Exclusive interview of President of the World Sailing by Kim Andersen
Dear Mr. Andersen, it seems that the world of sailing was in the perfect storm. For the first time the Olympic games were postponed for a year that had a huge impact on athletes and event organizers, on the state of finances of major sports federations, sports in General.
The pandemic has exacerbated the problem, which affected the WS already before: the lack of adequate funding, the dismissal of the General Director, an unsuccessful attempt to modernize the Charter of the Federation, as well as attacks by certain individuals accusing you personally of what is happening. The Russian sailing community is following with interest the development of the situation and would like to know about Your plan of exit.
And the first question I want to ask: when you decided to nominate his candidacy for the office of President WS in 2016, how deep was your knowledge of the financial position, including commitments to the Federation and its sponsors? In other words, what “the farm you inherited” from its predecessor, which was also Your competitor in the elections in Barcelona? Can you tell us what the situation was with the head office in Southampton. Why you decided to move to London? Opponents accuse you of the fact that the high rent is one of the reasons for current financial problems. Was it possible to stay in Southampton? All the sponsors have complied with their obligations to WS after 2016? Were you aware of these arrangements prior to the occupation of a post?
First of all, I think it’s very important not to confuse the problems faced by the World Sailing with misinformation and politics, which supports the opposition group. Unfortunately, there are people who don’t like the decisions taken by the Council of the WS and at the annual General Assembly.Currently, they are using the situation with the pandemic COVID-19, to create uncertainty and doubt in our sport around the world.
When I and the new leadership was selected in November 2016, the only available information was the audited accounts for the year 2015, the forecast for 2016 and the budget for the coming four-year period 2017-2020 years. In the second quarter of 2017 budget of the expectations associated with the commercial income of the Federation, has caused issues. But the Board was assured that clearer. However, over time these contractual expectations do not come true, and to attract new sponsors took more time than anticipated. As the Board of Directors tried to handle the situation in accordance with the originally agreed policies and plans needed to start saving to reduce the budget deficit. In 2020, the “last year” four years in office, we have made the necessary budget cuts, and the recent financial problem that we had to overcome in the first nine months, there was a shortage of funds in the amount of approximately 0.7 million pounds. It is important to note that during the period management reported to the Board, and also provided annual reports for the previous year in may (in previous years the reports were offered only in November). It was necessary to provide timely and transparent reporting on progress.
The situation with COVID-19 was unprecedented and meant that after the transfer of the Olympic games in Tokyo World Sailing, like any other international Olympic sports Federation, will not receive Olympic funding, which was to be paid after the Olympic games in 2020. The WS Board of Directors created a task force, working closely with senior management to resolve this difficult situation. It was a big job, and I’m very proud of what we have achieved, the members of the Board of Directors and our staff, in terms of communication with our members, implementation of security measures in relation COVID-19 and management of financial situation. Thanks to our close and strong relationship with the IOC, we also received financial support, which we asked for, which will allow us to continue to develop our wonderful sport and to provide high quality Olympic competition in Tokyo next year – this is the value of the work that we have done.
At the moment, evaluating the previous period 2012 – 2016, it is clear that while there has been a lot of mistakes. Starting with the administration, which is most of the time remained without an operations manual prior to the events related to the world Cup in sailing, including failure to comply with agreements with the organizers of the stages of KM Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and finally the conclusion of sponsorship agreements, based on personal relations, and not in partnership with WS. During the elections in 2016, none of the new members of the Board of Directors knew nothing about finances and contracts with sponsors. The only positive moment of the previous cycle, which comes to mind was the creation of a Program for developing countries, but even this was under threat because of a controversial sponsorship agreement.
A recent subject of discussion was the relocation of the head office WS. But as I said to representatives of the national federations, the topic of relocation has been raised at any one time over the last few years. In fact, we had an additional office in Lausanne. He needed to be present in the Olympic capital and to be closer to the Olympic “family”. But most of the time it was empty. Previous management opened and closed it. So ridiculous to hear how many say that you don’t want to move the WS and that it was only the desire of the new Board of Directors is just wrong.
