USA Ultimate plans to gradually shift the timing of the Club Series from the end of October towards the summer over the coming years, Boulder officials told Ultiworld this week.
USAU will look to work with the new athlete divisional councils — committees formed by players in each division — to develop a plan to push the Series towards July and August, culminating in the Club Championships at the end of August.
USAU hopes to capitalize on the ability to put the Club Championships in a more populous, northern city that is more accessible to players and fans alike while allowing for more media interest in the sports-starved summer.
“We kind of eliminate the biggest ultimate markets – we can’t have [the Club Championships] in Seattle, we can’t have them in Boston, we can’t have them in Chicago – when we have the Championships in October,” said USAU CEO Tom Crawford.
He added that ESPN and past media partners have been clear: there is essentially no demand for ultimate content in late October, when the Major League Baseball playoffs, NFL games, and college football games dominate the ratings.
“For those reasons, we’re definitely considering making a move in a shift or direction [of summer],” said Crawford. “I think we’d be unbelievably excited about having our Championships in a major city instead of being stuck in the South.”
USAU officials emphasized that they will be coordinating with the World Flying Disc Federation more than ever, now that WFDF has International Olympic Committee recognition and increased scrutiny.
That means that more and more club ultimate events will take place in the summer, both at the national and international level.
“That’s going to mean athletes getting used to peaking earlier,” said Crawford.
As USAU continues to pursue their number one strategic goal — increasing the visibility of ultimate — they feel that a move away from the fall will be an important driver of interest in the sport.
The timeframe for the changes is not yet determined. “It depends a lot about what we learn when we sit down with the athletes and the teams,” said USAU Managing Director of Competition Will Deaver.
Any structural changes that move the regular season and the Series earlier in the year will have a direct impact on the two professional leagues, which have largely operated to avoid conflicting with USA Ultimate events. USAU says there has been no consideration given to the pro leagues or their schedules. Given the demands of the seasons, players may end up being forced to choose between playing in a pro league or in the USAU Club Series.
The American Ultimate Disc League’s Tim DeByl said in an interview earlier this month, “I think [USAU is] going to continue to creep the Series into the summer, compete with us. I think it’s going to cause some real conflicts between club players who want to do both…I think there’s going to be a collision at some point and that’s going to be hard for players.”
Crawford, in an interview with SB Nation, also alluded to the upcoming conflict between the season schedules. ”The athletes are gonna have to make a choice,” he said. “No one can play a different game and then go to the Olympics and look to the ref who isn’t there for a call.”
USA Ultimate said it was unlikely that a major shift would take place for 2014. Media Director Andy Lee told Ultiworld in late July that Nationals would again be in October next season.