Monday, September 8, 2008

Further to the ERF's withdrawal from the IRF

The European Racquetball Federation (ERF) has separated from the International Racquetball Federation (IRF). A statement to that effect authored by ERF President Erik Meyer was circulated at the IRF meeting held in conjunction with the World Championships last month in Kingscourt, Ireland.

Meyer, a Belgian, and Mike Mesecke of Germany were on the IRF Executive Board, and they hoped "the IRF would function as a real International Federation, concentrate on ... real development and NOT only as a [sic] IRF vehicle with PARC [Pan American Racquetball Confederation] in the driver seat" according to Meyer's statement.

The statement continued by stating that "we feel that almost all efforts of the IRF board have been going into PARC related matters and not into the development of Racquetball in the rest of the world. We feel that there is no real interest shown by the IRF in Asia, Europe and elsewhere."

Also, they "feel there is a lack of real leadership within the Executive Committee to lead the IRF into the future. We do not believe that with some of the proposed Board members a real change and further development can be achieved." Thus, the ERF withdrew from the IRF, and Meyer and Mesecke will no longer serve on the IRF Executive.

The Racquetball Blog contacted the ERF Executive Committee for further information on this. Mesecke, the ERF Vice President, responded reiterating what was in Meyer's statement regarding development and long term planning, and questioned whether the IRF's priorities are set correctly.

Mesecke is also concerned about the professionalism of the IRF, stating as an example the lack of complete team standings from last month's World Championships, which we here at The Racquetball Blog pointed out in a previous post. He's further disappointed by the IRF's lack of significant marketing tools such as press releases, photography, video and television coverage. While Mesecke acknowledged the latter is difficult he wonders why there hasn't been a professional photographer at any IRF event.

Mesecke suggested that some of the IRF's problems go back to its origin, when it was too closely tied to the USA Racquetball (earlier USRA and AARA), suggesting the IRF was created as a means for the American organization to associate with the US Olympic Committee and receive funding from them.

As we've previously stated on The Racquetball Blog, the ERF's withdrawal from the IRF is of great concern. We're not sure if the ERF's withdrawal is the best way of accomplishing their goals. However, we are sympathetic with the frustration they are expressing and the experience of arguing with other people in an organization to no effect.

One thing that might help the ERF's cause would be for people in Canada and the USA to pay more attention to the IRF and its activities. For those looking to get racquetball included in the Olympics - and we know there are many of you out there who want that, the IRF would be the means to that end, so everyone who wants that Olympic goal should want a strong IRF.

Yet, the IRF World Championships have been relatively neglected in Canada and - especially - the USA compared to the attention given to the pro tours. In part, this has been due to the fact that in the past the highest ranked International Racquetball Tour (IRT) players did not play in IRF events. For example, Cliff Swain has never played for his country. There are exceptions to that rule, as for example, Andy Roberts, John Ellis, and Ruben Gonzalez - representing both Puerto Rico and the USA (in different events) - have all played in IRF events.

The best American women, such as Michelle Gould, Cheryl Gudinas Holmes, and Jackie Paraiso, have always played in the IRF World Championships. Also, the recent participation of top IRT players Jack Huczek, Rocky Carson and Shane Vanderson, and the emergence of strong competitors from Mexico and Canada has raised the profile of the IRF events.

Thus, the quality of IRF events has improved on court in recent years. However, it's the off court IRF activity the Europeans are most unhappy with, and good signs from the IRF, such as the re-inclusion of racquetball in the World Games, isn't enough to quell their disappointment and frustration at other IRF actions (or inactions).

We'd also like to see a stronger, more professional IRF. But whether the ERF's split from the IRF is a strong enough message to that achieve that end remains to be seen.

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