We have acted in reliance on the information provided to us by our predecessors at the annual General meeting in 2016 (including budget expectations). The new Council had no reason not to believe in the presented budgets and to plan accordingly.
On the basis of the information on the lease of the former headquarters of the WS has come to an end. The situation allowed the Board of Directors to consider the best location for the Sailing World for the next decade, recognizing that any change will provide new opportunities, but also entails some risks. To evaluate the different places, we used the following criteria: proximity to the international airport, the attractiveness for qualified foreign employees, a stable tax and legal regime, the ability to retain key employees, the costs of moving, the cost of office space. Research and market analysis was conducted in the following locations: in another office in Southampton, Winchester, London, Geneva, Monaco, Lausanne, Barcelona, Valencia. After evaluation, the Board of Directors unanimously supported the move to London.
You also inherited a few top managers with long-term contracts. When and who hired these people? What changes are planned?
In the period preceding the elections of 2016, the organization has undergone many changes. Including the fact that the Secretary-General was released by the Board of Directors elected in 2013. After a long process of personnel selection in 2015, hired a new CEO. But he was dismissed in the same year. In January 2016, was hired as the new Director General, who shortly thereafter hired a new commercial Director. The top leadership in the World Sailing had no experience in sailing, but had experience in sport management and Olympic structures.
Due to the lack of proper governance structure, we had to face serious organizational challenges after the election in November 2016. Unfortunately, only after the election we found out what the problems were inherited. It was a difficult road, but today we see some very good results, including hiring a new CEO with successful experience in sailing and management, clear organizational strategy, a new financial plan,experienced staff, etc. We need time to cope with all the challenges of the past, but we will resolve them, and I am sure that the future of sailing will be good!
Now we and our readers are more aware that the image of WS in 2016 was much more glossy than the real situation. When you understand the problems and what you decided to do? What was the main purpose of WS after 2016? WS what achievements are you proud of?
As you can see from the minutes of the first meeting of the Board of Directors in December 2016, we have had a lot of questions concerning the structure, location and cooperation with the IOC. Finances at the time did not cause concern.
As a leader, I have always been guided by the principle of solving problems in accordance with the agreed strategy, therefore, the Board of Directors agreed to develop a strategy for World Sailing. And it started with a survey of all national federations (NF) – we wanted to understand the needs of our members and get their support. For many years there was no dialogue between the World Sailing and NF. As the international Federation, we held events and helped with the development, but in reality we didn’t know what they need. I wanted to convince them that they have a voice in this new strategy, so each of them had advanced the survey, followed by group meetings NF, as well as discussions and analysis of their answers.
At the Annual meeting in 2017, after he collected all the answers of our NF that they have contributed in determining the vector of development for World Sailing, was developed and presented strategy. It was well accepted by the Council because they fully supported the strategy. Create a strategy with our for our NF and NF is probably one of the accomplishments of which I am most proud.
I’m very proud of our work on the modernization of sport. There have been many difficulties with the necessity of application of new regulation 23 – evaluation and selection of Olympic disciplines and classes. We all worked in the context of the new regulations for the first time, and the fact that the process was delayed by the previous management, political tensions, and the debate was huge! But the Council has shown great courage, supporting major changes and allowing our sport to focus on the future when selecting a new list of disciplines and classes for the Olympic games in Paris in 2024, reflecting the diversity of sailing. We chose three new mixed class, of gender equality. I think this is a very positive step forward in the expansion of our sport, and I look forward to the opportunity to see the results of our work on the Olympics in 2024.
To choose a new direction is always difficult, World Sailing has a proud history, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to progress, or development should be focused only on the equipment! The legacy lives on, the sport continues to evolve and look to the future. The Board of Directors of WS can be proud of, we have done a clear job under my direction. Here are some examples of progress at the moment:
- For people with disabilities: a strategy for the development of sailing for the years 2019-2023 shows how the World Sailing will continue to grow, promote and develop all disciplines of the Paralympic sails around the world. Sailing has a unique ability to attract people of all ages and abilities. Along with a call to the NF is to make the Paralympic sail more integrated and friendly at all levels in recent years, there have been positive steps with the help of development programmes Para Sailing (PDP) to increase the number of participants by 30%.
