Pro Volleyball Federation is Quickly Gaining Big League Status

The Pro Volleyball Federation didn’t waste time making history. The first match in league history in January set a record for the largest crowd ever to watch professional women’s volleyball in the United States.

As the PVF navigates its first season, attendance has remained strong, the buzz around the sport has proved popular online, and the league has a national television deal. Many states have also added the league to their sports wagering catalogs. As many as 19 have done so thus far.

Last week, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted unanimously to add the PVF to its list of leagues allowed for Massachusetts sports betting. That request came from DraftKings, which provides odds for the first-year pro women’s league in several other states.

These states permit wagering on the Pro Volleyball Federation: Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, Washington, and Ontario, Canada.

The PVF, enjoying an impressive first season, welcomes the added status that their league can be wagered on legally in the US.

In an exclusive interview with Gaming Today, PVF Chief Executive Officer Jen Spicher discussed the new professional league.

League Integrity and Treatment of Athletes Is an Important Goal

As legal sports betting spreads across the US, regulators, sportsbooks, and leagues work together to ensure an equitable market for consumers and athletes.

“Sports wagering is certainly an engagement for certain kinds of fans,” Spicher said. “The biggest concern right now is that we want to ensure our league’s integrity is there.”

The PVF has teams in seven states in Year 1, and four (Florida, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio) are legal sports betting states.

State regulatory agencies like to see a strong representative body for athletes, and even though the PVF does not yet have a union, the circuit is emphasizing the issues that matter to the athletes, many of whom are becoming professionals for the first time.

“We have a players council,” Spicher said during an interview at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids before a match. “Each team has nominated an individual [to represent them], and I sit at the head of the council… We expect [the players] will want a CBA, and we will welcome that,” Spicher said.

According to Spicher, the safety of the players and their concerns are a major part of how the PVF will operate.

“This league is all about the athletes, and it’s about treating them right, and caring for them correctly, and making sure that they are happy,” Spicher said.

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The PVF has teams in Atlanta, Columbus (OH), Grand Rapids (MI), Las Vegas, Omaha, Orlando, and San Diego. Three expansion franchises will bring the total to 10 teams in Year 2: Dallas, Indianapolis, and Kansas City.

Teams play a 24-match schedule from January to May, with the top four teams making the playoffs. This season, the PVF Championship will be held in Omaha, where Nebraskans love their volleyball.

Players mostly hail from the top college ranks, with several former All-Americans in the league, including Claire Chaussee, Sydney Hilley, Yossiana Pressley, and No. 1 draft pick Asjia O’Neal. In addition, there are a handful of experienced professionals that lend their weight to the PVF: Megan Courtney of the Columbus Fury, who starred for Team USA in the World Cup and has been a professional for close to a decade; and Bulgarian-born Emiliya Dimitrova, who is in her 17th year as a pro, playing in her fifth country.

The semifinals of the PVF Championship will be held on May 15, with the top four teams meeting in match play. The surviving two teams meet on May 18 for the title, competing for a $1 million dollar bonus that will belong to the winning squad.

For details and ticketing information, visit the Pro Volleyball Federation website.

Women’s Sports Rise & CBS Sports TV Deal Boosts PVF Prospects of Success

Several attempts have been made at a US women’s pro volleyball league. This time, the perfect storm may be in place for success. Robust and committed team ownership, an explosion of interest in women’s sports, and a national broadcast contract are just a few reasons the PVF could be poised to grow the sport’s popularity.

In a major coup, the PVF secured a two-year television contract with CBS Sports Network for seven regular season matches per season, plus the championship round. Many first-year pro leagues would covet such a deal, and it would likely take years to prove they deserved it. But Spicher and the PVF scored that arrangement in their rookie season.

From the beginning, the PVF has felt different. Ownership groups have been vetted to build each franchise on a firm foundation. NFL quarterback Joe Burrow, beach volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings, Orlando Magic chairman Dan DeVos, and musician Jason Derulo are among those who have a stake in the PVF.

The PVF has made an effort to partner with solid ownership. In Grand Rapids, Michigan, for example, the Rise are operated by the same group that owns the Grand Rapids Griffins (of the American Hockey League) and the Grand Rapids Gold (the NBA G League team for the Denver Nuggets).

In Week 1, more than 25,000 fans paid to attend PVF matches, and the product has attracted eyeballs online, too. The league YouTube channel, which broadcasts all of the matches that CBS does not televise nationally, has more than 30,000 subscribers. Some of the individual matches streamed live on YouTube have drawn as many as 69,000 viewers.

“The season couldn’t be going any better: the parity in our league is fantastic, and the athletes are loving it, the fans are loving it,” Spicher said.

The PVF is doing its part to be a valuable member of the volleyball community. The league has a strategic partnership with USA Volleyball to promote that organization at the highest levels and plans soon to ink a similar deal soon with the Junior Volleyball Association.

“We believe this is now the right time for the Pro Volleyball Federation,” Spicher said.

About the Author
Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes

Writer and Contributor
Dan Holmes is a veteran writer and contributor for Gaming Today. He has written three books, including The Ballplayers: Baseball’s Greatest Players Remembered, Ranked, and Revealed, which will be released in 2024. Holmes has previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball.

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