(Photo credit: FIVB)
Over the past 70 years, the FIVB has made outstanding achievements in making volleyball one of the world’s most popular and most participated sports. But FIVB has never stopped and is still looking for opportunities in development and innovation with the aim of making volleyball the Number 1 family sport globally. The Volleyball Nations League is a result of such efforts integrating new standards for players and enhancing the audience experience in this new tournament.
After the Chinese Women’s Volleyball Team won the gold medal in volleyball at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, volleyball becomes trendy again here. Therefore this is the perfect time to develop volleyball in China and so FIVB also wants to avail of this opportunity to promote volleyball not only in China, but also in many other places in the world.
At the Host City Asia 2018 conference and exhibition held recently in Beijing, we had the honor to meet with Luis Alexandre Pontes Rodrigues, FIVB’s Director for Asia and Oceania, discuss the VNL and Chinese volleyball market.
Volleyball Nations League will be successful
Luis Alexandre says that the VNL is a completely different product, with a unique image and unique TV production. It is a true championship league.
The main change involves more teams and a longer tournament. In its round robin format, every team will play at least 15 matches instead of the current 8 and becoming the champion will be the goal of every team. If a team wants to make the finals, they will have to qualify among the first six countries alongside the host nation. “It really drives the teams to do and to play their best in every match.”
“I spoke with the coach of Belgium in Ningbo. He told me that it was also a great opportunity for them because they will truly play against all the teams, not only the No. 1, No.2, ranked countries but also against No. 10 ranked country. It’s really very important for the development of each of those countries.”
He says that the FIVB is looking to getting this product developed and to securing better opportunities in the future for the teams as well as the players. With a lot of effort being put into it, they truly believe this is going to be very successful in the years to come.
In addition, the VNL will be able to help with the development of volleyball in many areas and get more fans involved. In the past, the Volleyball World League and Volleyball World Grand Prix normally show up in the same places. Now all fifteen countries have the chance to host the event, enabling fans to watch high-quality matches in their own cities. “It is totally different to be involved in the matches. To see an image is worth more than a thousand words people say. Some people would be in love with this. Participation will come out of it.”
Making volleyball a family sport
The FIVB continues to look for improvement and innovative ways to make volleyball the number one family sport. According to Luis Alexandre, they have done a lot of effective work, such as their collaboration with Microsoft in developing their social area and the launch of paid TV which allows fans to watch volleyball wherever they are.
They will particularly develop athlete participation. He says that the athletes will be the ones driving the process, making people follow them, understanding what they do and love doing-- playing volleyball, which in turn will lead to more people engaging and participating with the sport because of that.
Luis Alexandre also acknowledges the importance of volleyball stars. He says that it’s very important to have an image. “A sport belongs to the athletes and the athletes have their own images. As Zhu Ting is welcomed around the world, she can help FIVB and volleyball connect with fans in China and around the world, which is fantastic.” he says FIVB needs to take advantage of Zhu Ting’s fame and it is necessary to have more volleyball stars, like many big sports in the world, such as football and basketball.
Driving volleyball’s development in China
FIVB is embracing the Chinese market. Therefore, it naturally pays attention to the development of Chinese volleyball. The professional volleyball league is one of the most important aspects of their growth. Luis Alexandre discloses that the Chinese professional league is going down the right way and can become the Number 1 league in the world if they do the right thing.
“I spoke with them recently. We need to sit down and see where we are doing right and where we are doing wrong.” He says that the league needs to attract more international players to make the league an international league, and not only a Chinese league. “There is no ready recipe yet as each city has its own way of doing things and each team has its own sponsors. All those involved need to work towards the same direction to push the league forward. In this way, the league can be better and bring more attractive players here.”
The Women’s Volleyball Nations League Final will land in Nanjing for three consecutive years. It matches well with FIVB’s strategy for the Chinese market. Luis Alexandre says that considering “women’s volleyball is the only collective sport that China is an Olympic Champion, Chinese people must be proud of it and so provides a very important opportunity.
In contrast, it would take a long time for China to become champions in basketball and football. As FIVB has always been talking about development, its strategy is to create more influential world-class events while attracting as many fans a possible. China presents some good conditions.
FIVB’s Secretary General Fernando Lima expressed at SportAccord 2017 that there was a clear sign of volleyball becoming more popular around the world after Rio 2016. FIVB President Dr. Ary S. Graça F° believes too that China will become the volleyball kingdom of the world in the future according to an media interview in 2017. We can see that the FIVB has the confidence to achieve great results in the Chinese market and that the Women’s Volleyball Nations League is an important step.
Proofread by Raymond Fitzpatrick