Money Issues Continue to Make Their Way Into Spotlight

Money Issues Continue to Make Their Way Into Spotlight

Wessling, Susan

The new International Skating Union (ISU) judging system isn’t the only thing under the microscope this season. Prize money, bonus allocations and television contract negotiations have made this a season where money issues have been creeping slowly but steadily into the forefront. Since the ISU announced it was slashing prize money at its events for the second straight year, U.S. Figure Skating has been taking a proactive stance in providing incentives to skaters – both American and international competitors.

The organization has been rewarding U.S. skaters monetarily if they medal at any of 11 international events. These competitions include the 2004 ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series, 2004 ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final, 2005 Four Continents Championships, 2005 World Figure Skating Championships, 2004 ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final and 2005 World Junior Championships.

“As president, I continue to look for new ways of working to support and work with our skaters in ensuring that U.S. athletes are on the cutting edge for the future,” U.S. Figure Skating President Chuck Foster said. “Rewarding performance is an important part of the development of our U.S. team. I feel strongly that athletes who achieve should receive [these rewards].”

The bonus money includes $35,000 being awarded for U.S. World Championship gold medals, $25,000 for silver and $15,000 for bronze medals. Other bonus money allocations include $10,000, $5,000 and $3,000 for gold, silver and bronze medals, respectively, for U.S. skaters at Grand Prix competitions, including the Grand Prix Series Final. U.S. medalists at the Four Continents Championships will earn bonuses of $15,000 for gold, $10,000 for silver and $5,000 for bronze. American Junior World Championship medalists will receive $15,000, $10,000 and $5,000 for gold, silver and bronze medals, respectively. They will be rewarded for medaling at the Junior Grand Prix Final with bonuses of $5,000 (gold), $3,000 (silver) and $1,000 (bronze).

U.S. Figure Skating also is awarding a total of $600,000 total in prize money at three invitational competitions. The Campbell’s International Figure Skating Classic in October carried a $200,000 purse. The money was not limited to U.S. skaters but was open to all medalists, regardless of nationality. The other two U.S. Figure Skating events awarding $200,000 in prize money (each) are the Marshalls World Cup of Figure Skating in Auburn Hills, Mich., and the Marshalls International Figure Skating Challenge.

Prize money – or more specifically the cut in awards – has been in the forefront all season. Citing declining television revenues, the ISU reduced prize money for the winners of the six Grand Prix events for the second consecutive year. The prize money for first place in a senior Grand Prix event in 2002-03 was $30,000 for first place; in 2003-04 that was reduced to $25,000 and for the current (2004-05) season the amount has been reduced further to $18,000.

“All of the prize money allocations for figure skating, speed skating and short track reflect the reality that some competitions are more attractive to particular markets than others,” ISU General Secretary Fredi Schmid recently told IFS. “The ISU Council keeps the situation under review and makes changes it believes to be necessary, based on the budget available.”

He said the council’s priority is to maintain the ISU’s competitive program in a financially sustainable way. “The ISU continues to make very significant financial contributions to support the organization of championships, Senior and Junior Grand Prix and World Cups but obviously difficult decisions have to be made about prize money allocations,” he said. Schmid said the ISU has television contracts in a number of different countries. He said the provisions of the ISU’s commercial agreements do not allow him to give details on such agreements.

The ISU sent a letter to its members in November, stating the organization’s concern about top skaters pulling out of the Grand Prix series and then skating in shows or other international competitions. Due to television contracts, the ISU feels responsible for presenting top skaters at these competitions, it said in the letter, adding, “Not fulfilling this might result in reduction of fees received by the ISU from current partners and … worsens the ISU position in future contract negotiations.”

When asked about the television contract in the United States, Rowland Jack, the ISU communications coordinator, said ESPN holds the rights for its broadcasts. “The ISU’s contract with ESPN is for seasons 2004-5 to 2007-8 inclusive. The details of the contract are confidential. Virtually all sports-rights holding organizations switch from one broadcaster to another from time to time – it’s normal market activity.”

It has been reported that ABC has a contract with U.S. Figure Skating worth about $100 million over eight years.

Reporting by Susan Wessling and Marcia A. Burchstead

Copyright Ashton International Media, Inc. Feb 2005

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