Sand storms in the beach volleyball world

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The future of one pro beach volleyball tour apparently is imperiled by financial trouble.

Another with a back-to-the-future set of rules hits its beachhead in Chicago this weekend.


As my boss pointed out when I mentioned the confluence of these happenings to him, this has the feeling of a lose-lose battle like the one for control of open wheel racing that pitted Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) against the Indy Racing League and forever reduced the impact of the Indy 500.

The relative newcomer is the second-year Corona World Light Open, which plays Chicago’s North Avenue Beach on Saturday and Sunday for the sixth of its 10 events this season.

The Corona tour gets some immediate sand cred by having Karch Kiraly, the greatest volleyball player in history, as its ‘chief volleyball officer.’

The old tour, run by the Association of Volleyball Professionals, has alerted its players to the possibility of its 2010 season being suspended for lack of funds, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times last Saturday. The AVP Nivea tour, which includes most of the recent U.S. Olympic stars, is scheduled to come to Chicago Aug. 27-29.

In the release announcing the Chicago stop on the Corona tour, Kiraly takes a shot at the AVP, even if he does not mention the other tour by name.

‘Somewhere along the way we lost track of what the legends of the sport had in mind when they started playing on the beaches of Southern California,’' said Kiraly, who won two Olympic gold medals in indoor volleyball and one in beach volleyball.

To get back to its roots, the Corona tour this year reverted to the sport’s original rules, including a much larger playing area (30 feet by 60 feet as compared to the 26 by 26 court used in AVP play). Kiraly, who once played on the AVP tour, has said the larger court allows for a wider range of physical types to play, rather than the ‘one tall, one small’ makeup of many teams on the smaller court.

The AVP, formed 27 years ago after a dispute between players and an earlier existing tour, has run its own circuit since 1984. Its tour has helped develop many of the sport’s best players, including the 2008 Olympic champion men’s and women’s teams.

The Times story said the AVP tour was trying to raise money to keep the season going during what tour CEO Jason Hodell called, ‘a period of a little uncertainty.’

‘We’re super optimistic,’' Hodell said.

In a statement issued Sunday, the tour’s majority owner, RJSM Partners, expressed a similar feeling.

‘RJSM has invested heavily in beach volleyball, and we’re in the middle of negotiating additional financing with the AVP to make it an even stronger property,’' said RJSM managing partner Nick Lewin.

‘We see a bright future for the tour and we will continue to support its future growth opportunities. We’re looking forward to the rest of a great season.’'

A spokesman for the AVP tour said nothing has happened in the four days since to change the message of that statement.

One thing is sure: life’s not a beach in a financial desert.

-- Philip Hersh

Los Angeles Times