As the Chairperson of the Board of Directors, I wanted to provide some updates on what is happening in NAFA. We certainly hear your concerns and calls for transparency, so I am happy to provide everyone with more details. I can also assure you that those of us on the BOD, past and present, are working hard to promote the sport all of us love.
At a grassroots level, we know that clubs and individuals involved in flyball play a huge role in promoting the sport of flyball. Getting people into the sport is much easier if they are already familiar with flyball and excited to try out the sport. To that end, NAFA is working to promote the sport on an international scale. We have developed a strong relationship with two of the most well known dog and sport media outlets. The AKC is the leader in promoting dog ownership and dog sports while ESPN is the global leader in sports programming. Both these companies are investing real money to promote the sport of flyball. This partnership puts NAFA Flyball out into the world at a scale that NAFA could never afford to do on our own.
This burgeoning partnership has provided extensive coverage of CanAm, through AKC’s Livestream and the ESPN Coverage of the CanAm finals with no cost to NAFA. Prior to this NAFA PAID to have a livestream service at CanAm, at a cost of around $8,000 per CanAm event. Additionally, NAFA receives money for broadcast rights. In 2021, this money was the difference between having CanAm or canceling the entire event. Coming out of COVID, CanAm 2021 almost didn’t happen. The BOD had to weigh the feasibility of hosting such a large event, knowing participation would be down from past years. The financial help from AKC/ESPN made hosting CanAm a far less risky proposition.
Hours and hours were spent in pre-production meetings helping AKC/ESPN understand a sport they had rarely covered before. The production was top notch and we were able to have the sport promoted in the US and on TSN in Canada. When AKC/ESPN offered to do a second Invitational Flyball Event, the NAFA BOD was 100% in favor. It enables us to promote the sport internationally, not just once, but twice a year. Again, this is at no cost to NAFA; AKC pays for venue rental, constructing those amazing sets, and everything else required to broadcast a professional looking event worthy of being carried on ESPN. As previously mentioned, NAFA receives funds for broadcast rights which are used in part to provide a stipend to the teams attending the Invitational event. Teams that are sent invites are told upfront that the stipend will more than likely not cover all their expenses. These teams participate in these events to support NAFA, while enjoying being on national TV showcasing their dogs and clubs. Invitationals are positive events that promote the sport and help NAFA’s finances, which took a hard hit during COVID.
We have had additional discussions about AKC.TV live streaming at various tournaments across the US. As AKC/ESPN see that investing in flyball is a positive thing, we hope that more opportunities present themselves. They have also been working to help NAFA connect with more sponsors and vendors. Flyball has a value to them, it’s something they can help build a following with the public. Many of us have watched Crufts Flyball coverage grow and improve over the years. We hope to follow in a similar vein so that we can promote more and more aspects of flyball to the general public. For those that didn’t see last year’s Invitational broadcast, they had two extensive features, one on a fantastic junior handler and another on a Boston Terrier! This is only our second invitational and both sides are learning what works and where we can improve. There is so much speculation, so many “I think” comments that just aren’t founded in any facts.
The BOD has our concerns too about how to have an invitational event in a fair manner when tough decisions have to be made. Invitational style events have a level of prestige, they seek to elevate the sport. They are showcasing some level of the best in the sport. The board took this approach for this Invitational event as well. To that end, we created an Invitational Selection Committee (composed of board and non-board members) and established criteria for those invitations. That list of criteria was posted in the September 5th, 2022 Meeting Minutes. The committee used that criteria to give a list of 25 possible clubs for the Invitational. As we knew from the first Invitational, this kind of event has feasibility issues. How many clubs can make that kind of trip? How many clubs can make the trip on fairly short notice? Many on that list will decline the invite for a variety of reasons. It’s a big commitment for a club to travel to an event like this, with no points, no prize money at stake, for a minimal amount of racing and just a small travel stipend to help offset the expense.
We have pushed AKC/ESPN to move the Invitational event to different parts of the country so that more teams will have an opportunity to be invited and for the travel to be feasible for them. An event like this isn’t just a tournament, there are many production considerations. Not only do they need to move in the set, production equipment and crew, they need facilities that are set up for filming events. Just like for the CanAm finals, a facility like the Pepsi Coliseum used in CanAm 2021 is preferred over having to build an entire set from scratch like they did for CanAm 2022. This year, Ocala, FL made the most sense.
