The climbers speak: Open letter from the Athletes’ Commission

Since the IFSC announced its deal with FloClimbing to offer the live streams through a (paid) subscription-based platform, many climbers have spoken out against it. Sean McColl, Jorg Verhoeven, Katharina Saurwein, Jakob Schubert, Shauna Coxsey, Daniel Woods… Today the Athletes’ Commission has spoken too, releasing an open letter in which they criticize the IFSC quite harshly.

Here’s the letter:

Open Letter from the IFSC Athletes’ Commission
The last few days have been dramatic – never before has the climbing community has been so vocal and united in opposition to a decision involving our sport.

The IFSC rightly states that it values good governance and transparency, and that its athletes are included in decision making processes at all levels. However we would not be where we are today if this were completely true:
– rule changes have been introduced with little communication or debate, and in our view without proper consideration of the consequences;
– the media rights for our sport have apparently been sold with no consultation, and with no apparent consideration for the effects on athletes, sponsors, organisers or the community that ultimately makes climbing the sport we love.

We are saddened that the IFSC has chosen not to be open, not just with us but with the climbing community at large. To us, this is opposite to the spirit that defines our sport.

We are speaking up now because we are disappointed and frustrated; we feel that we have reached a dead end in trying to influence the IFSC
quietly from the inside.

If we believed that it was too late for the IFSC to act in accordance with its stated values we would not be writing this, but we have to call for a change in behaviour.

We are concerned that the IFSC will try to manage its way past this crisis and then go back to business as usual. This is not a course of action that we can agree with.

To make our voices heard, starting at the Meiringen World Cup, we have asked the athletes to withdraw cooperation with the livestream media until changes are made.

Our aims are to have:
– effective consultation on (rule) changes that affect the athletes;
– a free livestream on an IFSC platform indefinitely.

We are speaking out publicly because we believe that the IFSC and its board members will rightly be judged by their action or inaction. We hope our actions will help the IFSC hold itself accountable, not to us, but to the climbing community at large. As athletes, we want to see our sport grow and prosper, but success must be measured in more than financial return.

According to the IFSC’s website, the Athletes’ Commissionprovides a channel for communication between athletes and the IFSC Board. It also supports the IFSC in developing the sport, monitoring the health of all athletes, and fighting against doping.

The commission includes climbers like Jakob Schubert, Libor Hroza, Charlotte Durif, Delaney Miller or Jain Kim. The Boulder representatives are Sebastian Halenke, Jorg Verhoeven, Domen Skofic and Akiyo Noguchi. The commission is presided by Sean McColl.

The letter is the last development in the live streaming controversy (although the letter also covers rule changes, hinting at the famous 4 minute flat rule) that has been playing out since last Wednesday.

Climbers protesting during the Open Ceremony in Meiringen

The IFSC has been under constant pressure. First the overwhelmingly negative reaction on social media, then federations and individual climbers speaking out against the decision followed by a climbers’ protest with red cards during the open ceremony in Meiringen, and finally an online petition to keep the streams free (that has reached more than 12 thousand signatures so far).

Facing such negative feedback the IFSC decided to offer the live stream from Meiringen free on youtube. And they may do the same with the upcoming World Cups in China.

What will happen in the long run is still up in the air. But the climbing community has spoken loud and clear. We’ll see if the IFSC wants to hear.

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