Business, exclusivety, unions and World Wingsuit League (WWL)

By 17/06/2016Insight

To be invited to WWL is a recongition of a wingsuit pilots great skills both in flying and as a credible part of our community. The pilots get a covered travel, food and accommodation to one the most exotic exit points in the world, in Tianmen Mountains. On arrival, all participants sign a contract, giving WWL the exclusive rights on your performance as a basejumper in all of China. That means you can not take part in other events or go to China on your own initiative to do your sport, without the permition from WWL. The main reason, argues WWL, is that their sponsors want exclusivity on the athletes.

In 2015, Wings for Love (W4L), was hosted for the first time. It’s a competition further south in China, Dashanbao, Yunnan Province. Many of the qualified participants in WWL, were also invited to Wings for Love. To do both, would mean a breach of contract. I took a personal initiative to be allowed to do both.

After several emails between WWL and other involved parts, it was evident WWL would deny any participation in W4L. The timing was unfortunate, with only weeks left before both event was to happen. A union of 12 out of 16 WWL participants were gathered, and a letter was sent to WWL. The union demanded that the rule in contract giving WWL exclusivity was changed to open for activity elsewhere in China. If not, the 12 pilots would take no part in WWL. Within 24 hours the rules were changed, and the contract you sign for WWL no longer says they have exclusivity. It also caused a gap between the WWL organisation and the involved pilots. And for me, my relation to WWL became difficult and I will be a TV-spectator in the events to come.

Earlier this spring I was participating on another event in China, the World Base Jump Competition, and by coincident met a representant for one of the main sponsors of WWL. We have known each other for some years now, and the surprising meet was mutually great. I guessed he would bring up the incident 6 months ago, but no. He asked me if I was training hard for WWL. I told him I was not. He reacted both surprised and disappointed, and told me they wanted us to come as often as possible to China and take part in all the events we wanted to. I didn’t really know what to say, but left thinking the union we made was all worth it. We, the 12, who had a demand, got a hard time, but it seems like we made a change, and that the future basejumpers hopefully can join cool events in China without worrying for ending up with their hands tied up. And our Chinese seems to welcome it!

The future of big basejumping events are 100 % dependent of an honest and close relationship between jumpers and hosts when it comes to safety, rules and format. We are a sport in constant change, and event makers who listen carefully to their invited participants will always be ahead, and create a state of the art show. If WWL do so, they have a chance to grow even more and be a truly defining venue in our sport in the years to come.

I hope they succeed, because it would benefit us all.