It’s very sad to see the huge split that has occurred in the IFBB over the past couple of months. It would have been nice if both sides could have worked together to continue to represent the huge internationally-amalgamated organization that the IFBB has been for years, but I guess it’s just not to be.
Understandably, since the split was announced there has been a lot of concern and confusion among competitors over the future of the IFBB and the NPC, and what it means to them.
I therefore just want to summarize what has happened within the IFBB and why, and how it will affect present and future IFBB and NPC competitors, as I see it. The upshot, I believe, is that there are probably more pros than cons coming out of this whole situation for the athletes.
The recent split within the IFBB involves three affiliated players. They are:
- The IFBB Professional League, situated in the US and headed by Jim Manion. This is the organization that has thus far been responsible for holding the most prestigious bodybuilding event in the world, the Mr. Olympia, as well as other major pro events in the US and internationally.
- The IFBB Amateur International, headquartered in Spain and headed by Dr Rafael Santonja. This is the body that governs all IFBB amateur events worldwide, including the US.
- The NPC (National Physique Committee), situated in the US and also headed by Jim Manion. Technically this “was” (prior to the recent split) a part of the IFBB Amateur International, and is basically the amateur league for the IFBB in the US. It had always been run as a separate entity to the IFBB Amateur International, however.
It’s important to note that historically, there was no separation between IFBB amateur and IFBB pro operations. Everything came under the one IFBB banner.
In 2005 however, Ben Weider, who co-founded the IFBB with his brother Joe, decided to separate the organization into an amateur wing and a professional wing, and the IFBB Amateur International and the IFBB Professional League were born. At that time he appointed Jim Manion to head the latter organization.
The recent split within the IFBB follows a major dispute that occurred between the IFBB Amateur International and the NPC at the 2017 Mr. Olympia weekend, held in Las Vegas in September. It appears to have been the result of some kind of power-play between the two.
On the Wednesday prior to the Mr. Olympia weekend, NPC president Jim Manion met with IFBB Amateur International officials for two hours to voice his concerns over some changes that he wanted to see made, but apparently no agreement could be reached between the two parties.
Subsequent to that meeting, the difference of opinion between the two sides clearly escalated when the IFBB Amateur International refused to participate in judging the Amateur Olympia, held during the weekend, due to the NPC insisting that their judges take control of the event. The IFBB Amateur International officials decided to pull out of the event en masse.
Following the event, a letter was released to the public by the CSFF (South American Confederation of Bodybuilding and Fitness) stating that NPC judges do not have the same qualifications as international IFBB Amateur International judges since NPC judges do not have an international card.
The IFBB Amateur International took notice and issued a press release stating that the NPC were to be suspended temporarily for the events that occurred at the Olympia weekend, pending an investigation.
In response to this, Jim Manion, as president of both the NPC and the IFBB Professional League, decided that both organizations would henceforth cease to recognize or be affiliated with the IFBB Amateur International, releasing the following official statement:
In layman’s terms, Jim Manion decided he no longer needed the IFBB Amateur International, and chose to continue operations under the NPC and IFBB Professional League without them.
So how does this change things?
This official separation between the NPC and IFBB Professional League on one side, and the IFBB Amateur International on the other, has led to some significant changes for competitors, particularly those outside of the US.
NPC/IFBB Professional League
Let’s start by looking at NPC/IFBB Professional League competitors.
Previously, US competitors could achieve pro status in the IFBB either though a national NPC pro-qualifier event, or through an IFBB amateur pro-qualifier event (a pro-qualifier event held in the US by the IFBB Amateur International). As a result of the split however, the latter option is no longer available for competitors wanting to join the IFBB Professional League.
This means that as of now, the only way for US competitors to achieve pro status and compete in the IFBB Professional League is through the NPC. For current NPC competitors, nothing really changes in this regard.
One positive change that does occur however applies to US competitors that don’t hold US citizenship.
