FIRS Moves 2017 World Roller Games to China, Appoints Roller Derby Chairman

Barcelona will have to wait until 2019 to host the rollersports world, though FIRS Roller Derby is moving forward to get ready for next year.

In a surprise announcement made last month, the Fédération Internationale Roller Sports (FIRS) has declared Nanjing, China as the new host city of the 2017 FIRS  World Roller Games Championships. Nanjing replaces Barcelona, Spain, which was originally awarded the event last year.

FIRS World Championships Roller Games 2017

FIRS explained the sudden change in an announcement posted to its website.

“Following the elections that have led to a radical change in the political-administrative leadership, the new [Barcelona] city administration has considered to be unable to guarantee the optimal organization of the event for 2017 and has asked to be released from the commitments,” a request FIRS granted.

Nanjing had submitted a bid to host in 2017 for consideration at the most recent FIRS Congress, though after the deadline. It was not officially in the running, but FIRS decided that its recent history of supporting rollersports and of hosting events like the Youth Olympics SportsLab made it a fine stand-in host.

In a separate but related announcement, FIRS bestowed upon Nanjing the title of “The World Capital of Roller Sports.” This is in part due to the city “producing a series of very important commitments” that is seeing major FIRS events take place there over a period of four years, now including the Roller Games next year. The city itself says that roller sports are “the perfect fit for its growing community of members very focused on youth activities,” leveraging its Olympic-caliber facilities to take advantage of its demographics.

Barcelona is not completely out of the picture, however. A few weeks after announcing the change of venue for 2017, FIRS moved quickly to confirm the Spanish city as the host city for the 2019 World Roller Games, effectively confirming the the event will take place every other year. The off years will allow each rollersports discipline to stage their own championship event in a manner and at a location that best suits them.

Meanwhile, the uncertainty around how roller derby will fit into the plans of FIRS has just become a bit less uncertain, with word that the world governing body has selected a chairperson for its Roller Derby Technical Committee.

That person is Fernando Regueiro, the current chairman of the USARS Roller Derby Sport Committee and derby representative on the full USARS Board of Directors. Regueiro broke the news on his Facebook page, complete with the letter from FIRS president Sabatino Aracu that confirmed the appointment.

Regueiro has been around roller derby for quite a while, starting with the Windy City Rollers way back in 2006. There, he worked in several league committees, including  events, marketing, and interleague relations. He was also a member of the WCR Board of Directors for three years, up through 2009.

In 2014, he left Windy City to focus on his USARS efforts. Along with spearheading the creation of the roller derby arm of USARS a few years prior, he started a new roller derby USARS club team from scratch, the Chicago Red Hots, of which he is also the general manager.

It makes sense for FIRS to tap someone experienced in the management side of modern roller derby to manage the FIRS push to potentially expand roller derby to new places, such as the Pan-Am Games and the World Roller Games in Nanjing in 2017.

Regueiro’s personal experience in the world of sports, which includes a stints on the Mexican U-17 national soccer team and in the Mexican professional soccer leagues, should also help him relate to the needs of athletes participating in international competitions and competition in general.

However, there isn’t much time to get roller derby ready for Roller Games, which will presumably be the debut of the discipline under FIRS sanctioning. The move of the event from mainland Europe to the Far East may cause some unforeseen complications in these efforts, potentially deterring or preventing some national teams, particularly those from the Eurozone, from making a trip for an unknown quantity.

On the other hand, some national rollersports governing bodies aren’t waiting around. As we reported last year, USARS is already deep into the process of putting together a national team for Roller Games and other internationally recognized competitions. In fact, it is already at the state where it will be holding a public scrimmage as a part of its final tryouts in Olympia, Wash. next month.

Japan, too, is getting into the act. This weekend in Okinawa, the Japanese Roller Derby Association (JRDA1) will be hosting the Japan Open Roller Derby Tournament, the first of its kind in the country. The JRDA is sponsoring the event, but it is also fielding a new team, Nippon Senbatsu (Japan Select), which the organization is aiming to eventually turn into the recognized women’s roller derby national team for entry into FIRS Roller Games next year.2

The Japan Open will be played under the most prevalent roller derby rule set in the world, that of the WFTDA. FIRS, still working towards filling in the details of what its roller derby program will entail, has still not revealed what its version of roller derby is going to look and play like. Until recently, many assumed that because of the position of the WFTDA, the co-adoption of WFTDA rules was the obvious outcome.

However, as we exclusively reported in November, the WFTDA and FIRS didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye on roller derby, eventually leading the WFTDA to independently seek out the International Olympic Committee for official recognition for governance of the sport. Combine that fallout with the appointment of Regueiro to the FIRS Derby Committee, and it should be fairly obvious as to what’s happening here.

With one of the principals behind the creation of the USARS roller derby rule set chairing the group responsible for creating the FIRS roller derby rule set, it would be a shock if FIRS doesn’t adopt some or all of USARS rules into the international rule book, and ultimately at Roller Games 2017 in China.

(Whatever FIRS roller derby rules ultimately look like, we will put it through its paces with an analysis as soon as it is released.)

Stay with Roller Derby Notes as we continue to follow this fast-developing story.