The Future Of Super League: CEO Michael D’Hulst

Super League Triathlon is back – and it promises to be better than ever.

Triathlon’s game changing series is gearing up for its 2019 season with refined race formats, a new point scoring system and even greater experiences for spectators and age group athletes.

Among the headline changes for 2019 are:

  •  A simplified race weekend – heats on a Saturday with a final on a Sunday
  • An easier to follow points system which promises to keep the heat on athletes throughout the season
  • Five Wildcards to be awarded to both men and women to ensure triathlon’s most exciting talent is competing
  • Improved spectator and fan experiences with even more Age Group opportunities to make triathlon’s biggest weekends accessible to all

Super League’s 2019 Championship Series kicks-off in Jersey on 28-29 September and will again consist of three races followed by a Grand Final in early 2020.

The man in charge of Super League, CEO and co-founder Michael D’hulst, has given an insight into what is ahead for triathlon’s most exciting race series.

What is the focus for the 2019 season?

We learned from the 2018 season that we need to streamline Super League and make it easier for fans to follow.

What we are doing now is straightforward storytelling with heats on a Saturday and the final on a Sunday with the first across the line on the Sunday as the winner.

What we also want to do is have every venue is associated with one race format. Last year we had two formats at every venue which made it complicated. Now we tie the venue to the format and the winner as being the best at it!

The next thing we want to do to create more excitement and strengthen the winners of the jerseys – the swim, bike, run and transition jerseys – by giving them bonus points.

We are readdressing the whole points system to make it a little bit more dynamic and a little bit less predictable for the audience.

Will there be three championship series races with a grand final again in 2019?

Super League is built as a platform for professional athletes to be great at their sport and to showcase to the world how exciting that is.

We listened to the athletes and they are going into an Olympic year.

The athletes indicated they want to be fit and fresh going into the Olympics and they want to leverage Super League to do so.

Super League is a very important part of building into the Olympics, but the athletes need to manage their schedules and can’t overload and do too many races.

We listened to the athletes and so we stick with the same number of races as last year and bring in optimisations that work well for the media, the fans and build bigger Age Group events around what we have, but not more races at this stage.

What about the different race formats for 2019?

We will be doing heats and finals for streamlined storytelling.

The heats will be the same concept at every venue. It is two groups drawn randomly. One pot will have the top ten, which is our contracted athletes who finished in the top ten in the previous year, and then another pot with the Qualifiers and Wildcards.

That will produce two equally weighted groups and the top eight from every group will be automatically rolled into the final on a Sunday as well as the four fastest other times.

We will continue with the short chute and the winners of the heats will get them so it makes winning the heat important as you will have a tactical advantage on Sunday.

Sunday is the final which carries the points and is a specific format.

We will continue with the Enduro format of swim-bike-run-swim-bike-run-swim-bike-run continuous.

Another format we are retaining is the Triple Mix which has been exciting and the athletes love because it’s very confusing as it has the three disciplines in different orders across three short races. It challenges them in a different way.

The last format being retained is the Equalizer. We are adapting it slightly taking one individual discipline – swimming, biking or running – and having that as an individual time trial where people post their best time and then swim-bike-run-swim-bike-run in a pursuit start. It’s an interesting format that emphasises the skills of a single discipline.

And how about the new points system?

With the points system we want to keep the heat on so instead of going from awarding 25 points, 23, 21 and so on, we start at 20 and go down one at a time for the top 20. We also allocate a bonus point for each of the best swimmer, biker, runner and transitions. So even if you don’t win you can still get extra points.

We will also award an extra point for anybody winning back-to-back events.

That means it’s a bit more dynamic and keeps it closer together and more exciting because at every event everything can still change.

How many Wildcards will there be and how will you decide who they are?

We have the seeded athletes who are the top ten from last year. We than have the Golden Tickets which are the ten athletes who have come through the Qualifiers, then we will put five wildcards in place.

What is slightly different is that we will choose these Wildcards internationally and they will be invited for the whole series.

They will be chosen on merit because we have seen great progress in their career, or they are great crowd pleasers and entertain. It’s a voting system held internally where everybody presents their candidates and defends them and then we unanimously decide the five men and five women who get the Wildcards.

What we also want to do is to invite some local talent to be part of the heats. We want to create local appeal and give them the chance to race the best of the best in their hometown.

Are Super League looking to improve the spectator experience and Age Group participation?

In 2019 although we don’t grow the number of events, we are making them a lot better.

Our centrepiece is the professional athletes and making it more exciting and easier to understand for people sat at home but it’s also very much about the people who come to our events. That’s why we will put more emphasis on people who want to race.

We have our Super League age group racing, which is super sprint and sprint distance in the Enduro format.

It’s perfect for experienced athletes who want to try something new as well the super sprint races which can also be done as a relay, so it’s really great for the person who just wants to try a triathlon and be part of a big event.
We put these races in the middle of a huge event and after you have raced you can watch the best in the world compete.

We are also working on creating a better spectator experience which means more big screens around the races with dedicated content. We are planning our courses to make them extra spectator friendly so there will also be a place you can hang on the barrier and see the athletes come by at least every 90 seconds.

From a participation and spectator experience there is a lot going on, and we will continue to integrate into the community. There will be food stalls, entertainment acts, engaging with giveaways etc. It will be a festival of sport and entertainment.

And what is there for people who want to be part of it?

Our message is simply come along. You can participate, you can spectate, we will provide entertainment for you and the whole family on top of the racing.

We are also trying to work on making it more convenient for our fans so we will soon be announcing a couple of packages for people who want to come and race.

It will be heavily discounted, include a race entry, flights and accommodation in the same hotel as the pro athletes and you get to eat with them.

We want people to have that experience and not charge a huge premium for it.