IFSA (International Federation of Strength Athletes)  and  
AFSA (American Federation of Strength Athletes) break apart 

27.3, Sami - "before I became a reporter I was a person"

IFSA was formed in 1995 to look after competitors' interests and supervise various strengh athlete contests. President: Douglas Edmunds. 

AFSA was formed two years later to promote the sport in the United States. 
President: Manfred Hoeberl (Höberl). 

The World's Strongest Man competition has been held since 1977. 
It's produced by Trans World International.
(Justin McShane added) The idea was conceived and owned by CBS (a US major national broadcast station) in the beginning. In 1982 they sold the rights to BBC who in turn just recently (within the last 7 years I think) sold the rights to TWI who is part of the large production company called International Management Group.

Back in January I heard a rumour that Manfred isn't in good terms with the IFSA any more. Athletes who choose to participate in AFSA competitions might not even get invited to the familiar IFSA/TWI World's Strongest Man competition later this year. 

Neither the athletes nor the officials really wanted to comment this and so the rumours were left unconfirmed until IFSA senate meeting in March. Before nobody really knew what was going on, Svend Karlsen told me: "Politics doesn’t interest me. Like some day they are the closest friends and some other day not. Things can change again." 
IFSA senate meeting as posted by Ironmind (I want to thank you for your great news service!) 

The IFSA senate meeting held on March 5, 1999 in Helsinki, Finland were officially recorded as follows. "Points arising: 1) The official IFSA event program was agreed to. The schedule is attached. 2) IFSA athletes are requested not to enter any non-IFSA sanctioned competitions, particularly as this is a very important period for IFSA consolidation. 3) It is now confirmed that Manfred Hoeberl is no longer an IFSA official. However, IFSA does not wish to prevent him from organizing properly founded events. This means that he must work within the IFSA regulations and pay the standard license fee. 4) Athletes who take part in unsanctioned events without prior permission from IFSA will jeopardize their invitations to Grand Prix events, World's Strongest Man, and other high profile events. 5) It was also decided that Magnus Ver Magnusson would be required to demonstrate his loyalty to IFSA for the next six months before being considered for appointment to an international referee. 6) Wayne Price will decide before 10th of March whether to continue as an IFSA senate member due to a personal conflict of interest." 

Wayne Price resigned a week later from the IFSA senate . His resignation noted, "This is a very sad moment for me as both a promoter and strength athlete. It always meant a great deal to me being part of the initiation of IFSA... But as a strength athlete I can not agree with the way that certain situations have been dealt with and I have never been a person who sits on both sides of the fence, so this forces me to give IFSA my resignation. I wish IFSA and its members all the best for the future." 

By this time rumours were already "running wildly", keeping in mind that most people actually kept their mouths shut. One thing I heard was that BBC would pull out of British GP (originally to be held in May, now it has been moved to 1st of August). Yesterday I got to ask this from Ilkka Kinnunen and he refuted it instantly. Ilkka called me just to get the URL to Manfred's recent press release he had heard me talking about with Jouko. Today I called him back to know what he thought about the press release and to get some answers maybe. First, however:
AFSA Press release 25th March 

The most important part of it saved here: 

March 25, 1999 

The season starts.... 

The best strength athletes in the world are back on the circuit. Much has happened throughout the winter. Here are the latest updates: 

As most of you might already know, some changes have taken place within the 

sport of strength athletics. Many internal differences between the British-controlled IFSA and the American AFSA have arisen and as a result the AFSA has decided to continue with its own business. 

Well-known top international athletes such as Magnus ver Magnusson, Riku Kiri, Flemming Rasmussen, Wayne Price, Derek Boyer, Bill Lyndon and many more have decided to compete in innovative and new events organized by the AFSA to find "AFSA's Strongest Man of the World". 

Note the comeback of Magnus ver Magnusson with the AFSA!!!!!!! 

A series of five (5) international events will take place this year with points accumulating from one event to the next, to find the strongest man.

This morning Christine passed me these mails 

Subj:   afsa/ifsa 
Date:   3/25/99 

Hi Manfred, 

There have been many rumors going around concerning the AFSA/IFSA breakup as I'm sure you must know.  I really would like to get any comments you might have and also I've got some questions about the recent press release on your site.  I've included some parts from it so you will know specifically what I am referring to. 
quote> Well-known top international athletes such as Magnus ver Magnusson, Riku Kiri, Flemming Rasmussen, Wayne Price, Derek Boyer, Bill Lyndon and many more have decided to compete in innovative and new events organized by the AFSA to find "AFSA's Strongest Man of the World". 

Are these athletes contracted to the AFSA?  and if so does this mean that they will not be able to participate in IFSA events such as their WSM competition? Will the 'AFSA Strongest Man of the World'  be based on points accumilated from a series of contests as it seems, or will there be one specific event? Are any Americans included in your list of athletes? 

Do you think that this is the start of a promotion war with the strength athletes having to choose which promotion that their loyalties are with? 

quote>  Note the comeback of Magnus ver Magnusson with the AFSA!!!!!!! 

The big question is will he be competing again or a referee/judge? 

I know I have alot of questions huh?  between the rumors and my curiosity well... 

I personally like the way that you are popularizing strength competitions and hope you continue to keep up the good work. 

Take care, 


Subj:   your questions re FSC 
Date:   3/26/99 6:24:15 AM Pacific Standard Time 
To:     Chris919X 

Dear Chris, 

thanks for your questions. here are the answers: 

Yes,the athletes are contracted to the AFSA. 

