PtG Article 02.06.2009

Beach volley partnership collapsed in total acrimony

Co-operating with the ethical World Volleyball and Beach Volleyball Federation (WVBF) turned out to be a very bad idea for the founder and president of the beach volleyball organisation ProSeries, Emanuele Monduzzi. Only 18 months later, ProSeries was ruined and summoned to court because WVBF did not hold up its end of the agreement, and Monduzzi found himself barred from WVBF tournaments for alleged breaches of ethical principles.

ProSeries was founded in 2004 by a number of beach volleyball players in protest against developments within the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB). When WVBF was formed as an alternative world governing body to the FIVB, ProSeries quickly signed a co-operation agreement with the new organisation to work as partners to “grow the commercial value of the sport and to establish beach volleyball as one of the most popular summer time entertainment sports” in Europe and North and South America.

The ink was barely dry on the contract before a series of 2007 tournaments in Italy, Slovenia and Switzerland was set in motion.  The division of responsibilities was clear: ProSeries were to organise five tournaments, WVBF would organise one through a local federation, and WVBF president Jean-Pierre Seppey took on the responsibility for paying an Italian television company, Pubbliteam, for producing and distributing television programmes from the tournaments. WVBF did not pay billsFor a while everything went smoothly but trouble arose around the final tournament in Lugano which was organised by the Swiss Federation of Volleyball and Beach Volleyball and under direct supervision by WVBF and its president Seppey. Three days before the Lugano event, Seppey unilaterally decided to replace the Italian television company with a German company. Later WVBF paid only one instalment of the bill from Pubbliteam, and the Swiss Federation of Volleyball and Beach Volleyball also failed to pay everything it owed ProSeries to cover costs for prize money, reimbursements and travelling expenses in relation to the tournament in Lugano.For months, Emanuele Monduzzi of ProSeries tried to sort out the financial problems by mailing and phoning Seppey and two members of ProSeries that were on the WVBF board of administration. He was mostly stonewalled until a meeting was set up in March last year to resolve the problems. On this occasion, Seppey again promised to pay but nothing happened. The outcome  has been devastating for ProSeries: Activities have almost ceased, and the Italian television company Pubbliteam has summoned ProSeries to court because WVBF did not pay the full bill for television services. Meanwhile, WVBF is hosting a new series of beach volleyball tournaments called ProTour.Monduzzi: WVBF wanted ProSeries outPlay the Game has reviewed copies of original documents and email correspondence in the dispute between ProSeries and WVBF, and the course of events is clear. The question is why the partnership broke down to such an extent that Monduzzi sent a letter to WVBF in June 2008 formally suspending all co-operation, and WVBF excluded the ProSeries president from playing in WVBF tournaments.Monduzzi tells Play the Game that he is convinced that WVBF was determined to get rid of him and take over all beach volley activities themselves after the ProSeries tournaments ended in August 2007. Why else would WVBF decide not to honour its contracts and put him on ice, he wonders. He is also curious why the Swiss Volleyball and Beach Volleyball Federation that owes ProSeries money seems to have vanished completely and there are no references to it on the WVBF website anymore. Seppey: ProSeries was at faultThe president of WVBF, Jean-Pierre Seppey, on the other hand maintains that WVBF did act professionally and ethically with ProSeries which tried to “take advantage illegally form WVBF.”Seppey has faxed Play the Game a copy of an email he sent to members of the board of administration about the suspension of the partnership with ProSeries in June 2008. In the email he explains that he believes it was ProSeries who breached their agreement by invoicing the Swiss Volleyball and Beach Volleyball Federation incorrectly, and that the quality of the work by the Italian television company had been poor and it had also sent an incorrect invoice.“After our board meetings in Geneva, we took the decision to control directly the prize money payment, to reorganise the responsibilities by nominating Goran Valic as Tour Director, to pay directly the officials, air tickets and to sanction the players for WVBF ProTour tournaments,” Seppey writes.The biggest problem in Seppey's view, however, is what he calls “Emanuele Monduzzi's repeated harmful words, critics and severe behaviour against WVBF Presidency, FIBV Italia Federation's President, Mr. Vittorio Silvestri, Mr. Goran Valic and his company Agens in Slovenia and other officials tarnishing tremendously our image.”Therefore Monduzzi is no longer authorised to take part in WVBF tournaments as he has breached a number of WVBF ethical principles, Seppey concludes in the mail.Loss of faith in WVBFDespite several attempts to contact Seppey, Play the Game has not been able to get any direct comments or answers to concrete questions in this case. And as we report elsewhere it has not been possible either to get a report from WVBF's ethical commission on the case although the email stated that “Professor Graf is mandated by WVBF ... to inquire and to find out the different responsibilities of WVBF, ProSeries, Mr. Monduzzi and Pubbliteam with a total neutrality and independency.”Meanwhile Monduzzi informs Play the Game that he is willing to show any third party the accounts and receipts for “personal remittances that I was obliged to perform in favour of ProSeries in order to cover debts originated by this bad partnership with WVBF.” He concludes: “ProSeries was born because players and promoters were tired of suffering the abuses of power of politicians like Mr. Seppey when he was inside the FIVB. I trusted in WVBF's project because it looked like something new, but I was wrong.”