CrossFit Games

Eric Roza on Sanctionals: “That’s going to be a bigger and bigger ecosystem.”

August 20, 2020 by
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Eric Roza’s declaration Wednesday during his first Town Hall live stream that the Open would be returning to its original home in February was met with a warm reception and also included news about the likelihood that the date for the CrossFit Games will also be moving further back in the calendar year.

One major development that was talked about, but not in great detail, was the middle portion of the season — currently inhabited by 28 independently owned Sanctioned events in 19 countries — and what changes if any will take place under the new regime moving forward.

A seat at the table: Roza made it clear that the Sanctioned events would have a place in the future of the CrossFit Games season stating that “event operators, that’s going to be a bigger and bigger ecosystem,” and “we like the grab bag of crazy events operated by partners” when discussion the future but stopped short of providing a timeline of how they would fit within the revised time frame outlined by the Open and CrossFit Games.

  • Justin Bergh, General Manager of the CrossFit Games sent out an email to all of the Sanctioned event organizers 16 minutes prior to the Town Hall notifying them of the Open date change along with additional details mentioned during the town hall in addition to the assurance that more meetings would be scheduled to address timing and format of 2021 along with COVID-19 contingency plans.
  • Bergh: “ We are working to ensure that the 2021 calendar of events builds on our existing event partners, as our goal is the success and growth of the entire CrossFit ecosystem.”

It’s unclear if CrossFit HQ will add another qualifying step between the Open and the Games in addition to the Sanctionals that stick around. Timing-wise and from a storytelling perspective it would make sense if most Sanctionals fit somewhere in between the two on the calendar.

  • In an exclusive interview with the Morning Chalk Up, Roza revealed that part of his vision moving forward was to regain some of the momentum the sport had from back in 2018 through media and outside investments while keeping the entrepreneurial spirit of the Sanctionals.
  • Roza:  “Just like we don’t choose to own all the CrossFit gyms, we want to have all these unique, funky events that have entrepreneurs and their own personality and their own focus, but we want to do it both in the context of a schedule and season that makes sense, and basically be able to offer that as a package to our media partners and sponsors, even though the events are independently owned and operated.”

Sanctionals will keep their Games invites Roza confirmed on the call, but he also revealed that there may be more opportunities for the events to be involved throughout the season outside of the typical format seen in the past two seasons.

  • Roza: “One of the things I loved about 2019, was the idea of national champions and a way for them to compete. Now, are we ready yet to have all these national champions competing with the most fit people in the world? Not quite, we all saw that didn’t quite work yet, it will, but not yet. But how about the thought of a local, to regional, to national type in parallel, maybe in a different part of the year.”
  • Integration of the national champions into other areas of the season or Sanctionals is an interesting topic and it could act as a nice intermediary step to help develop the talent level and competition experience of countries whose champions are still in the early stages of their training and CrossFit life cycle.

The Sanctionals concept is really still in its infancy, and the reality is that the tumultuousness of the past two seasons and the dynamic between CrossFits leadership and the Sanctional contingent has hardly been conducive to a healthy sport in the long-term, but so far under the new leadership the tide is shifting.

What it boils down to: Sanctionals are here to stay, and Eric Roza and his team are committed to improving the synergy between the event organizers — which they see as significant stakeholders in the sport — while actively seeking new ideas and ways to better streamline the system so that the sport ecosystem can grow. Truthfully, it feels like the sport is on the path back to fulfilling its potential once again.

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