Klagenfurt, Austria, Aug. 2, 2016 - This week, Beach Volleyball players will begin their quest for gold and glory in the Rio 2016 Olympics on Copacabana Beach.
In September, many of the same players will make a dash for cash in the SWATCH Major Series Finals in Toronto, where 12 men’s and 12 women’s teams will battle it out for a first prize of US$100,000.
It’s the second year of the SWATCH Major Series, the brainchild of Beach Majors CEO Hannes Jagerhofer, the architect of the Klagenfurt Major that has become the most popular tournament in the world.
And Jagerhofer and Co. are just getting started.
The series that features five Major Series events in 2016 could bring as many as eight next year, Jagerhofer said as the A1 Major Klagenfurt reached its pinnacle Sunday.
The challenge? Export the energy and excitement that has made Klagenfurt into a legend to different points around the world.
“If you would have asked me about it two years beforehand, I didn’t know if we could transfer this model to other countries,” Jagerhofer said. “Everybody told me it wouldn’t work because the U.S. (audience) is sitting on their hands, they don’t like to entertain like (we) do.
“It was completely opposite in Fort Lauderdale. It was amazing. Of course we had a tough start and then on the weekend it turned around and it was like Klagenfurt, only smaller. For us and even in the Porec (Croatia) Major in year two, the players who reached the finals said they really forgot a few times they were in Porec. They thought it was Klagenfurt.”
Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in 2015 was the testing sand for the Major Series Final, where the top 10 teams in the series point standings went after the $100,000.
What Jagerhofer hopes to establish with the Major Series is events in cities that will be able to host an event in conjunction with the FIVB World Tour that is run in the same city as close to the same date as possible on an annual. Then the Finals would be held in cities on a rotating basis.
This year’s scouting mission lured Jagerhofer to Canada. Next year, he said it could be the historic city of Cartagena, Colombia.
“Canada has amazing teams, men and women, as we can see (in Klagenfurt),” Jagerhofer said. “They are really beach freaks. If you go to the beach there, they have 100 courts. Nowhere in the world do you have 100 courts, not even in Brazil, not even on the West Coast (California). And the courts are full, they’re packed. They have a few thousand beach enthusiastic fans. And yes, Cartagena was exciting.”
That has yet to be solidified, but the SWATCH Major Series will kick off in 2017 with a return to Fort Lauderdale from February 7-12. An announcement is scheduled for Rio about a second event operated by the Beach Majors Company.
The four other stops from 2015 were Hamburg, Porec, Gstaad (Switzerland) and Klagenfurt.
With the Series still a work in progress, Jagerhofer is open to any idea. One may be an indoor event, which, if successful, could develop into a series of indoor events that cooler-climate cities could host. Ready for a Major in Finland, perhaps?
“If you have bad weather on the weekend (outdoors), you’re gone, you don’t even have a chance to show what we’re talking about,” Jagerhofer said. “If you can eliminate this issue maybe you do two years indoor like in Northern Europe, Finland, Scandinavia, Netherlands, this could help.
“But let’s see how it works out when you do it once. If you invest once, you lose a lot of money because the sponsoring at the beginning is not easy. It’s tough to get an international brand convinced they have the best of Beach Volleyball, but I think we can make it.
“What our experience is to be really settled or let’s say develop a tournament, you need three years. In year three you have everybody here, you have decision makers here. We have people who have been two times in Porec and they have seen it here (in Klagenfurt) and now they know they have to jump in and there’s a huge potential, but you need three years.”
Jagerhofer also hopes to work with promoters in the United States, including the Association of Volleyball Professionals. He expects to meet with AVP CEO Donald Sun during the Olympics, and he also wants to coordinate with promoter Leonard Armato, the architect of the World Series of Beach Volleyball at the FIVB Long Beach Grand Slam.
The Long Beach event will be played just after the conclusion of the Olympics and will be the final opportunity for players to gain points in order to qualify for the Toronto Finals.
Jagerhofer is also projecting into the social media and television markets. The SWATCH Major Series Web site, for instance, had one entry that posted 2.2 million hits, and the Porec tournament reached a 12 percent share on Croatian TV.
“You have to get this excitement into the living room of the people,” Jagerhofer said. “This is very close now. We have a few mechanics we know work very well and others we have to improve. But this is for sure our future. Now with the Olympics, when they decided to have Beach Volleyball as the No. 1 sport, this will help us.”