Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What's the deal with the IRT and

This season Dave Negrete, commissioner of the International Racquetball Tour (IRT), lined up a deal to have IRT Grand Slam and Tier 1 events broadcast on Thus, there was coverage for the first three events of the IRT season: the Motorola Racquetball World Championships in Denver, Ghost of Georgetown in Kansas City and Kentucky Pro Am Open in Bowling Green.

However, there hasn't been coverage since. The Racquetball Blog talked to Negrete about this today, and the reason for the halt is the ultimate bottom line: money. It costs money to produce the coverage, and also to put it on the network. Negrete had a great deal with, who "was great" to work with. ESPN is not the problem.

The problem is the IRT still needs to cover the production costs, which include beaming the signal from the site back to the main ESPN location via satellite. Preseason Negrete had sponsors lined up to do that. However, you may have noticed that we're not in the same economic climate as we were six months ago, and that's led to a loss of the sponsorships that was going to cover those production costs.

No one's more frustrated by this than Negrete. "It's killing me," he said, because Negrete had everything lined up only to have it torpedoed by something outside of his control.

Negrete's goal is to grow the game, and he saw as a way to do this by potentially reaching millions as well as linking racquetball up to a great sports brand: ESPN itself. Also, the broadcasts would be (and have been) professionally done, which is key for Negrete as he works to attract further sponsors, because a more professional product will be more attractive to sponsors.

The economic climate is a concern for Negrete looking forward to next season, as already one of the Tier 1 events (South Carolina) scheduled later this season will not happen due to lack of funding.

"Next year could be scary," he said.

p.s. an article on sports and the economy appeared today on

Follow the bouncing ball....

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