PeSzy: The situation during the epidemic?
Kirill Yakovlev: The COVID-19 epidemic has dealt a severe blow to the armwrestling industry as well as to the entire global sports and entertainment industry. The cancellation of live events, strict restrictions on crossing state borders ruined the plans of clubs, organizers, athletes and sports fans not only for 2020, but, apparently, for the next 2-3 years.
Global events are planned several years in advance, and continuity and consistency are essential for the development of sport. It is no longer possible to organize such projects as TOP 8 according to the old scheme - we collect sponsors 6 months before the event and hold a tournament. Here we are talking about 5 year planning at least. Therefore, a “hole” of one year means that everything will have to start practically all over again.
However, at PAL we have been building a system that is shockproof for many years. Although such a situation as now, no one could have foreseen.
Due to the fact that we have always focused on sports and media content, we today have a URPA rating, which allows athletes to compete within their countries and earn points in the global ranking.
We also have rich video archives in order to expand the distribution of armwrestling content on television channels in more than 50 countries. Today, when sports TV networks are "hungry", we see opportunities to popularize armwrestling. We are confident that in this area we will emerge stronger from the pandemic than we were before. We have already signed contracts with TV channels in Europe, the USA and the Middle East.
The process is strongly constrained by the restraint of investors and sponsors associated not only with a pandemic, but also with a possible global financial crisis. But thanks to the fact that arm wrestling is a very flexible sports discipline, not overloaded with the necessary infrastructure, we can both expand and “shrink” or “divide” into smaller formats.
Therefore, we are staying flexible, to develop new competition formats that are more consistent with the general situation.
PeSzy: How many competitions have we “lost”?
Kirill Yakovlev: In 2020, we lost 7 major world events: 3 stages of TOP 8 + 105 kg, 3 stages of TOP 8 95 kg and the “Zloty Tur” Professional World Cup . This year “Zloty Tur” turns 20 and we planned a truly grandiose event, which was to be witnessed by more than 3000 spectators in venue in Poland and several million television viewers around the world.
But the biggest loss is the hundreds of URPA tournaments that could have taken place around the world. Thanks to the heroic efforts of PAL representatives in some countries, small tournaments are taking place, and we are incredibly grateful for this to the organizers and athletes who overcome all the obstacles to keep pulling.
As far as we know, none of the TOP 8 athletes got sick and we wish them to go through this pandemic healthy. We constantly keep in touch with everyone, we take interviews with them , we continue to make programs on Youtube and Armbets.tv about them. With the beginning of the pandemic, the TOP 8 events were constantly postponed - we tried to use every opportunity not to cancel the competition. Therefore, athletes continued to keep themselves in shape and to be ready to go to the table at any time.
PeSzy: Plans for this and next year.
Kirill Yakovlev: Until the end of the year, we are planning several URPA tournaments in different countries, including those where URPA tournaments will be held for the first time.
Today we are already trying to plan events for February-March 2021. No one is confident that the COVID-19 epidemic will decline in 2021, so clear forecasts are still premature. But we must be prepared for any development of events and have a plan for any occasion.
My personal prediction is that the state of uncertainty will continue in 2021, and the return to normal will begin at the end of 2021.
PeSzy: Have we gotten anything despite the epidemic?
Kirill Yakovlev: Despite the fact that due to the epidemic, many plans were sent to the trash, we understood and acquired something during the pandemic.
Firstly, we received confirmation of the correctness and strength of the PAL strategy adopted in 2018, which launched the international URPA ranking and a number of digital products that are preparing for release in 2021.
And although the benefits of the URPA system have not yet been tested by all organizers and athletes, it has proven its viability and usefulness for everyone who takes part in it. The system also works great in a pandemic.
Secondly, we have acquired the main resource - time. We were able to do some of the homework that we never had time for in the constant race to organize major PAL events.
We began to expand the production of Mazurenko Equipment sports equipment, the demand for which has increased dramatically.
Based on years of research in the field of athlete training, we have returned to creating educational and training programs for athletes and instructors. Today, several dozen people are being trained online personally by Igor Mazurenko and receive certificates of professional armwrestling instructors. The release of a special mobile application of our armwrestling academy is scheduled for early 2021.
We were able to focus on the sale of television rights around the world and today we can say that by the end of 2021, arm wrestling will appear on television channels with a total audience of more than 100 million people. Naturally, the headliners of these programs will be the participants of the TOP 8, Zloty Tur and, of course, major national URPA tournaments.
Overall, we can say that despite the fact that the pandemic has somewhat disrupted our plans, we continue to move forward in accordance with our global strategy.
But any plans and strategies in our sport are impracticable without the support of enthusiasts, athletes and organizers. Today there is a great chance to make a breakthrough in the development of our sport. But we can only do this together. We invite everyone to join the URPA, PAL and use the opportunities to the maximum so that at the end of the pandemic, any today’s result will multiply tenfold.
PeSzy: On behalf of armpower.net, thank you for the interview!
Kirill Yakovlev: Thank you too!