The Elite Rodeo Association: The Future of Rodeo?

The ERA marks a new chapter in the history of the sport of the rodeo.

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In mid-February, 2015, a group of the top athletes in professional rodeo announced the formation of a new governing body, the Elite Rodeo Association or ERA. Created specifically to provide a competitive tour for the top 1% in the sport, the ERA is created and owned by rodeo cowboys to cater to rodeo cowboys.

The ERA plans to follow a tour-style format, with the same group of cowboys competing all season long.

Similar to the idea of the Wrangler Champions Challenge (but without the team-based concept,) this format of competition lends itself well to extensive TV coverage and easy recognition among fans. In a nation which recognizes and celebrates athletes that can be followed all season long, the ERA tour should create a wider fan base and introduce more to the world of rodeo.

The ERA is already facing criticism as an association designed simply to pad the pockets of the elite talent that created it, but founder and world champion bareback rider Bobby Mote stated in an interview with Rodeo Fame Magazine that the association simply wishes to present more competition opportunities within an association owned by the athletes that compete through it. The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association is investor-owned, meaning that some decisions are made that are not approved by cowboys. As a membership-driven organization, the PRCA makes decisions based on the majority of its athletes who are weekend warriors rather than full-time professionals.

The ERA seeks to represent the small percentage of rodeo athletes that do compete full-time.

Mote added that for most weekend warrior, the rewards available through the PRCA were not worth the risk of being on the road 200 days out of the year or facing injury in the arena. The ERA seeks to offer real money that could make professional rodeo possible without such sacrifices--much like other professional sports leagues popular in America today.

Athletes who are good enough to compete in the ERA could then make a living between sponsorships and rodeo prizes (more like the format of the Professional Bull Riders.)

The ERA wants it to be known that cowboys and cowgirls will not be forced to choose between competing in the PRCA and the ERA--as long as athletes can commit to all of the tour stops of the ERA, they are welcome to continue pursuing their PRCA career as well. 

The ERA will host its first tour starting in 2016, keeping the initial group of contestants small in order to work out the format and whatever other bumps may pop up along the way. Overall, the ERA seeks to revolutionize the fan experience with allusions to a new face-paced format and opportunities to see the big stars of rodeo in every performance.

Details on the qualifying system that is to be in place have not yet been released, so it's currently unclear how new talent will qualify to be part of the ERA. While many critics are quick to judge the ERA as being only for the current best in the world, Mote pointed out in his interview that local talent that was previously unable to compete at the world championship level due to the time and money investment could now be able to compete in a fifteen-rodeo tour and make a professional living.

In a world in which rodeo is constantly overlooked by "conventional" team-based professional sports, ERA could be the answer that will bring rodeo to the mainstream.

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Kovatch, Kristen. "The Elite Rodeo Association: The Future of Rodeo?" ThoughtCo, Feb. 25, 2016, thoughtco.com/elite-rodeo-association-2901336. Kovatch, Kristen. (2016, February 25). The Elite Rodeo Association: The Future of Rodeo? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/elite-rodeo-association-2901336 Kovatch, Kristen. "The Elite Rodeo Association: The Future of Rodeo?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/elite-rodeo-association-2901336 (accessed November 23, 2017).