Report: Beach volleyball pros to announce new players union

2/6/2018 5:06:56 AM EST

As professional beach volleyball continues to grow its popularity, many of the sport's star athletes are reportedly ready to join forces in hopes of becoming more than a niche sport.

A collection of almost 100 top beach volleyball pros plan to announce the formation of the International Beach Volleyball Players Association in hopes of helping the sport better capitalize on its recent Olympic success, according to Associated Press.

The new IBVPA is set to release an announcement Tuesday. According to a copy of the release acquired by AP, the players union includes six of eight players who represented the United States at the 2016 Rio Olympics, including bronze medalists Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross.

The group also reportedly includes gold medalists from each of the last four Olympics.

"The 2017 season did not meet the expectations of athletes and beach volleyball stakeholders, with canceled tournaments, a significant drop in prize money and changes to the structure of tournaments," the IBVPA said, according to AP. "The success of beach volleyball at the 2016 Rio and 2012 London Olympic Games (one of the most-watched sports at the Summer Games) shows that the sport has huge potential to grow."

Phil Dalhausser, a three-time Olympian who won gold at the Beijing games in 2008, is reportedly the union's honorary president. The other prominent officers include president Madelein Meppelink, vice president Anouk Verge-Depre, plus board members Robert Meeuwsen (Netherlands), who won bronze at Rio, and Brazil's Barbara Seixas, a Rio silver medal winner.

Despite developing into a very popular event since debuting at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, beach volleyball has been plagued by infighting among its athletes and splintered tour management. Decorated American Walsh Jennings, three-time Olympic gold medalist and the all-time leader in victories and career earnings professionally, shunned the AVP in the United States last year over frustrations within the sport's organizing committees.

"These changes were made without input by the players, despite the impact to their livelihood," the IBVPA said in its statement, per AP. "Most professional sport organizations have effective players' associations working to provide the best possible environment for the athletes to pursue their professions. ... The IBVPA will work to do the same."

According to AP, "spokespeople from the International Volleyball Federation and the AVP did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment."

--Field Level Media