History repeats itself. Broomball finds itself in the same place as professional golf in the 1990’s.
The broomball social media universe was ablaze this weekend. A disruptive innovation in equipment triggered a notice of evaluation by rulemaking bodies. Who would have thought the amateur sport of broomball would now face issues reserved for professional sports?
Here are the reasons why for the sake of broomball’s future, we have to look to professional golf:
PING GOLF v. USGA: TRADITION vs. INNOVATION
As Brett Cygalis noted in his article Blame USGA for wedge-gate, the history of conflict between golf manufacturers and governing bodies stretches back 30 years.
On or about 1984, the PING company introduced the PING Eye 2 golf clubs, which contained a groove design called the “U-groove.” The product was an instant success with millions of clubs sold. In the early 1990’s, the United States Golf Association announced a ban on the clubs, impacting national championships and at the recreation level. The USGA argued that the clubs gave competitors a significant advantage.
PING’s owner Karsten Solheim disagreed and filed suit against the USGA seeking $100 million, arguing the USGA violated anti-trust laws. If the case went to a jury and Solheim won on the verdict, the result would have undercut the USGA’s authority as the sport’s governing body — a title it held since its inception in 1895. As such, a settlement was reached by the parties. Terms of the agreement were summarized by Jamie Diaz in his article Accord is Reached on New Groove Irons. However, Diaz did note the U.S.G.A. conceded “the dispute has been strictly of a technical nature, and there was no competitive advantage to a user of the clubs.”
EQUIPMENT RULES AND REVIEW: TECHNOLOGY vs. SKILL
The Rules of Golf specify the equipment which may be used to play the game. The USGA has a procedure to submit a product for evaluation at the Research and Test Center in Far Hills, New Jersey. Manufacturers receive a certificate stating conformance, non-conformance, breach or no breach of the Equipment Rules. More information can be found here.
The main objective of the Equipment Rules is to ensure that technological advances in the design and manufacture of golf equipment are in the best interests of the game. While not wishing to stifle innovation, the purpose of the Equipment Rules is to protect the traditions of the game, to prevent an over-reliance on technological advances rather than on practice and skill, and to preserve skill differentials throughout the game. More information can be found here.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
Broomball and golf are very much related, both in technical skill and the political dynamics. Unlike the millions of dollars are at stake in golf, broomball is still mostly an amateur sport. Nevertheless, the passion seen in recent days demonstrates the enormous potential of this game. Broomball’s greatest value is that it creates an experience that anyone can enjoy, and expands an ice rink’s customer base beyond the non-skater. It is truly becoming a platform for anyone to reach their full potential, connect with others, and enhance their well-being. Broomball is a place for everyone to come and belong to something better.