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  • Wake-up Call for Summer Olympic Sports


    (ATR) The 33 summer federations are being urged to adapt and innovate or risk losing some of their influence in world sport.

    The key findings of a new report launched Thursday by the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations sets out the challenges facing the IFs.

    The 46-page Future of Global Sport document lays out a vision for the future of sport over the next 20 years including 10 recommendations for the summer sports and for ASOIF to embrace in order to stay relevant. It says they must be more innovative, entrepreneurial, commercially-driven and collaborative.

    ASOIF president Francesco Ricci Bitti told reporters in a conference call that the report was commissioned by the umbrella Olympic sports body to understand the growing economic and social challenges in the landscape of sport and “to better anticipate the threats”.

    “Some of the outlined future scenarios may serve as a wake-up call. This report invites us all to challenge our thinking at ASOIF and encourage our members to challenge their own,” he said.

    He said the report aims to benefit the ASOIF Council and IFs to help improve governance, to “create a bridge to public authorities” and to want to stimulate debate among ASOIF members about their future role.

    Based on more than 30 hours of taped interviews with around 20 high-profile individuals drawn from government ministries, business and sport, the findings suggest summer IFs have their work cut out to keep pace with societal and economic changes globally.

    ASOIF executive director Andrew Ryan spelled out the size of the task facing the 33 summer IFs, citing the findings of the report.

    It calls for IFs to demonstrate “exemplary standard of governance” to maintain the confidence of the media, governments, business and the public at large while also protecting the integrity of their sports.

    Federations would need to develop a more proactive, creative, commercially driven and collaborative mind set, increasing partnerships with the private sector, he said.

    ASOIF executive director Andrew Ryan and president Francesco Ricci Bitti (ATR)
    Ryan said IFs would also need to embrace ‘digital’ in earnest, transforming their business models, organisational designs and operational cultures.

    The evolution of today’s sporting event model would demand partnerships entailing closer cooperation and balanced risk-sharing among and between stakeholders, including business and government agencies.

    Ryan said the report also recognized the growing power of athletes in world sport, a situation laid bare earlier this week when German athletes forced a relaxation of laws on athlete promotion during the Olympics following a ruling by the German Federal Cartel.

    “This is recognized… but it’s not seen as telling IFs ‘this is a big threat’ but to be aware that this is going on and you have to embrace it,” Ryan told reporters.

    He said athletes with sufficient following “are gaining influence in today’s disintermediated media landscape and will need to be offered greater incentives to compete in established events”.

    For ASOIF, Ryan admitted that the report’s major conclusions “were quite critical of ASOIF”, in underlining the “definite need to have a very effective umbrella organization to defend IFs, given the range of challenges that IFs share but can never be expected to address individually”.

    The report concludes with a blueprint for IFs to adapt and change, detailing a series of recommendations. They relate to governance, including calls for IFs to defend their autonomy, strengthen administration of the global competition calendar for their sports and mechanisms to grow their sport globally.

    They also center on IFs becoming more entrepreneurial, including growing their fan base by utilizing the latest technology, harnessing data to improve content for fans and innovating competition and broadcast formats.

    “IFs should invest resources to adapt their culture to one that embraces innovation, creativity, experimentation, ‘fast failure’ and learning from mistakes,” the report adds.

    ASOIF members will discuss the report’s findings and recommendations at their annual assembly at SportAccord in Gold Coast in May.

    Ricci Bitti urged the summer sports to closely study the document and offer their thoughts. “This is a live document that IFs can consider and contribute. At SportAccord we will focus on this, to go deeper on the future role of IFs,” he told reporters.

    Reported by Mark Bisson

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