions and higher monetary compensation including the O) the yin/yang of these strategies would develop debate, and allow for some arm-chair dieting, and second guessing by the public, thus generating interest in the sport, and encouraging fan involvement.
c. Establishing four “Major” tournaments: By using the current large tournaments (The O, The Arnold, The Iron Man, the NOC or the GNC) and, through an infusion of cash by the IFBB, purses for these could be increased to levels above the “regular” tournaments, allowing them to be set as the four Benchmark tournaments for the sport. Extended exemptions from Pro Qualification (more on that later) could be granted with the O carrying a five-year exemption, and the other three tournaments carrying three year qualifying exemptions.
d. Establishment of a “points” system to track competitor progress: Through the establishment of a ranking based points system, a hierarchy of competitors could be maintained, this would allow for increased competition throughout the ranks, as those in the middle levels would jockey for rankings and exemptions for the next year.
e. Ending the “entitlement” mentality of the Pro Card: By establishing an exemption clause, and only allowing the top 50 pros to keep their cards, an increased focus on conditioning and placements will ensure that the days of promising young stars getting their cards, signing a big product endorsement package, and then sloughing off on the work, competing just enough to keep the endorsement, and fading into oblivion, while a hungry up and comer is denied a slot due to artificially limited Pro Card availability. Of course there would be exemptions for injury and other items (to be determined by a panel) that would prevent athletes from losing their living due to hardship.
f. Redefinition and realignment of the NPC: Into a minor-league of bodybuilding, with two amateur levels (state and regional) and a semi-pro level (national) each with tournaments, and qualifying, and points systems, plus the addition of small cash purses to winners of National level events.
2. In order to accomplish this re-design a number of changes must occur within the operations of the IFBB:
a. Standardization of the judging process: A written judging standard for evaluation and rules of competition must be established, allowing for increased objectivity by judging panels, and allowing for increase scrutiny of judges decisions.
b. Clarity of focus: The IFBB should rework the judging criteria to focus on conditioning and symmetry, over raw mass, allowing a less genetically gifted athlete with drive and determination the ability to compete (and win) over one who is genetically superior, but not as driven or disciplined.
c. Opening of Judging Ranks: The IFBB should work to promote interest in the sport by establishing qualification training for prospective judges, this would allow the public to have a greater hand in the judging process, and foster a greater understanding of decisions. As a corollary, this would also serve to defuse the rampant charges of collusion that are prevalent with an appointed system of judging, that is rife with corruption.
d. Abandonment of the Olympic Ideal: The insistence of the IFBB to focus exclusively on the International Olympic Committee, as a means of legitimizing the sport, is greedy and short sighted. A better solution would be to partner with other strength sports (power lifting etc.) to transform bodybuilding competitions to muscle expos, thus cross-pollinating the fan bases of all endeavors.
The preceding are just some ideas to save the sport of Bodybuilding, to insure that it’s practice is financially feasible, that it’s competition is above board, and that it’s continual health and growth is insured for years to come. Notably absent from any discussions of change has been the IFBB, other than to promote Olympic inclusion (the dream of one man) and to make a showy flash of international expansion and success of the lower levels (NPC et. al.) In fact, the strength of the lower levels of bodybuilding shows that a turnaround is possible, that the grass roots are in deep soil and can sustain the sport through lean times. Now is the time to take steps to position the sport for the next century, to lay the framework for future expansion and competition. Failure to act, to move forward, is to wither on the vine. Bodybuilding has been withering on the vine for far too long. The choice, Ladies and Gentlemen, is up to you.
(a copy of this message was e-mailed today to all members of the IFBB Board)
Thread: An Open Letter to the IFBB....