It began with Vegas (Vegas!). An FIVB – no, not just an FIVB – a four-star FIVB. No, not even just a four-star FIVB in Vegas. The second event of the p1440 calendar will be an Olympic qualifier in Las Vegas with four-star points and four-star prize money on the line.
Talk about an entrance to beach volleyball.
So why stop there? After all, p1440 had made a commitment to bringing in not just the best beach volleyball in the country, but in the world. And if the past two Olympic cycles, in which the United States men have been bereft of gold medals, have been any indicator, the best beach volleyball is played outside of the 50 states.
“The world,” Sinjin Smith told me after the 2016 Olympics, “has caught up.”
Indeed it seems it has, and if p1440’s mission is to develop the Americans into the international power they once were, then why not make all four of p1440’s initial events FIVBs? Why not pit them against the competition they’ll see in the Olympics, played with the international ball and international rules with international referees?
That’s exactly what p1440 did.
Every event will not be a four-star. Three, actually – San Jose, Huntington Beach and San Diego – will not be within the star system at all, labeled rather as exhibitions. It’s a format that will still fall under the FIVB umbrella, however without several restrictions, such as country quota. With that lack of restriction comes the caveat that, while seeding will be based with a mix of scaled FIVB points, no actual FIVB points will be awarded based on finishes.
It is simply an international competition, promoted by p1440, partnered with the FIVB. “It will be a great experience getting to play some tough international teams on American soil,”
said Hagen Smith, the first male player to sign with p1440’s developmental team who recently finished his first full beach season, qualifying for AVP events in San Francisco and Hermosa Beach. “It will help me see where I am in the mix as I get ready to make a run for more FIVB events.”
For reference’s sake, Leonard Armato put on a similar event with his World Series of Beach Volleyball in Long Beach, labeled as an FIVB exhibition because it featured international talent without all of the international restrictions. This made it possible, for example, to have exclusively Americans on one side of the bracket and exclusively internationals on the other, guaranteeing an American vs. international final for ESPN.
Most intriguingly, in this case, given the landscape of beach volleyball at the moment, p1440’s events being FIVB exhibitions means this, according to rule 1.1 of the FIVB player contract:
“The ATHLETE is free to enter or not in FIVB EVENTS and should not be constrained by any organisation to do so or not.”
That wording, of course, comes into direct conflict with the AVP contract, which requires exclusivity as a player unless permission is granted via dispensation request to play on another tour, such as p1440 or the FIVB.
Already, a number of players have been approved for dispensation for p1440 San Jose at the end of the month, though multiple have also been denied dispensation – temporarily, at least – for Las Vegas. The concerns cited in the email denying dispensation for Las Vegas were that of the “promoter” – promoter in this case being p1440 – not yet having displayed the ability to put on a successful event of such magnitude.
The denial is unlikely to stick, given that Vegas is an Olympic qualifier, and there are guards against organizations preventing athletes from Olympic qualification events.
So who will play which events and who will not remains to be seen.
What is known is this: p1440 made a point to haul in the best beach volleyball in the world. With each event partnered with the FIVB, consider that mission accomplished.
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