Black Diamonds: Bringing in stakeholders will stand the FIS well
Over the years the International Ski Federation (FIS) has been vulnerable far too often to well-deserved criticism for making decisions in a vacuum. Sports federations, particularly international ones, are inherently conservative, very slow to change and often seen as impenetrable bastions clinging to the past. But is the conservative bent of sports federations being eroded by technology?
The instant ability to critique, blaspheme, and expose sports decisions via the internet is making itself felt and in part because of instant communication the FIS is showing modest signs of modernizing. The federation received a wake-up call last fall after the institution announced that they were to turn the alpine ski world upside down by decreeing new ski dimensions. The decision shocked national governing bodies, alpine World Cup coaches and athletes as well as the fourth estate. A worldwide public relations drubbing ensued via the internet and the organization dove defensively into its lovely Oberhofen office but mandated the ski fiat stand. It was an embarrassing public relations calamity for the FIS. For alpine competitors around the world, the unpopular fiat is to be an expensive, unproven mandate of change.
During the FIS congress in Korea there were indications that the FIS has learned from its pasting. Very subtly the FIS, its Council and management, are beginning to reach out to affected stakeholders and include them in the decision making process which establishes rules for the sport. To many it may seem to be the same old FIS, but not so. To this long-time observer, there is appreciable change.
At this congress the FIS reached out to its athlete commission for the first time. Secretary General Sarah Lewis spent two hours talking with the athletes group about a number of items including the “code of behavior,” a critical and potential hot button document for both the FIS and the athletes. According to Kikkan Randall, a member of the Athlete’s Commission, the conversations were beneficial and indicated the FIS wants the athlete’s commission to have input into the language of the code. Furthermore, the FIS Legal Committee offered to vet the behavior code document which will reassure the language has legal standing. Both are positive steps.
There is no question that the FIS should have a well thought out, fair and equitable Code of Behavior. Most sports organizations have one in place. However, the process of involving affected constituencies and stakeholders is essential to making the code applicable and equitable. The FIS needs to continue to move in this direction. The FIS was the first international governing body to pursue anti-doping in a meaningful way. It still leads the challenge to eliminate drug use in sport. If the same determination is applied to opening up the decision making process, the FIS and all of its constituents will be well served. G. B. Jr.