We have no problem to have the athletes appear in other events outside the AFSA as long as there is no conflict of interest with the AFSA and the events are sanctioned by the AFSA as well. It is our goal to  promote the sport of Strength Athletics or more commonly known as strongmen competitions World-Wide, to create competition environments and take care of the daily business. We certainly want the athletes to have as many opportunities to compete as possible. 

We will let our athletes start at the "World Strongest Man" competition organised by TWI if our athletes desire to do so and if TWI invites them. So from our side there are no restrictions to earning possibilities for the athletes. IFSA has not much of a say when it comes to choosing athletes. Believe me I was on of IFSA's former senators and this was on of the reasons I quit. I was asked to host the qualifier for the USA's Strongest Man in 1998 but when I wanted a guarantee that the USA winner will go to for instance the "World Strongest Man "Competition Organised by TWI I did not get this guarantee. So how could I possibly continue with uncertainties like this? 

AFSA's Strongest Man Contests  the Full Strength Challenges will be a series of events where the points will be accumulated of these contests. 

Yes there will be Phil Makdisi representing the USA. 

I do not think that the AFSA is at war with anybody. I do not know how other people see that. We are busy creating work for the athletes at this point in time and have no time for politics now. We have  all the loyalty from around the world which I am very happy about. 

Magnus ver Magnusson will compete again.... 

I thank you for your letter and hope I could answer your questions. If you want to know anything more just let me know. 

yours in sport 

Manfred Hoeberl

When I last heard from her, Chris was going to ask Manfred more questions. However, I don't think many of those will be related to this subject any more, but let's see if they are related to strongman competitions at all, haha. 

I could have made this page with just the information above, but I felt the rest would have based too much on speculation only. So I tried if I could discuss these things with Ilkka Kinnunen, IFSA senate member, WSM finalist himself from the year 1992. 

Ilkka was in fact very easy to discuss with, but he made it clear however that he is not in a position to speak officially for the IFSA. British HQ and their press announcers take care of that - but as I thought I had already seen the latest announcements, he told me they haven't yet, and probably even won't officially publish the reasons which led to the separation. Anyhow he stated that IFSA and AFSA are not at a war of any kind and that the situation isn't really that worrying. They also aren't trying to exclude the AFSA or things like that. 

I got the impression that it wasn't as much about personal chemistry as I was afraid it could have been. Haha, the strongmen are a one big happy family, even when divorced. More or less the friction came somewhere from this chain: IFSA license fees - which ensure fair treatment for athletes but also bring many rules, practices and supervision - also IFSA judges. So it's about rules to put it short. 

About Manfred dropping a hint that IFSA doesn't even choose athletes to the WSM, TWI does, Ilkka wanted to point out that 80% of the athletes were chosen by the IFSA last year. "Manfred must know this himself". 

IFSA according to Ilkka is a strong umbrella organization with still 95% of the competitors, which has very strict rules to ensure for example that 
- competitions are fair; they have lists of events so anyone can't be favored 
- prize money gets paid in time 

They have good contracts with BBC and TWI, which he portrayed as strong organization also. For example TWI has registered "Word's Strongest Man" worldwide and it will be admirable if someone even tries to get another "Strongest Man of the World" title holder. 

Ilkka didn't actually say much about organizers having problems to choose between federations, so I can't say if there even are big problems about this. 

There will still be several competitors from the United States in the WSM as there was last year. Finland will also have two at least, Jouko already has a fax in his car and the other assured competitor will be the Strongest Man of Finland '99. (Ilkka agreed to my opinion of that there should always be more than one if a country has very good competitors) 

The next IFSA GP in Faroe Islands May 16-17 will have at least the following competitors: Ahola, Samuelsson and Karlsen (I didn't ask who others). 

We also talked about Finland's Strongest (more of that some other day), Heinonen and Virtanen getting more invitations now after Helsinki GP, everybody not being in best shape yet in Helsinki (start of season), Juha not competing in Finland's Strongest, how heavy one should be to pull a truck with a harness (the first event in FS is actually a rope pull, I didn't know) and... that they could send me IFSA/FFSA press releases in the future if I want. 

Oh and I also expressed my frustration to that WSM is made for television only and that TWI has taken desperate measures to keep anyone from seeing it live or knowing the results for that matter. There should be more publicity and group trips. Ilkka answered it has always been a TV competition and yes there are problems in that. Many guys have asked him how to get there to see the competition for example. 

Jouko didn't speak too happily about people playing with organizations and besides he told me some "worrying" future plans of his not to be let out yet. Guess if you must. But we'll see. 

By far I haven't really said much what I think of this mess myself. Yesterday I wondered why don't they give some decent explanation out, this unclarity just generates speculation and rumors. So me and Chris gave Ilkka and Manfred a chance to explain something for us who follow this sport closely. And them having said what they have, I feel I know enough. 

About friction between persons: 
Even knowing that the strongmen involved here have always been very nice to fans, and that these big men usually fit under same roof, yes there have been some clues that once or twice they haven't shared the same views so to say. But remember the game can get tough when it's about 
- money: strongman is a growing sport 
- competition rules: someone is always unhappy 
- small competitions with inexperienced arrangers 
- inviting of strongmen, it has been a mess 
- and who’s really the strongest 

Still I got the feeling this is mostly about organizations and rules. And somehow that makes me even more worried: I keep thinking about 47 (?) powerlifting organizations in the US. Even having two World's Strongest Men is something I wouldn't like. No, I don't think this development should go any further than this. 

Chris told me I should not favour IFSA in this article. I don't. Manfred has done so much good for this sport and TWI... oh I simply must wish Manfred good luck! With MVM, Kiri and Rasmussen (were to be expected?) and others he'll have as good athletes as there is in the IFSA. 

WSM has a long history and a big name internationally - United States has the prize money.