Last month, we shared a statement from the European Same Sex Dance Association that registrations were put on hold due to concerns that the low level of registrations for the Eurogames as a whole and without any form of financial backing/sponsorship how Team Roma were going to be able to finance the level of cost involved with hosting a European Championship.“

The choice whether or not to proceed was dependent on an external review from the European Gay and Lesbian Sports Federation to determine if the organization and financial viability of the event would be held up to the high standards that athletes have come to expect.

The European Gay and Lesbian Sports Federation is an organization that serves as the parent body for the Eurogames, which is one of the largest European-wide International Multi-Sport events. EGLSF solicits bids from cities to host each edition of the Eurogames. The winning city is responsible for organizing, marketing and hosting the event.

The ESSDA statement came from EGLSF’s Annual General Assembly which is a large meeting of its membership. With the Roma Eurogames scheduled to take place this July, all the eyes were on the Roma host committee for updates on the organization of the event. It was reported that several sports were being cancelled due to low registrations and there was a lack of clear information being communicated about the organization of the sports. In addition, the financial reports were vague and without clear sources of the funding for the event. Leaving EGLSF members dissatisfied with the Roma Eurogames organizational efforts.

As a result, the ESSDA chose to pull their championship event from the Roma Eurogames in favor of Eurogames organizing a smaller dance competition with the added distinction of not being listed as an organizing member.

In a statement shared with Compete Sports Diversity, EGLSF General Secretary, Sarah Townsend stated…

“We regret that ESSDA and the organisers of Rome EuroGames 2019 did not manage to come to an agreement concerning the European Championships. ESSDA are continuing to work with both the EGLSF and Rome EuroGames organisers with the joint aim of delivering a high-quality same-sex dance competition at the EuroGames this summer in Rome. 

This weekend, the EGLSF Assembly asked Rome EuroGames organisers to review certain aspects of their organisation in line with EGSLF quality assurance processes. We will offer a full statement when this review is complete.  It is in the interests of our members and all athletes and stakeholders that we work proactively and decisively to ensure a high quality EuroGames. “

As part of their original statement, the ESSDA clarified their position…

“The board are fully supportive of the EGLSF’s steps toward still trying to achieve a successful EuroGames but felt it prudent to request they hold their own dance competition without the European championship attached to help reduce their costs,” the dance group said. “With recent scars of the financial fallibilities of international multi-sport events, we felt we had to be 100 percent sure that this competition was viable — an assurance we were never able to achieve from Team Roma.”

Following the AGA, EGLSF required that the Roma Eurogames suspended registrations for the event pending the outcome of their review. This move had sewn doubt into athletes  as to whether or not the Roma Eurogames would be worth investing the time, money, and training to attend. After the mismanagement, cancellation and financial scams from the failure of several previous LGBTI multi-sport events in the last 5 years, people started to worry as to whether or not the “Rule of 3s” would apply in this circumstance

Roger Brigham from the Bay Area Reporter and Dawn Ennis from Outsports both shared articles reporting to the updates regarding the Roma Eurogames and specifically the hold on registrations pending the outcome of the review. However, Roma Eurogames claimed that the registrations were on hold was due to a glitch. The statement from Roma 2019 Spokesman Gianluca Meola stated…

“We have temporarily suspended registration for tournaments due to the unexpectedly high number of requests,” said Roma 2019 spokesman Gianluca Meola. “The registration system will work again after an update.”

When Outsports asked follow up questions, they were provided with the same response which is in contrast with the ESSDA statement and actions stemming from the AGA. It was reported that while Roma Eurogames 2019 was expecting 5000 athletes, only about 1400 athletes had registered before the registrations were placed on hold in mid-march. Following the release of the Outsports’ article, Meola became defensive and released another statement to Outsports…

“I am sorry that you are reporting without any foundation. The organizational machine of the EuroGames of Rome is more healthy than ever. I trust in the professionalism of your newspaper so that it does not feed something that is not true.”

However, it was clear that registrations were suspended due to the EGLSF inspection as participants who had attended the EGLSF Annual General Assembly were vocal in their dissatisfaction in the organizers abilities to host the event; which in accordance with EGLSF guidelines, required the Roma team to respond to their inspections by the 30th of March.

In a statement shared on Facebook, EGLSF shared an update to their inspections…

“On March 17th the EGLSF Assembly asked Rome EuroGames organisers to review certain aspects of their organisation in line with EGSLF quality assurance processes. This review period is concluded – and we are very happy to announce that the threshold of 7 EuroGames-standard sports is reached and so this summer’s event in Rome will retain the EuroGames license.

