Nearly 100 professional beach volleyball players from around the world have formed a union they hope will give them a greater voice in how the sport is run.
The International Beach Volleyball Players Association roster includes many of the sport’s top names, including gold medalists from each of the last four Olympics.
“The 2017 season did not meet the expectations of athletes and beach volleyball stakeholders, with canceled tournaments, a significant drop in prize money and changes to the structure of tournaments,” the IBVPA said in an announcement scheduled to be released on Tuesday, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press on Monday.
“The success of beach volleyball at the 2016 Rio and 2012 London Olympic Games (one of the most-watched sports at the Summer Games) shows that the sport has huge potential to grow.”
Among those signing on to the IBVPA are six of the eight Americans who competed at the Rio Games, including bronze medalists Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross. Three-time Olympian Phil Dalhausser, who won gold in Beijing in 2008, is its honorary president.
Other officers include president Madelein Meppelink, of the Netherlands, and vice president Anouk Verge-Depre. Rio bronze medalist Robert Meeuwsen of the Netherlands and Brazilian Barbara Seixas, a silver medalist in Rio, also have spots on the board.
Since joining the Olympic program in 1996, beach volleyball has emerged as one of the most popular sports at the games. But it has struggled to capitalize on the attention the rest of the time, with many of the top players quarreling with the sport’s management over pay and playing rules.
Walsh Jennings, the most popular American in the sport, last year refused to sign on with the AVP, the U.S. domestic tour, saying it was not doing enough to grow the game. In May, Meppelink Verge-Depre balked at changes to the FIVB world tour structure and schedule and called upon their fellow competitors to act.
“These changes were made without input by the players, despite the impact to their livelihood,” the IBVPA said in its statement. “Most professional sport organizations have effective players’ associations working to provide the best possible environment for the athletes to pursue their professions. … The IBVPA will work to do the same.”
Spokespeople from the International Volleyball Federation and the AVP did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.