Spiked! AVP cancels rest of beach volleyball season | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Spiked! AVP cancels rest of beach volleyball season

The AVP has spiked the rest of this year’s professional beach volleyball tour because of “financial hardship” that left it digging for investors to fund the second half of the season.

“As of now, the AVP will be closing the doors,” the tour said in an e-mail to its players from CEO Jason Hodell and commissioner Mike Dodd. “It is with a heavy heart that we must tell you that despite a valiant effort by all and a flurry of investor interest, we have been unable to secure the necessary financing to continue the season.”

The decision was made during a conference call among AVP staff and the members of the board of directors on Friday after months of scrambling for cash that would help the tour overcome the loss of sponsors in a rough economy. “Words cannot express our profound disappointment,” Hodell said in the release announcing the shutdown.

The AVP rode the publicity of the American gold medal sweep in Beijing into new directions, with added TV coverage and stops – some of them in the winter – in landlocked areas not associated with the beach or the beach lifestyle. But sponsors fled, including the title sponsor Crocs, and the tour struggled to make ends meet.

Players had been warned of money woes last month, and the San Francisco event scheduled for this weekend was pushed back a month to allow more time for fundraising. Todd Rogers, who with Phil Dalhausser won the men’s gold medal at the Beijing Olympics, said they had signed up for extra events on the international tour “to hedge our bets.”

“In truth, it doesn’t come as a huge surprise,” Rogers told the AP in an e-mail from Norway, where he is competing in the FIVB Otera Open Kristiansand. “The things AVP management has said over the past four months or so have led me to believe that there could be possible financial difficulties later down the road. Now we are down that road, and sure enough the AVP has run out of money.”

With a hope but no certainty that it can be revived in 2011, the AVP’s collapse also throws into flux the qualification process for the 2012 Olympics in London. While in the past players qualified for the Games by earning points on the world tour, control over the 2012 qualifying had been turned over to the domestic governing bodies.

USA Volleyball CEO Doug Beal said a plan was being discussed in which athletes would use the international and domestic tours to qualify for an Olympic trials tournament that would pick the team for London. He said he is optimistic that there will be some form of U.S. tour in 2011, whether or not it’s the AVP.

“I hope the AVP survives, and if it doesn’t I hope there’s something to replace it. We fully expect that that will be the case,” Beal said. “We very much want to see the AVP … survive and prosper. They are unquestionably important for the development of the sport in this country, as well as our success internationally.

“It has certainly been an iconic portion of our sport and helped it garner incredible visibility and attention and exposure for the game of volleyball.”

Created in 1983 as a players’ association, the AVP first ran the United States’ domestic tour in 1988. “For the past 23 years,” the AVP said in its release, “the AVP tour has featured arguably the best beach volleyball in the world, with AVP athletes winning at least one gold medal in every Olympics since beach volleyball became an Olympic sport in 1996.”

U.S. Olympian Jake Gibb said in a blog posted on the AVP website that the tour helped him improve from “dead average” to the world’s elite. “It has been the direct reason why the USA has won 4 gold medals in the Olympics,” he wrote. “Damn, I don’t know what to say. Just writing this makes me bummed.”

In Beijing, Rogers and Dalhausser won the men’s gold while Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor won the women’s tournament.

Two years later, they are without a home tour.

“Sometimes you need to take a step back in order to take two steps forward. I think that’s what this is,” said Ryan Morgan an agent who represents Rogers, Dalhausser and Walsh. “From the players’ side, we’ll take a step back.”

In its e-mail to the players, the AVP said decisions about the tour’s future rest with its majority owner, RJSM. The firm’s managing partner, Nick Lewin, declined to comment.

“Through the course of this investor search we have encountered individuals and groups with intelligence, common sense and a passion for the game of beach volleyball,” Dodd said. “Who knows, maybe someday in the future one or even a combination of these groups could get together and eventually lead professional beach volleyball back to a business that can be sustained through even the most difficult financial environments.”

The shutdown affects the last five events on the tour’s schedule, starting with the Aug. 19-22 Manhattan Beach Open – considered the sport’s crown jewel. The AVP said the event, which was scheduled to celebrate its 50th anniversary, might continue under different management.

The other events were in Chicago, Cincinnati, San Francisco and Hermosa Beach, Calif.

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