IFSC Apologizes and Reverses Course


World Cup climber celebrates after topping at the recent World Cup in Meiringen, Switzerland. Photo: Eddie Fowke

After an unprecedented amount of public backlash, the International Federation of Sport Climbing has reversed their decision to charge online viewers of World Cup events. The “deal” mentioned below is with Floclimbing, a subscription-based online viewing platform that was scheduled to broadcast all of the IFSC’s events in 2017-2019.

Official IFSC statement in its entirety:

“It was made a mistake and we apologize for that.

The live streaming for IFSC will remain free of charge, the same as it was at the 1st World Cup in Meiringen, Switzerland and in previous years.

The deal – despite having been announced – has not been signed and thus has not been concluded.

Any possible future variation of this policy will be discussed inside the IFSC and subject to the approval of our key stakeholders.

Let’s keep climbing together.”

The short apology garnered universal praise among World Cup fans on social media, with the majority of comments on the official IFSC Facebook page supportive and appreciative of the change.

World Cup athletes, those that compete on the international stage, where conspicuously absent from thanking the IFSC. The official IFSC athletes commission, which represents competitive athletes at the administration level, had written an open letter to create awareness and explain their distaste about the broadcast fee.

“The last few days have been dramatic – never before has the climbing community 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 of 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 effect 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.”

The athletes may have won the battle against paid viewing but are still fighting for transparency, which the five sentence apology offered very little of.