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NOTEBOOK : Volleyball Pros Compromise on Tournament

August 06, 1987|ALAN DROOZ

A burning issue on the sands of Manhattan Beach has been the City Recreation Department's hassle with pro beach volleyball players, who want to play in the annual Manhattan Beach Open this weekend but were committed to a tournament in Maryland.

The fledgling Assn. of Volleyball Professionals, finally starting to earn big-money sponsorship and prizes, had a simple solution: Change the date of the Manhattan Beach Open and the AVP would provide the stars.

To Manhattan Beach, though, that idea was neither simple nor acceptable. Last year, Manhattan Beach simply went ahead with its tournament at the usual time without many of the top pros.

This year the plot thickened. Manhattan Beach sweetened the pot to $35,000, which is $15,000 more than the AVP-sanctioned tournament this weekend in Ocean City, Md. Again, the AVP asked Manhattan Beach to change its dates.

Again Manhattan Beach politely declined and offered to help pay expenses for some pros to go to Maryland if the AVP would provide several top teams for the local tournament, where most of the pros would prefer to play.

After background maneuverings, surprisingly clandestine for a sport that thrives on sunshine, the AVP worked out a compromise with Manhattan Beach: For a sanctioning fee, the AVP is providing five of the top 10 rated pairs for the local competition, with the others going to Maryland. The local tournament will include the team of Mike Dodd and Tim Hovland, who grew up on the South Bay beaches and won the Manhattan Open four straight years until missing it last summer. The top-rated team of Sinjin Smith and Randy Stoklos will play in Maryland.

The compromise means the AVP will get a shot at $55,000 in prize money between the two tournaments, and both will have a high level of competition.

But the AVP's maneuverings left Charlie Saikely, tournament director for the Manhattan Beach Open for its 28 years, shaking his head. He said that, at times, the AVP's demands ranged from several thousand dollars to transport five teams to Maryland to a plan for Manhattan Beach to pay even more money for a medical insurance deal.

Saikely said: "The players love this tournament. There's a lot of tradition, a lot of the players started here. It's not a sterile atmosphere like with just the pros. We get old men, little kids. Anybody can play. It's the last of the old-fashioned opens."

Saikely said the Manhattan Beach Open is played at the same time every summer, based on the mixture of warm weather, long days and the tradition that has built up. And, he said, the AVP should have taken that into account when it set up its schedule.

"We had the problem last year--and they had a problem getting people to go back East. This year they wanted us to change the date and we didn't feel that was right. They knew we were scheduled. They went to the City Council and we wouldn't change. They said there wouldn't be anybody (players) there. With $35,000 in cash prizes, we knew somebody would be there."

After meetings and demands, the compromise was reached. Saikely is happy to have some of the top pros again, but the plain-speaking city employee said he was distressed at the AVP's apparent disregard for the long-running tournament.

"I feel it's an elitist organization," he said. "What it boils down to is they want both pots. That's my opinion. . . . The deal is everything . . . and we're going to pass out $35,000 in prizes. . . . The only thing we could give them was a sanctioning fee. Last year (under the same circumstances) I didn't know until Thursday whom I was going to get. Why should we pay a sanctioning fee if they're going to treat us like that?

"It does make one wonder whether he should be a gentleman."

Kevin Cleary, president of the AVP, answers that the Manhattan Open is indeed the granddaddy of beach volleyball, "and it kind of moved like a granddaddy."

Cleary said that in past years promoters for the Manhattan Beach tournament had problems coming up with prize money. He added that the expanded national tour makes for scheduling problems because "there are certain places on the East Coast you can only play in July and August--other than that the weather becomes real unpredictable."

Cleary said, Group Dynamics Inc. put together a $600,000 tour with corporate sponsorship. "At that time Manhattan Beach had nothing (in prize money)," he said. "This time of year the guys are kind of burned out from traveling and would prefer to stay here, but they know it's their livelihood. Our job is to get the best possible deal for the players. Manhattan Beach just came up with their deal a couple of weeks ago. We were in the middle. I kind of felt like we were put in a bad position. So we came up with this compromise."

As the tour expands, Cleary hopes problems will be ironed out earlier. "The sport's going through some growing pains," he said. "We've had to do a lot of scheduling in advance. Previously the Manhattan Beach schedule was perfect."

The open begins Saturday morning on the south side of the Manhattan Beach pier. Finals are scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

In the final regular season standings of the U. S. Pro Tour of Surfing and Bodyboarding, Scott Daley of El Segundo ranks third in men's surfing and Reese Patterson of Redondo Beach and Mike Sherman of Playa del Rey are fifth and ninth in longboarding.

The pro tour concludes Aug. 21 to 23 in the Budweiser Surfing Championships at Surfrider Beach in Malibu.

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