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March 27, 2013

The Death of the FITA Round? Motions on Table for World Archery Congress

On the eve of the World Archery Championships in September, the 50th World Archery Congress will be held in Antalya, Turkey. There are twelve motions up for vote, several of which may have a significant impact on archery tournament formats and scoring systems. Could we finally see the demise of the four-distance "FITA Round?" Will recurve team and mixed team eliminations finally embrace the Set Match system?

Motions N. 8 and 10 discuss changes to the format of scoring elimination matches.  Stemming from the recent success of the Set System for Recurve Individual Elimination Matches, the Target Archery Committee (TAC) and the WA Executive Board have motioned to establish Set Match system play for all recurve elimination matches, both indoors and out. This means that Team and Mixed Team elimination matches would all be shot under the Set Match system.  Compound matches would remain under the cumulative scoring system to help to clearly diversify the two classifications.

The TAC suggests that media and even the most inexperienced spectators have an easier time following Set Match system play, and it also allows for the possibility of shorter matches than the cumulative system since a match can be resolved in either three or four sets instead of always requiring five.  However, there are several other points to consider; it is arguable that Set Match play levels the field so that one bad shot does not determine an entire match; thus, perhaps the less consistent archer has a better chance of winning than in cumulative scoring.

Also on the table is a not-entirely-unexpected motion regarding the elimination of the four-distance "FITA Round" from the World Archery Championships and World Archery Youth Championships, with recurve archers shooting only at 70m for the qualification round, and the compound division at 50m, both to be followed by Elimination matches. This format change would mirror the format of the Olympic Games, and would allow for easier planning and more uniformity in tournaments at the highest level. The implication of this proposition is that the FITA round could still be valid on a national level, but the standard for international archery competition would be elevated to a completely unified format.

This would also ameliorate some logistics planning and lead to more concise events.  However, could this potentially be seen as an oversimplification of the sport? While this rule change is certainly poised to level the playing field, some archers excel at shooting the single distance, while many others also enjoy the challenge of changing distances, as is representative of so many other aspects of archery. And then, how would the World Championships be differentiated or recognized with separate prestige from the Olympic Games?

"Although it is not a surprise to see the FITA Round potentially being replaced for World Championship competition, this is still going to be a fiercely debated issue between now and the meetings in September," predicts Denise Parker, CEO of USA Archery. "The FITA round is such a part of target archery's history that it will be hard to let go of it, even with the strong case that is being made for its removal. There are many factors to be considered for the future of the sport and the next few months will prove to be fertile grounds for good debate." 

Whether or not the "FITA Round" is eliminated, the 144-arrow round (at any distance) stands to be renamed, as there is a motion before the Congress which will change the name of the round to the "1440 Round" - or "Double 1440 Round." The proposed change in terminology is meant to bring the names of the rounds in line with the correct and current name of the International Governing Body's name: the World Archery Federation.

With respect to Para-Archery, based upon requests from athletes represented by the Para-Archery Committee, along with the Constitution and Rules Committee (C&R), there is also a motion to change the categories for Para-Archery to Open Recurve, Open Compound and Open W1 for Men and Women. Open means that the classifications for Standing and W2 would be combined to create a more universal competition at major events. The general consensus seems to agree that "the merge of standing and W2 will give a more competitive and universal competition at Paralympics and major events. Also the creation of an open W1 event will permit the more severe[ly] disabled to have a good and appropriate competition."

These propositions are submitted with the intention of raising archery to a higher and more unified standard of competition. While on an international level, these changes would affect many World Archery events and even potentially the Olympic Games, they could also lead to eventual changes within national events. "This is not a surprise, and this has been talked about for some time," commented Parker, regarding the possible elimination of the current FITA Round. "In fact, it was one of the major reasons USA Archery moved away from the FITA round at the Easton JOAD Nationals, as we started to see more and more international events moving to the single distance competition and believed this to be the future direction of World Archery."

As World Archery member associations tend to reflect the procedures and standards of their International Governing Body, could this mean the end of recurve team cumulative match scoring? Will member associations - like USA Archery - embrace the single-distance round instead of the four-distance FITA? Only time - and the results of the World Archery Congress - will tell. 

View full information on the motions at http://www.archery.org/content.asp?id=1036&me_id=836&cnt_id=7608

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