The united voice of climbers and fans of competitions persuaded the IFSC to leave its livestreams free for all to watch.
It’s amazing how quickly movements can be formed when people’s interests and ideals resonate to create one unified and immensely powerful voice. Only one week ago, the IFSC announced its plan to start charging for livestreams. And just one week later, the influence and actions of the climbing community swayed the IFSC to reverse direction.
“It was made [sic] a mistake and we apologize for that,” said the opening sentence of the IFSC’s statement.
“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.”
BMC competition officer, Rob Adie, said: “It’s great news that the IFSC decided to keep the livestream free for the future. After the initial announcement, I took the views of the BMC’s Competitions Committee and made it known directly to the IFSC in Meiringen that we were entirely against it. Any deal to sell the rights to a third party for profit was never going to be a good idea, and the timing was extremely bad.
“Seeing the athletes act of solidarity that brought this decision about – by refusing to interact with the livestream at the World Cup in Switzerland at the weekend – was particularly special. You could tell the livestream technicians were getting desperate as they even asked me to do an interview, which I of course politely declined.
“With competition climbing heading to the world stage, it’s important that we try and build as large an audience as possible, increase participation, and generally inform the wider public of how it’s a great sport to watch.”
Leah Crane, GB Climbing member, said: “As an athlete representing my country on the world stage, I am delighted to hear that the IFSC has decided to listen to the community and to keep the streams free. Now I think it is time that the climbing community insists on an improvement in the standard of broadcasts in a commercial sense, with a focus on reinvesting funds into the sport. This will enable world cup climbers to really take their training and performance to the next level.”
On Wednesday, 5 April, the IFSC stunned fans of competition climbing with a surprise announcement saying they had signed a three-year deal with US-based streaming company Flosports. This meant that, to watch any IFSC livestream, fans would have to pay for a subscription that would cost $20 a month or $150 for the whole year. But the internet immediately blew up.
Comments from angry fans streamed in on all social media platforms, upset athletes protested with a show of red cards at the event opening, and an online petition on Change.org garnered more than 5,000 signatures in the space of a few hours, and had over 12,000 signatures by the weekend.
Then, on Thursday, 11 April, the IFSC Athlete’s Commission released an open letter calling for: “Effective consultation on (rule) changes that affect the athletes,” and “a free livestream on an IFSC platform indefinitely.” In order to effect its aims, the open letter also stated that athletes would “withdraw cooperation with the livestream media until changes are made”.
After the show of force and passion from the climbing community, the IFSC proved that it is willing to listen and change its mind.
Writer and climbing pundit, Liam Lonsdale, said: “The IFSC’s decision to keep the live streaming of the World Cup events free-of-charge is great news. This success has only come about because of the highly engaged community that banded together to make its voice known. To everyone who signed the petition set up by Peter Crane, to everyone who shared, commented or emailed me regarding my articles and to everyone who spoke out on all of the social media channels, I wish to say this, 'thank you'. This is our success.”
The statement released by the IFSC 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 GB Climbing Team is supported by the BMC, Berghaus, and Rock Over Climbing, and the GB Paraclimbing Team is supported by Birchall Blackburn Law. Many UK walls also support the British Climbing Team through free or subsidised entry.
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