Friday, February 8, 2013

The Rise of the Regional Tournament

That sounds silly, given as the WFTDA just did away with the "regionals."  I'm not sure what they're calling the first round of the big 5, but this post does not refer to them.  No, it refers to the locally run tournaments, representing parts of Europe (and the US, too).

The first time I heard about this sort of tournament was in South Carolina.  At the time, there were 5 leagues in the Palmetto State, and they were of similar bouting ability.  Thus, one of the leagues in the capital city of Columbia started a tournament to act as the "state championship."

These bouts were amazing!  All the skaters, refs, NSOs, even the fans knew each other; the atmosphere was indescribable.  I haven't been to one in years, and I hope they're still going.

I know the same thing happens in Texas, with the Governor's Cup.

Now, the Finns are in on the action.  The Suomi Cup, featuring teams from across the Nordic country, has already had its first round of play.  According to Sari Vahtera, this was the product of Team Finland.

After bringing together skaters from both major leagues, and a few of the minor leagues, they decided that they needed to keep skating together.

One of the major concerns is that of Helsinki, the frequent standard bearers for Finnish roller derby, and their European competitive season.  According to Sari, "The timetable is made so that biggest leagues f.ex. Helsinki ... have their time to play WFTDA [sanctioned] bouts also."  Thus, these leagues have the option to continue building their regional and global reputation, as well as competing for a national cup.

The South-Westerners are in on the game, too.  SW:UK said that "over the last 12 months leading up to the season more teams have sprung up in the region, plus existing teams have got to the point where they are ready to actively bout on a regular basis."

Although there are no major WFTDA teams in this tournament, the level of excitement has been good at the bouts.  As well, the double headers ensure that newer leagues don't struggle to fill ref and NSO positions, and can quickly improve their game.

Last year, the End of the World Series featured a number of teams from across England, and this year it grew into the Heartlands.  This could be best called a super-league, as the word league is taken in the derby lexicon.  Teams play all other teams in their conference, and then there is a playoff structure in place.

The almost-meteoric growth of Heartlands, combined with the other tournaments springing up, show the massive demand.  Large leagues often play continent-scale schedules, bouting whomever they both fancy and can book.  Strangely, these leagues often announce bouts only one at a time.

However, these tournaments ensure a steady supply of bouts for their members, and an open fixtures/results list to make it easier for fans to follow.  I know when I try to preach derby to someone I meet, they invariably ask "how's the local team doing?"  With a team in Heartlands, SW:UK, or Suomi Cup, the answer is easy.

The growth clearly indicates that these tournaments will play a major role in shaping the future of derby.  I think they're a grand idea--skaters deciding that a form of regularity of schedule would be mutually beneficial, then making that happen.  I can't wait to see more national cups spring up, and more regional ones in larger nations.  Good luck to everyone in one, and everyone trying to set one up. Roll on!

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