In recent times, the IFSC has often been offended by decisions. In the comment columns, some sharp shots are fired at the international sport climbing association. And the athletes themselves are also critical. Is this criticism appropriate or not?

Be it the cooperation with the paid streaming platform Discovery+ or the submission of pictures of the qualifying boulders at the World Cup opener in Meiringen: The IFSC provided a topic of conversation with their decisions. Not only among athletes and coaches, but also within the climbing community.

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A rough wind is blowing against the IFSC on social media.

The obligation to pay

The latter was particularly bothered by the fact that within Europe you have to pay for the live broadcast of all IFSC World Cups and World Championships. On March 25, 2022, in a media release, the IFSC had one three-year partnership with Discovery Sports announced. As a result of this partnership, starting this season, competitions in Europe can only be followed live for a fee.

The only downside: The recordings of the competitions can be viewed free of charge with an artificial delay of 24 hours. In addition, the costs for a subscription to Discovery Sports, at around 60 euros per year, are significantly lower than in 2017, when the IFSC one Cooperation with FloSports was striving for, but rejected the plan due to the massive resistance from the climbing scene.

The IFSC counters the accusations of money-making from the comment columns with a reference to its legal form. The International Climbing Federation is a non-profit organization. Any income that the organization can raise would be reinvested back into the sport.

"The agreement with Discovery will raise the profile of our sport and our athletes."

IFSC President Marco Scolaris

"In addition, our agreement with Discovery will raise the profile of our sport and our athletes," said IFSC President Marco Scalaris in the press release on the three-year deal. An effect from which the association hopes to have a positive impact on the sponsorship opportunities for athletes.

Alex Megos IFSC Worldcup Meiringen
Criticizing the IFSC: Alex Megos, here during the World Cup opener in Meiringen. Image: Jan Virt, IFSC

The visibility

This brings us to the next point, visibility, which is so important for the climbing pros. Alex Megos expressed concern after the World Cup in Meiringen that the live stream within Europe was no longer available free of charge. "We are the protagonists in the competitions and we want to be seen by as many people as possible," said the German professional climber. He is not alone with this opinion.

"We are the protagonists in the competitions and we want to be seen by as many people as possible."

Alexander Megos.

The IFSC writes at the request of our editors that it is impossible to judge this topic after just one competition. The numbers would not indicate a slump in reach, as a comparison of the number of viewers in 2021 and 2022 using the example of the Bouldering World Cup in Meiringen shows. Instead, the international climbing association points out that Discovery, as the second largest Olympic broadcaster, guarantees year-round reporting in more than 50 countries and 19 languages.

The creativity

Another controversial decision by the IFSC is directly linked to the World Cup in Meiringen. There, for the first time, photos of the qualification boulders were given to the athletes and coaches in the warm-up and waiting areas. According to the association, this rule was introduced for reasons of fairness. It was intended to ensure that no team that was able to take a look at the boulders in the run-up to a competition was given an advantage.

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Various athletes shared the statement on social media, in which the new regulation of the IFSC is criticized.

A laudable idea, the implementation of which was unfortunate, at least in Meiringen. This is where Alex Megos comes into play, who publicly questioned the new regulation. On the one hand, he complained that not all athletes had the same amount of time to look at the pictures. On the other hand - and in his eyes even more important - this handling harms the nature of competitive bouldering, in which the athletes adapt to a constantly changing environment under time pressure. "That's the magic of bouldering. The creativity of problem solving is what makes our sport unique.”

"That's the magic of bouldering. The creativity of problem solving is what makes our sport unique.”

Alexander Megos.

The say

Furthermore, various athletes criticize the lack of participation in the decision-making of such changes on the part of the association. The decision was made in direct contradiction to the feedback from several members of the Athletes' Commission.

The IFSC does not accept this accusation. "The decision was made in December 2021 at an in-person meeting of the athletic department, which was also attended by representatives of the athletes' and coaches' committees."

"The decision was made in December 2021 at an in-person meeting of the athletic department, which was also attended by representatives of the athletes' and coaches' committees."

IFSC
IFSC General Assembly with Athletes Committee Representatives
Shauna Coxsey (second from right) and Sean McColl (right) represent the Athletes' Commission on the IFSC Executive Board, here at the General Assembly. Image: Jan Virt, IFSC

The IFSC Athletes' Commission is made up of 13 athletes and is currently headed by the British Shauna Coxsey presides. According to the IFSC, the Athletes Commission meets regularly with one or more representatives of the association. The president and the vice-president are also represented on the management board, which meets monthly.

The conclusion

The next World Cup is on the competition calendar in Seoul next week. Then it will be seen whether the IFSC will succeed in improving the handling of the quality images. The extent to which the paywall will affect the visibility of athletes in public will only be known in a few months when reliable figures are available.

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Credits: Cover photo Jan Virt, IFSC

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