Tuesday, May 11, 2010

WTC - Rape & Pillage

(Article courtesy of slowtwitch.com - my less diplomatic comments at the bottom)

The updated 8% prize money rule at WTC events has impacted quite a few athletes this year, but nowhere more than at the recent Ironman 70.3 St. Croix where 9 men, but only 2 women, got paid. These two female pros walked with much larger paychecks than their male counterparts.

Until this year if a pro racing Ironman or 70.3 WTC events did not finish within 8% of the second-placed pro finisher’s time, that pro wasn’t eligible for prize money. For this Ironman season the rule was changed, requiring the pros to finish with 8% of the winner’s time in order to get paid. Initially when the rule was announced, the unpaid winnings were supposed to just disappear from the pool, but the rule was quickly amended by the WTC for the "extra prize money" to be re-distributed among those pros who finished within the 8% time. Otherwise the prize money at certain events would not have been equal among the male and female fields.

"This rule has been around forever, and I do mean forever," said 8-time Ironman World Champion Paula Newby-Fraser who currently works for World Triathlon Corp. (Newby-Fraser says she doesn’t have a specific title and describes her role at WTC as a "floater.") "This rule is not new, it was off of second place and all that's been done is that it has been upgraded to first place."

But why was the rule upgraded if it has been around forever and worked just fine?

"There were 12 people from every corner of the planet sitting at that table," added Newby-Fraser. "The fact that it is where it is now is based on a vote. Whether I voted for it or if Heather (Fuhr) voted for it is not important… the majority voted for it. I work for WTC, so if that is the policy, I support it unconditionally. Because that is what I have to do."

The number of Ironman and 70.3 races is growing, however, making it tougher to attract quality pro fields to these events. Plus, there are non-WTC events that offer excellent venues and great prize money and compete with the WTC races for Pro athletes. Just this past weekend Ironman St. George and 70.3 St. Croix went head to head with the Wildflower Triathlon and Escape from Alcatraz. This makes the new rule more likely to trigger non-payment of prize money to top finishers.

Are the pros on the receiving end of this largesse happy? Not entirely. Three-time Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington, who could add quite a bit of money to her purse by stomping on the competition at certain events, voiced some concerns about this rule.

"Athletes must be prepared to invest time and money in personal development—and accept that they may not make money, initially or at all. But these rule changes may see fewer athletes testing the waters as a professional," said Wellington. "In addition, slower pros might avoid WTC races where fast athletes are racing for fear that they won’t get paid, stifling competition not enhancing it. Some WTC ironman events only have 5 or 6 professional women racing. Don't we want to increase this number rather than limit it by restricting who can win prize money? Yes, it may mean that sometimes slower athletes get paid, but these slower athletes may invest this money in their own development and go on to be World Champions of the future."

Current 70.3 World Champion Julie Dibens has similar sentiment. "I totally disagree with the 8% rule on prize money. This sport is hard enough to make a living from as a professional, especially for the athletes that finish below the top 3 in races. A high percentage of pro triathletes are scraping by from race to race. Even some of more successful athletes have been in this position at some point, so they know exactly how hard it can be. As professional athletes we ALL work hard to get to where we are at. The ones winning aren't always the ones that work the hardest! Why penalize those who are finishing further down the order by taking away what little prize money is left on offer. One minute it is there... next minute is gone...literally," said Dibens. "As with most sports, it is often not just the podium places that make the sport, and help create exciting races. Imagine if just Chrissie and Rinny stood on the start line, because no one else thought it was worthwhile showing up due to this 8% rule. How exciting would that be both for the athletes and the spectators?"

Simon says: - "Interesting what Chrissie Wellington and Julie Dibens say but there are a small number of Pros that support the ruling (mainly the ones benefiting from the bigger pay cheques I note. Nice to see Chrissie and Julie talking a more supportive view). I have to say that I am scathing about this rule and not to mention the other rule whereby a Pro has to be within 5% of the winner to get his Hawaii spot - it seems that not only is WTC aiming for world domination while reaping untold financial returns for their company (have no doubt, they are a money making corporation and nothing more) but they seem intent on pi$$ing off [at best] and damaging [at worst] the very athletes that are fueling their money making empire.

Don't get me wrong, I love to hear that event management companies make money, in fact I love to hear their success stories and the wealth that the people behind them create for themselves. I love to hear this for three reasons 1) I'm an entrepreneur and I love to hear fellow entrepreneurs getting on with something and succeeding, 2) I have done event management in the past (sailing regattas) and will likely do so again at some point in the future - my mission statement has always been "The best event, with the best prizes and one that makes money for the organisers", and 3) The more successful race organisers there are, the more races there will be for us weekend warriors.

I believe my philosophies are based on a win win scenario for the organisers and the athletes but when the balance tips towards greedy organisers or just bloody minded power mad corporations that think their way is the only way, then something must be done.

And do you know what will be done? That is simple, market forces will come to play coupled with the average Joe's belief in fair play and athletes will abandon WTC for other races like the Challenge Series, the Tristar races & don't forget about the Abu Dhabi Long Course race (USD230,000 for the Pros & USD20,000 for the AGs) ... Yes, Kona has it's mystique but it's not a sanctioned World Triathlon Championships however much WTC pretends it is and who wants to go to Clearwater as a destination for goodness sake.

WTC needs to start listening to its Pros and it's rank and file athletes otherwise WTC will eat itself! There I have spoken!"

See the full article HERE

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