The new, much-anticipated, rule changes for post-London are now out (or at least, a summary of them) and are the subject of much discussion around the web at the moment.
New ISSF RULES 2012
Lots of changes to times for matches, to kit, and a scarily inexact comment about banning Vibration Reduction Systems from all rifles and pistols, without a clear definition of what those would be.
Not comforting reading and while most of the changes are things we could live with, and a few are changes that will make events more efficient and which aren’t bad ideas in and of themselves; I still think the thinking behind these changes is failing to acknowledge one very fundamental principle. All of these changes are being justified by wanting to make the sport more exciting and accessible to the general public. But none of these changes are things the general public will ever see or notice. Belt loops, shoe shapes, times during qualifications – nobody ever sees those unless they’re eager to see them, and if they’re eager to see them, then they’re not the demographic the ISSF is looking to attract, they’re the demographic we already have.
Look at London, and ask yourself – why were the crowd going wild for the last shot of the Mens Air Rifle Finals?
Was it the tension caused by several hundred people watching one man standing there on the line taking the final shot of the match, everyone knowing he would win or lose the gold medal depending on whether his score was higher or lower than a 9.7? Was it seeing that shot land and knowing instantly that he’d won it? Was it the commentator taking the entire audience to that point by walking them through the progression of the finals and winding them up for that final shot?
Or was it down to the blinders being smaller? The belt loops fewer? The buttplate being restricted from turning on an axis parallel to the boreline of the rifle? The shooter walking in a normal fashion? The dress code being adhered to?
I don’t think it was any of the latter, do you?
If you want to bring in a spectator who knows nothing of the sport and get them excited, you have to show the spectator what you’re doing. Look at football (any kind of football) and you see people spread out over a large physical area and a visible ball being passed around as the visually distinct teams try to move it to a visually identifiable goal. You can see the game happen as it happens.
In shooting the game is too small to see with the naked eye from the stands, and unless you know what you’re looking for, it’s not visible to the naked eye from even a few feet away. The average punter won’t notice Debevec’s position being any different from Emmon’s in kneeling; won’t notice the signs that Piasecki is having a good day or a bad; won’t be able to tell who’s really handling the pressure in a finals. Unless you show them, with big screens showing electronic target results, cameras showing the shooters close-up, commentators explaining the state of play for neophytes, even things like strapping noptels or the like to the rifles.
You want to attract people to our sport? Do that. Don’t write rules that nobody understands and that seem to ban every firearm made since the late 80s!
This smells of change for change’s sake, and change made without sufficient analysis or data. And that’s bad news for our sport.