Eric Roza Lays Out New Approach, Details For 2021 And Beyond

November 11, 2020 by
Photo Credit: Talking Elite Fitness Podcast

(Editor’s Note: Eric Roza’s quotes have been edited for clarity and brevity.)

CrossFit owner and CEO Eric Roza joined the Talking Elite Fitness podcast yesterday and he revealed some exciting new details about the future direction of the sport in addition to expanding upon some previously stated developments and points of focus from his team during their first few months at the helm.

One big thing: Roza made it clear that CrossFit is all in on the proliferation of the sport on a global scale — which includes his previously stated goal of 500,000 registrants for the 2021 Open — but maintained that the new regimes approach toward the sport and achieving growth will be much different and the net effect on the greater ecosystem will be greater as a result.

  • Roza: “I found the narrative that a focus on the Games is bad, is at the expense of the affiliates, I didn’t find that to be a widely held belief. Some people definitely felt that way, but I felt it was more in the way the stories were told and the fact that we didn’t see the sport of CrossFit as being in service of the affiliates.”
  • “The company was run as these three separate businesses, the media sport side, the training side which was not as media focused….and then you had the affiliate business which didn’t have really anyone leading it, and the first thing is to integrate all three, and really have the affiliate business pull the affiliates in so that they’re helping us to get the word out with the Open.”
  • CrossFit is also searching for a Chief Marketing Officer to head a marketing department that will look to expand global inclusion through efforts like paying in local currency, and adjusted registration fees based on local buying power.

The sport has always been a major driver of the ecosystem, both from a financial standpoint and as an avenue to galvanize passion within the community globally. Statistically speaking the past two years have been a major step backwards in those areas, and now Roza’s team is looking to course correct.  

The show must go on: CrossFit has put out more media recently surrounding the proximity of the 2021 Open in February, and despite a new wave of lockdowns in countries around the globe, Roza asserted  that the 2021 season would move forward, and revealed new details around how his team will be making pandemic accommodations for the season structure and format if necessary.

  • Roza: “I think we will have the most vibrant digital community competitive season, that CF has ever had in 2021, Dave (Castro, CrossFit’s Director of Sport) and I are hell bent on making that COVID proof, and COVID is not going to get us down in that quest, I think it’s likely we’ll be seeing competition much more frequently than the Open itself, but the Open will still be the big one.”
  • The season structure: Roza went on to detail that the 2021 season will start with the Open in February, but that the dates could be pushed back based on the status of the pandemic, followed by middle portion consisting of “partner events” (previously called Sanctionals) that would qualify athletes for the Games, and eventually ending with an in-person Games near the end of summer. If faced with similar restrictions as 2020, the Games would still include a larger in-person competitive field thanks to the information and protocols gleaned from this season.

The fate of Sanctionals was perhaps the most anticipated news and in addition to a purposeful rebranding of what they are being referred to as, the opportunities provided by the Sanctionals system for new players in event space to thrive will still be intact with some key adjustments and more support from CrossFit HQ.

  • The debate for 28: Roza admitted that 28 events qualifying athletes to the CrossFIt Games was too many, and while he hinted that the direct qualification from the Open would be going away, national champions spots included, in its place there will be more avenues for partner events to be a part of the CrossFit ecosystem outside of sending someone to the Games. 
  • He confirmed that these events could include off-season events with big prize purses, regional specific events for national champions, and potential new competition formats and nuances like head-to-head style competitions for teams and individuals.
  • Remind me: A great example of what this approach could yield would have been the highly anticipated “event draft,” that the Mayhem Madness team competition was slated to use to determine programming. 
  • Roza specifically mentioned that they would be providing more support for the event partners in the form of infrastructure and promotion for areas like judging, athlete safety, media and broadcast coverage to create a better standard across the board in those areas.

Why this matters: The creativity in the sport that the inclusion of Sanctional owners brought in was undoubtedly good, but the flip side of the coin was that there was too much volatility with regards to quality control to build a reliable fan base or a cohesive season product. It is precisely why groups like the Professional Fitness Athletes Association (PFAA) formed in the first place, and it frees up capital for events to focus on what makes them unique. 

Overall the shift in mindset from Roza and his team presents a more holistic attitude toward the greater CrossFit ecosystem, and its one that the community at large has been pining for from the leadership group since the massive changes a few years ago. 

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