A line in the arena sand
The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) Board of Directors approved bylaw changes last week in response to actions of a start-up rodeo association that’s kicked up some dust lately.
In a nutshell, the bylaw changes, effective Oct. 1, 2015 and for the 2016 rodeo season, prohibit a rodeo committee from scheduling an event with a competing rodeo association 72 hours before or after a PRCA event in the same venue, and prohibit board members, employees or those with a financial interest in a competing rodeo association from joining or remaining a member of the PRCA.
Jim Bainbridge, PRCA media representative, said the board actions came in response to an announcement by the fledgling Elite Rodeo Association (ERA) that their members will not participate in any “tours” in 2016 except their own.
“As a group, these athletes have decided to limit their professional rodeo schedules to compete in the ERA Tour that begins in March of 2016 and concludes with the ERA World Championships in Dallas, Texas, November 9-13, 2016. Although they will still compete in professional rodeos across the country, the ERA Tour will become their main focus and define their schedules,” was a part of the statement from the ERA, Sept. 15.
The ERA responded to PRCA’s news release about the bylaw changes with a media statement in less than 48 hours. They said they are disappointed in the PRCA’s actions but they don’t plan to change their game plan. They emphasized that their members do plan to take part in regular season PRCA rodeos, just not “tour-formatted events.”
The ERA stressed the publicity opportunity they’ve garnered with a Fox Sports deal. “As is the case with other professional sports, this increased exposure will enhance the sport and its participation at all levels. Ultimately providing more opportunities for current and future rodeo athletes,” said the Sept. 24, news release.
Bainbridge said the PRCA recently developed a tour, the “Wrangler Champions Challenge,” that was designed to give television viewers and other fans more exposure to the sports top athletes.
“The Wrangler Champions Challenge is pretty much identical to what they (the ERA) are proposing,” he said. “They would presumably replace those with almost the same event.”
“Three years ago, with the help of our corporate partners, rodeo committees and contestants, the PRCA implemented the Wrangler Champions Challenge, which is televised by the CBS Sports Network to showcase our top competitors and animal athletes. Additionally, with the new 10-year agreements in Las Vegas and Osceola County, Florida, there is an unprecedented amount of new dollars available to our members,” PRCA Commissioner Karl Stressman said in the PRCA news release. Bainbridge confirmed that $10 million will be up for grabs at this year’s WNFR. Last year, $6.375 was paid out at the Las Vegas event.
While the rules are to go into effect for the PRCA’s 2016 rodeo season, which begins Oct. 1, 2015, this year’s Wrangler National Finals Rodeo will be unaffected, Bainbridge said.
“This doesn’t affect anything with the 2015 season. Everybody who was a member ths year is a member through the WNFR.”
The competitions that will be limited by the first bylaw change must include at least two rodeo events, Bainbridge pointed out. So bull riding competitions, team ropings, bronc matches, barrel jackpots or any competitions that only feature one rodeo event can continue to be held in conjunction with PRCA events.
Fifty-one atheletes are listed on the ERA website. But the group’s news release last week boasted over 70 top rodeo athletes. One is Trevor Brazile, who has earned 21 world championships. He competes in tie-down roping, team roping and steer roping. Other well-known names include Tuf Cooper, Luke Branquinho, Sherry Cervi, Kaycee Feild, Wes Stevenson, Martin Lucero, Bobby Mote, Cody Ohl and locals such as Chad Ferley, Lisa Lockhart, Todd Suhn and Cort Scheer. Brazile, Lucero and Stevenson also serve on the board of directors along with Ryan Motes, Bobby Mote, Bradley Harter and their CEO, Tony Garritano.
Last month ERA announced an arrangement with Fox Sports and a five-year deal with the city of Dallas, Texas, and released the date of their $3 million, 5-day world championship event: November 9-13, 2016.
““For the first time in the history of rodeo, fans from all over the country will be able to watch the race to an ERA World Championship on FOX Sports, a national television network, that is a sports icon,” said Brazile in an August news release.
The ERA website said their qualifying system has not yet been finalized but that all of their members will be eligible to participate in the 7-event rodeos. Final rules are to be published online mid-October the site says. The tour roster will be released soon, as well, the news release announced.
In reference to the second by-law change, Bainbridge said it is still unclear exactly which athletes will be barred from membership to the PRCA because they aren’t sure which contestants are financially vested into the ERA. Their website indicates there is some investment by the members.
“ERA is a private company that is owned by the contestants and future contestants,” the ERA site says.
The PRCA board of directors consists of Keith Martin, Chairman of PRCA Board and Rodeo Committee Director; Bret Tonozzi, Vice Chairman, PRCA Board Contestant Director; John Barnes, Stock Contractor Director; Benje Bendele, Congract Personnel Director; Fred Boettcher, Contestant Director; Hal Burns, Stock Contractor Director; Heath Ford, Contestant Director; Troy Weekley, Rodeo Committee Director and J.P. Wickett, Contestant Director.
Below are the by PRCA Bylaw Changes:
I. Competing Rodeo Events Bylaws B22.214.171.124-.2
B126.96.36.199 Definition of Competing Rodeo Events.
Competing Rodeo Events are events not sanctioned by the PRCA in which contestants compete in two or more of the following events: bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, and team roping.
B188.8.131.52 Rodeo Committees.
In light of the PRCA’s long-standing and ongoing efforts to create popular and successful PRCA-sanctioned professional rodeo competitions and promote rodeo sports in general, including but not limited to creating the National Finals Rodeo event and qualifying points system, soliciting corporate sponsors and television contracts, establishing rodeo rules and regulations, and developing youth and new contestant growth programs-and in order to protect the quality of all PRCA-sanctioned events-any rodeo committee and/or contracting party involved in producing a PRCA-sanctioned event agrees not to schedule, produce, promote or participate in a Competing Rodeo Event seventy-two hours before, during or seventy-two hours after a PRCA-sanctioned event. The PRCA shall have the right to approve specific events that are in conflict with this Bylaw should the PRCA deem any such event to be in the interest of its members and the promotion of professional rodeo sports in general.
II. Conflicting Rodeo Association Interests Bylaws B.184.108.40.206-.2
B220.127.116.11 Definition of Conflicting Rodeo Association.
Conflicting Rodeo Associations are companies, partnerships, associations or other entities whose direct or indirect purpose is to produce, promote, and/or sanction professional rodeo contests in which contestants compete in two or more of the following events: bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, and team roping.
B18.104.22.168 Prohibition on Conflicting Rodeo Association Interests.
In order to ensure that PRCA members — whose popularity and success are the result of participation in PRCA-sanctioned rodeos and related PRCA promotional efforts and activities (and the associated costly investments the PRCA has made in promoting PRCA events and rodeo sports in general) — are not pursuing interests in Conflicting Rodeo Associations while receiving the benefits of PRCA membership and are putting forth their best efforts on behalf of the PRCA, any person applying for PRCA membership who is an officer, board member, employee or has an ownership or financial interest of any form in a Conflicting Rodeo Association shall not be issued a membership, permit or renewal of membership with the PRCA.