The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) has created the Association of Fitness Industry Retailers & Manufacturers (AFIRM) to cater to the government affairs, educational and market research needs of fitness industry manufacturers and retailers.

“Virtually all segments of the fitness industry – except manufactures and retailers – have their own associations for representation, unity, and recognition,” said SGMA President and CEO Tom Cove. “AFIRM will enhance the business climate for manufacturers and retailers by bringing them together and working on their behalf.”

SGMA and AFIRM have hired Chuck Leve as AFIRM’s first executive director. Leve left The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) in September 2008 after spending 27 years launching and growing that trade association. His last position there was VP of business development, where he worked closely with leading suppliers in areas of membership, trade shows, publications, and sponsorship.

Contacted Friday morning, Leve said that manufacturers’ broader view of the market necessitated a new trade association. He noted that many fitness manufacturers were uncomfortable with IHRSA’s position that the YMCA was using its tax exempt status to unfairly compete with commercial fitness clubs.

“IHRSA does a really good job for their constituents,” Leve said, “but at end of day they don’t represent the YMCAs, Jewish Community Centers, parks and recreation facilities, colleges and universities, motel/hotel owners, or non-profit medically based facilities. Nor do they represent manufacturers.”