EGLSF-appointed sports organisers are happy with the following sports, which will be opened immediately for registration: Badminton, Tennis, Volleyball, Same-sex Dance, Beach volleyball, Football, Field Hockey, Track & field, Swimming, Water polo, Golf, Bowling.

Some sports do not meet EuroGames requirements and will be offered solely as leisure sports: Roma Run, Roma Bike Some sports do not have enough registrations, or the possibility of getting the required registrations, so will be removed from official EuroGames offer: Rugby, Pétanque, Basketball.

Members that are registered for sports that are no longer part of the Rome EuroGames offer will be offered the opportunity to sign up for a different sport, or receive a refund of their registration fee. The EGLSF Board thank all our sport specialists for their efforts these last two weeks in evaluating the Rome offer, and helping the Rome EuroGames organisers to achieve this great end result.”

So far, this is the only statement that has been released on the outcome of the inspections. There appears to not be any more detailed reports that identifies what their “standards” are, how the inspections proceeded, or to what extent they are requiring the Roma Eurogames to do in order to meet those standards. In addition, there is no information on the financial viability of the event, nor the sources of major funding going into the organization of the event given that registrations appear to be falling short of their projections.

After the 2015 Eurogames Stockholm, EGLSF performed a similar inspection and followed it up with detailed report on all the information they received and examined that contributed to the mismanagement and general incompetence of the event. It was very insightful, but the inspection wasn’t performed and the participants weren’t informed until well after the event concluded; despite the writing on the wall before hand that the event was going to be an organizational mess.

One thing to note, is that it appears that EGLSF is requiring Roma Eurogames to focus on organizing a smaller event, as was made clear with the cancellation of Rugby, Pétanque and Basketball due to low or non-existent registration numbers. According to the Roma Eurogames website, there are 1479 athletes currently registered.

When the original ESSDA statement was released, we checked the Eurogames website as to whether or not there was enough information for the sporting events as athletes would expect when only 3-4 months ahead of the event. Initially, we were underwhelmed at the information available, which included missing schedules, dead links and a lack of information regarding sanctioning bodies for specific sports. Following the EGLSF inspection, it appears to have improved somewhat with more up to date information available regarding the sports events.

However, there are still a few dead links, including the Frequently Asked Questions on all the sports pages, Shop, Complete Program on the opening/closing ceremonies, Intersex/Transgender Inclusion Policies, Press Release/ Press Coverage/ Gallery, etc. There is still a lot of information missing, particularly from the “cultural events” section, including dates and times for many of the events. Other areas include information but it’s often very vague including the “Sports Village” section, as well as a lack of information for participants to check in upon arrival, where to go, etc. With the Eurogames scheduled for July, we are less than 3 months away and it’s reasonable to expect that all this information should already be posted and available on the website so participants can plan ahead.

Some of the sports we trust will be very well organized, specifically Football. Taking the lead is the International Gay and Lesbian Football Association which is hosting their annual championship event as part of the Eurogames Roma. IGLFA was also responsible for hosting one of the three sports that survived the cancellation and collapse of the World Outgames, so they know what is at stake. Other sports, such as swimming lack clear information as to who is organizing the event or what organizations are involved in it.

The “recent scars” of various multi-sport events includes quite a history of successes and failures when organizing large scale LGBTI Multi-Sport events. Most notably, these would include the 2015 Eurogames in Stockholm which was plagued by mismanagement, poor communication to the participants and lack of competence when organizing certain sports events. The 2017 World Outgames held in Miami were hyped up to be a global event that promised everything from grand ceremonies and celebrities to a global human rights conference and cultural events, but they forgot about the sports. Of the 15,000 people expected in Miami, only 2,000 people registered. The event was cancelled on the first day and left athletes who flew to Miami with nothing as they were scammed out of their registration fees, hotel expenses and confidence that such a large scale event could be reasonably well organized. The World Outgames have since become known as the “FyreGames” inspired by the similar events of the “FyreFest” that took place at the same time.

Despite scars, there have been a few well-organized events that have faced trials and tribulations but have shown that they were worth investing in. Most notably the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland ran a very well-organized event that drew a $250,000 surplus, the 2016 Eurogames in Helsinki was also well done, and the annual Sin City Classic continues to exceed expectations for the largest annual LGBTI multi-sport event.

While EGLSF is putting all their confidence behind the event, many athletes are still skeptical; whether the 2019 Eurogames will prove us wrong or will end up as the 3rd of a trilogy remains to be seen.  One thing is clear, we need more transparency, accountability and information from the Roma Eurogames team and EGLSF regarding the organization of their event if they hope to inspire more confidence in potential participants during these crucial final few months to drive registration and participation numbers.

By Dirk Smith