President Sets Out The Challenges As ISAF Council Meeting Begins At Annual Conference

ISAF President Göran Petersson delivered his President's Report during the first day of meetings for the Council of the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) held in Busan, Korea today at the ISAF Annual Conference.

During his report the President highlighted key areas of athlete representation on Council, governance, the environment, universality, training and development, and the need for strategic planning and decision making in relation to the Olympic Games and the ISAF Sailing World Cup.

The President referred to the recent IOC Session and Congress held in Copenhagen, where he was elected as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). He congratulated Rio de Janeiro on their successful bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games, and as a member of the IOC Evaluation Committee which assessed the bidding cities said Rio 2016 was “a fantastic choice for sailing”. He continued, “I think this provides us with a great opportunity for sailing in Brazil, in South America, and it will give us the ability to showcase our sport against a spectacular back drop.”

The IOC Congress is held every 15 years to provide the Olympic Movement with a chance to reflect on its current status and provides an opportunity to discuss its future direction. Reflecting on the debates, meetings and seminars held in Copenhagen, the President said, “Some very clear messages came out of this Congress that will affect ISAF directly. The ISAF Council and Executive will need to study the final recommendations very carefully but I would like now to mention a few recommendations, because I feel that ISAF should address these urgently.”

The first recommendation the President referred to was athletes’ representation with full voting rights in the decision-making bodies of the Olympic Movement. The President said his wish was to include a member of the ISAF Athletes’ Commission on the Executive Committee and therefore also the Council of ISAF. However, recognizing the current Regulations do not allow for this, he proposed inviting current Athletes’ Commission chairman Ben Barger (USA) to join the Council at the table, in a non-voting capacity, but with the right to speak on any subject.

The President also pointed to governance as a vital issue and one which he has already highlighted as a key priority for his second term in office. On the issue of the Olympic Games, the President highlighted the overall success of the Medal Race introduced at Beijing 2008, the spectator breakwater and the positive TV report provided by ASOIF, which scored sailing third sport in the Olympic viewing figures of Great Britain, hosts for the next Olympic Sailing Competition.

For Rio 2016 and future Games, the President said ISAF must focus on increasing the base of the Olympic sailing pyramid, “We need to look at the universality of our sport; regional qualifiers for the Olympic Games are required for 2016. Equal opportunity for women’s participation in the Olympic Programme is very important.”

He pointed to the new Olympic Commission and the requirement for a long-term view when making key decisions, “In my opinion too often we have made decisions in ISAF led by our own personal feelings, loyalty or sense of belonging and even, dare I say, self-interest in respect of the country you represent. We should have made decisions on what would develop the sport best for the Olympics. However, I am confident that the Olympic Commission is tackling this problem and that we will deliver.”

Continuing on the theme of Olympic sailing and sailors, the President turned his attention to the ISAF Sailing World Cup, challenging ISAF and its stakeholders to take the new series to the next level. “This year’s start of the ISAF World Cup has been an exciting and important step forward for ISAF. I would like to thank the event organizers and the management group for the progress made. It is clear, however, that much more work still needs to be done and I personally feel that the World Cup needs to be given even greater importance with a very well defined purpose. We have many levels of “World” labelled products in the Olympic Classes: World Rankings; World Cup; ISAF World Championship and Class World Championship. I am not sure this structure serves the promotion and the marketing of our sport but more importantly the sailor’s best interest and I look forward to the relevant committees being able to deal with these questions and challenges,” said the President.

Following on from the President’s Report, his proposal to invite the Athletes’ Commission chairman was accepted and Ben Barger joined the Council members at the table.

Barger explained why he has become involved in the Athletes’ Commission, “For years I have worked hard as an athlete and a professional to reach the highest success in our sport. Looking back at my experience is one of the most phenomenal feelings and one that I'd like to share with the future generation of athletes.

“But there were also many difficulties that I faced that the future of our sport shouldn't face. As the new chairman of the Athletes’ Commission I hope to bring this information directly to you, at this Council table and to gain a mutual understanding on ways to right this ship we now call ‘ISAF’ and simplify this organization to the basic goal of any athlete, to win.”

He continued, “Last year I said that the strategy of this organization was not serving in the best interest of the athletes, and after serving on the Athletes’ Commission and Olympic Commission since then I am now enthralled with what strategy is forming.

“I hope to work with each of you over the next four years on our long term success. I truly believe my future and all the athletes I represent are in your hands.”

Following on from the President’s Report, the early part of the Council Agenda focused on financial and administrative issues, with the presentation of the final 2009 budget, the approval of the budget for 2010 and a presentation on the ISAF Trust from David Kellett, the ISAF Treasurer. ISAF Secretary General Jerome Pels presented the ISAF Strategic Plan for 2009-2012, which covers four key areas: Members, Partners, Processes, People. The Council will review this plan and the vote to approve it in May 2010.

The Council then heard the annual reports from the 12 ISAF Committees (not the Executive, who the President chairs) and the International Association for Disabled Sailing (IFDS), who highlighted the successful inclusion of the Paralympic sailing events in the inaugural ISAF Sailing World Cup.

Tomorrow morning, the Council meeting will resume with reports from the President on International Sports Organizations. Also are on the Agenda are decisions on the format and qualification system for the London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition, updates on ISAF Events, both held this year and set for next year, after which the Council will consider and vote on the 120+ Submissions on the table at this year’s Annual Conference.