Unless you’ve been hiding your face in the stinky gear bag you keep swearing to your significant other or roommate you’ll get round to cleaning one of these days, you’ll have noticed that recent tournament announcements have revealed locations that have kept the derby world abuzz. Whether you like to travel or loathe it, the fact of the matter is that the future of roller derby is truly international, and this year is just a taste of what’s likely to come.
The first cab off the ranks was the Men’s Roller Derby Association with their late November announcement that their Championship tournament will be European this year. Yep, the organization not only added two playoff tournaments to their post-season play, a North American bracket as well as a European one, but they’ve chosen Cardiff, Wales as their Championship location of choice for 2017. The southern hemisphere isn’t represented in these tournaments yet, which shows us where Men’s derby needs to expand in coming years.
Then, immediately in the wake of rapidly changing political circumstances in the US of A, WFTDA came out with their own tournament location announcements.
Just a day prior to that release, Crime City posted an interview with a local radio station of their co-captain Below Me who spoke about Donald Trump’s ban and how her dual citizenship will keep her from attending the Big O in May. The significance of these two announcements cannot be understated, showing that as the roller derby world continues to expand, immigration restrictions in the United States may hold back some of its growth.
The team also did an interview with WFTDA on-air perennial, Double H, and teased images of the location that people can expect to see. In fact, everyone’s been so enthused about attending their playoff, that league members have reported that just five minutes after the announcement, people had already started buying tickets and booking rooms in the suggested hotel.
That roller derby is looking outside of North America even as the USA is limiting access to its soil, is a strong recommendation for the sport. While these changes have been slow to come, seeing as Australian roller derby is ten years old this year, for instance, it’s really about damn time this expansion happened. The sport has also been among the first to make plain its commitments to that internationalism, and WFTDA did so through the following statement:
In these political circumstances, it’s essential to both make statements, but to also follow through with actions, which includes things like the European Playoff location, as well as the first ever Roller Derby World Summit and the 2018 World Cup, both taking place in Manchester. However, this action also extends to the roller derby community itself. When you’re making bookings, pulling up flight prices, and bemoaning ‘extra expense’, have a thought for the Victorian Roller Derby League, who has been long making 15-hour flights work for them in their climb up the ranks in recent years. Their charter team is rumored to have each spent up to $14,000 apiece on travel in one year, a costly commitment to high-level derby.
Not only is money and time a concern for many who play roller derby, but people of color in our communities and trans and gender-non-conforming folk always face risks with the necessary travel in our sport. The recent movement of players to America’s West coast such as Tui Lyon last season from Australia, and Stefanie Mainey from England, comes as a strong reminder to us that the focus of competition in roller derby has long been in North America. And that there are some very real, and very large, personal costs to that. We can’t keep maintaining that focus as a community any longer, and now it is a swiftly approaching reality.
Let’s change our focus, and think truly international. That includes no longer thinking about ‘international’ players as indicating those outside of North America. We need to lift up and support leagues such as C-MAX in South Africa and 2×4 in Buenos Aires. We need to make roller derby sustainable everywhere to continue our global growth.
Now’s our chance, roller derby. Let’s grab hold of 2017, and really branch out.