In the past, these individuals were not eligible to compete in any pro-qualifier event, and therefore had to return to and compete in their own country to earn a pro card. As of now however, any competitor simply living in the US with a Green Card will be able to qualify for a pro card at any one of three allocated pro-qualifier shows in the US – the Arnold Classic, the North American Championships, and the Amateur Olympia.
For competitors outside of the US, qualifying for pro status in the IFBB Professional League is no longer possible via an IFBB Amateur International event. The IFBB Professional League will therefore hold open international pro-qualifier events of its own through which competitors can qualify.
The great news for competitors is that as of now, all amateur athletes competing in the NPC or in any IFBB Professional League international pro-qualifier events are also free to compete in any other bodybuilding federations if they choose (including the IFBB Amateur International) without suspension.
It’s important to note, however, that pro cards from other bodybuilding federations will continue not to be recognized by the IFBB Professional League. A pro athlete in any other organization would therefore still need to earn a pro card in the IFBB Professional League by coming through the amateur ranks as any other athlete would.
So, what about competitors migrating from IFBB Amateur International competition to NPC/IFBB Professional League amateur competition?
First of all, both US and international IFBB athletes previously competing in IFBB Amateur International events will experience some differences in which categories and divisions are available if they choose to compete in NPC or IFBB Professional League international pro-qualifier events. Secondly, they will also notice some minor changes in judging and posing criteria, depending on their category.
These changes are due to differences that have existed for some time between NPC competition and IFBB Amateur International competition.
Importantly, competitors who have previously earned pro cards at IFBB Amateur International pro-qualifier events will of course continue to be recognized as pros by the IFBB Professional League. In addition, the IFBB Professional League has stated that any athlete who earns a pro card at any IFBB Amateur International event scheduled over the remainder of 2017 will also have their pro card honored.
IFBB Amateur International
As far as the IFBB Amateur International is concerned, no real changes will be occurring in the way it runs its amateur shows, as the split doesn’t really present any reasons for change in this area.
The main changes that will occur is the introduction of a pro division of their own. This will be known as IFBB Elite Pro. The IFBB Amateur International was in fact already working on the development of this division prior to the recent split in the IFBB.
The categories and judging criteria for IFBB Elite Pro events will quite closely mirror those of the IFBB Professional League, and more information about this can be found on their new website.
It appears as though the IFBB Amateur International will be limiting both its amateur and pro shows to countries outside of the US from this point forward, however I have not been able to confirm that at this stage.
The Arnold Classic
The Arnold Classic, now an international event, will next year be shared between the IFBB Amateur International and the IFBB Professional League.
The first two of five Arnold Classics for 2018 will be NPC/IFBB Professional League events, held in the US and Australia respectively. The remaining three will be IFBB Amateur International events, held in South Africa, Brazil and Spain, in that order.
What’s happening in Australia?
As of now, the IFBB Professional League will be represented in Australia by Tony Doherty. He will oversee all IFBB Professional League pro shows in the country, as well as all IFBB Professional League pro-qualifier shows.
In the video below, Tony explains what changes Australian competitors can expect to see at his shows following the IFBB split:
As Tony states, Australian competitors will still need to qualify to enter the Arnold Classic Australia (an IFBB Professional League event in 2018) by competing at a qualifying event. Unlike previous years however, they will be able to do so at any or all of the open qualifying events in Australia, and will not be limited to the one in their own home state.
The IFBB Amateur International will continue to be represented by Paul and Carole Graham in Australia, and they will also oversee any IFBB Elite Pro shows held in the country.
Where to from here?
I believe that both “halves” of the IFBB will continue to flourish and grow despite this dramatic split in the IFBB. Only time will tell which of the two, if any, will emerge as more popular.
As far as amateur competitors go, I believe that this development actually opens up more opportunities for competition, since they will now effectively be able to be involved with both sides of the IFBB if they choose. That means more contests to choose from. Those athletes who like to participate in other bodybuilding organizations as well as the IFBB will be particularly happy with the outcome.
From the dialogue made public so far, it seems that both factions of the IFBB will be working hard from this point forward to correct what they perceive as past weaknesses in the organization as a whole, and in the way competitions were conducted previously.
That can only be a good thing for competitors.