GRID League.. Maybe its time to call it quits.

GRID League is a fitness competition league that involves two teams competing head to head that involves a variation of weightlifting, body-weight and other athletic components. GRID teams must have exceptional speed, strength, technique and a well balanced team to finish the races in the quickest conceivable time.

The National Pro GRID League was founded by Tony Budding, a former CrossFit Inc. employee, in 2014. To say the league started off rocky is an understatement. They had to endure a name change due to its close similarity to the NFL franchise. Then had to stop operations midway through the first season due to investors backing out. This lead to embarrassing cancellations of matches and altering the format of the finals. These setbacks were damaging to the reputation of the league. It put the question of whether or not this is a viable sport or not. To top it off, the GRID League season ended with the removal of the founder, Tony Budding. Ouch.

The next two seasons brough less and less flair than the inaugural season provided. Instead of individual head to head matches, they brought together all the teams to compete head to head on the same day. They also moved matches to fitness expos and smaller arenas.

What are they doing wrong?

To start, they make it hard to be a fan. With any growing sport you would assume you want to reach as many people as you can so you can establish some form of base audience. The best way of providing that reach is through online viewership. The use of YouTube, Facebook, and other media platforms to show the matches to people would have been idea. But GRID opted for charging to watch matches online.

Spending $20.00 to watch a sport that i know nothing about is ridiculous. This paywall is exactly how it sounds, a big uninteresting wall around the league preventing entry to anyone with the slightest curiosity. Still to this day it’s disappointing to see that they still charge a fee to watch online. It’s possible they have contract obligations with cable networks they signed on with but this is a massive barrier to viewership. Think for a second on how CrossFit grew to its cult-like status. They didn’t charge to watch online from the start, they grew their audience first then monetized more year over year.

If you want more proof of this, just compare the YouTube pages of CrossFit vs GRID League. It is certainly clear what method works best.

The matches are confusing. Sure, we can blame some of this on being a new sport, constant changes in format, and the actual GRID itself and all but the reality is head to head matches just are not entertaining enough to watch (especially for a fee). GRID may have tired to combat this by introducing crazy movements but that basically turned the matches into circus events rather than fitness competitions. It also seemed that athlete safety was put on hold during these spectacles.

There was initial optimism for the GRID League to be just as successful as the CrossFit Games. But at this point in time seeing the dwindling interest in matches, higher profile athletes leaving, and low viewership numbers, it just does not seem likely that will happen anymore. Only time will tell. Let’s see how 2017 plays out for the GRID League.

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Originally published at barbellnews.com on February 15, 2017.