For those that want a Multibreed part of this, we hear you, we like seeing different breeds too. The BOD has questioned this as a way to showcase more types of dogs. However, when we bring those concerns up to AKC/ESPN we are continually told that their primary desire is to have exciting, fast racing. Historically the top Multibreed teams are featured in the CanAm production. We are getting the opportunity to show lots of breeds of dogs at that event. CanAm brings together the most flyball people in one place, at one time. The most Multibreed entries you will see at any tournament. If you look at those entries, there is a large range of seed times for those teams. Considering that we have to get clubs to the Invitational location, and that many will have to say no, the disparity between Multibreed entry seed times becomes a big concern. In regards to Junior Handlers, NAFA, as well as AKC/ESPN loves to promote them, but they need to be able to be there. This is during school, this is on short notice and not every club has Junior Handlers. We will gladly feature the amazing Junior Handlers we can as was done with the Junior Handler who was able to attend last year’s Invitational.
So what is NAFA doing with the revenue from these events?
As we recover from the financial hit that COVID caused, there have been many projects that were on the back burner until NAFA’s finances improved. First of all, an antiquated website. This has been a priority for the BOD. That website development is in progress right now. We anticipate the new websites to roll out in the next 12 months. An updated CanAm website will be the first to roll out this year.
The other is technology improvements. This completely stalled out during COVID, and we couldn’t even consider restarting that until revenue improved. At the last BOD Meeting, the BOD directed the technology committee to get cost adjustments from pre-COVID prices for equipment so that we can start the process of replacing equipment.
CanAm’s broadcasting fees help offset the considerable cost of putting on the largest flyball event in the world. CanAm is an event open to all NAFA Clubs. We know not everyone can make it each year, but the opportunity is there for all. The website, the technology improvements, those are going to help all NAFA participants. A huge benefit for everyone.
What can YOU do to help?
All of you are also NAFA. Are you willing to teach classes? To bring people into the sport? To show them the fun they can have with their dog? Can you help connect them with our flyball community? With every AKC/ESPN event that’s broadcast, NAFA’s contacts tick upward. We set up a volunteer to help people find clubs in their area, sometimes they contact clubs and hear nothing. Is that your club? Is your contact info out of date? Do you just not want new people? Make that known too. NAFA does not know each club’s preferred contact method. Be sure to check your club’s contact info and send updates to email@example.com. Do you have ideas about how NAFA should be doing things? Email your ideas to the BOD. Nominate yourself for the BOD. We elect new people every year, nominations open up in the late fall. The BOD is always looking for volunteer talent that can help NAFA run better. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know how you can help.
Finally, I encourage all of you to be an active participant! Several of the questions posed in the comments could be found in previous meeting minutes posted on the website. Our financial statements for 2022 will be posted to the website this week. However, ONLY 5 people attended the live candidate chat; 19 people attended the AGM. It’s disappointing to see such great opportunities to interact with the BOD and future candidates not utilized. We are planning to have some regional zoom chats with Steve Corona, myself and BOD members. Will anyone attend? Will you interact with us live versus just from behind a keyboard? The BOD is made up of very passionate volunteers from a cross section of regions with varying levels of experience in the sport. You, the NAFA community, voted for these individuals to represent you and our organization. We are doing the best we can, but we do have to make tough decisions. It is not possible to please everyone all the time. If you have answers to flyball problems, please bring them to the BOD, email email@example.com. We give full consideration to every contact we get. Every BOD member is willing to talk with you and if they don’t know the answer, they will try to find out for you.
I hope this message has provided additional insight into the Invitational process and answered the questions many of you had about the event. For the NAFA BOD this Invitational is an easy Yes. NAFA benefits, the flyball world benefits. The more exposure flyball receives, the more it will grow the sport and that helps us all. I also want you all to know that we hear you, we are working hard to move NAFA forward for everyone’s enjoyment. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
NAFA Chairperson of the Board