- Strategy World Sailing: as already mentioned, the WS strategy was developed on the basis of the contribution of NF with four main goals: inspiration and participation, membership and governance, athletic integrity, and leadership in sport. These goals are identified strategies and actions in place.
- Gender balance and involvement of youth in sailing we find the discussion on gender development to the forefront, and our Olympic program in 2024 gender equality is a clear signal to young and future sailors. It is encouraging to see that all over the world implemented so many initiatives and programmes on this issue. As said the UN Secretary ban Ki-moon: “Gender equality is the responsibility of all people.” At the end of last year, the Fund WS published a strategic review of “Women in sailing” – an extensive research project on gender balance in sport. Another important challenge for sailing is the attracting and retaining young people. One size does not fit all, so again it’s nice to see appear and develop new ideas and programs in the regions and countries in different cultures and religions.
- Olympic games: the latest list of disciplines and classes at the Olympic games in Paris in 2024 shows a variety of sailing. In the sailing program will involve boys and girls in full equality. And discipline demonstrate a variety of sports. In the program got kiteboarding, Windsurfing on the wing, single and twin dinghies, Scythians and offshore race keel boats. This will demonstrate yachting and its development in the best way, because in the Olympic qualifying tournaments will engage more countries than ever before, it will emphasize the versatility of sailing and increase the real value of the Olympic program.
- Media development: WS continues to attract the attention of new and existing audiences. All platforms WS for the period 2016-2019 showed a significant increase. At the end of 2017 at the WS page on facebook had 2.8 million hits. Thanks to the cooperation with the main organizers of competitions, classes, and NF, with a focus on fascinating stories, we managed to increase this figure to 8.1 million more than in the two previous years together! The number of hits on all platforms is 15 million And the strong growth shown by our Instagram in 2019, increasing the audience of 25 thousand people. The collaboration with SAP for the visualization of sports for athletes and spectators led to the fact that the coverage of the World Cup Hempel was broadcast by 60 TV stations around the world, and the viewing was attended by 15 million unique viewers worldwide.
- e-Sailing: WS just finished the second year of the world championship in sailing, which became a great success. Through long-term partnership with Virtual Regatta, currently eSailing consists of 1.4 million unique players of which 320 thousand playing in the inshore version. It is expected that in the coming months, the audience will increase to 500 thousand In World Sailing, there are sailors, NF, classes and event organizers, fully familiar with the basic principles of the platform eSailing and its values, which provides us a brilliant global fame. During a pandemic, Covid-19 and quarantine online platform WS showed an unprecedented interest in her. The number of players grew from 5 thousand to 18-20 with peaks up to 25 compared to the beginning of the year. The 2020 WS have exciting plans for the preservation of the leadership role that they play in a simulated e-sports within the Olympic movement.
- The agenda for sustainable development to 2030: World Sailing successfully implemented a strategy of sustainable development, becoming a pioneer among sports. These efforts have received recognition from the UN and the IOC and became a powerful tool for attracting youth programs and liaison with sponsors, appropriate to the serious environmental responsibilities. The agenda for sustainable development continues to grow and develop. World Sailing has received two international awards from the IOC and Beyond Sport for their work in this area was highlighted as a leader in the field of sustainable development. These awards led to a significant improvement in the financial position and brought back the loans that helped to cover our costs in 2019.
- Fund World Sailing: it is a global charitable organization formed to support sailing in all its diversity. Its staff are working to promote participation and access to competitions to support the young athletes sailing ships and to protect our water for future generations. The World Sailing Fund was created to catalyze change in the world. This year was launched 4 exciting project, 3 of them on ecology – study material for 6 subjects in 8 languages, a guide for yacht clubs, as well as the online platform World Sailing Ocean Heroes and a pilot platform for seminars. Earlier this year, the global Fund sailing has launched an independent strategic review on women in sailing.
What needs to be done in the near future? What is the plan to overcome financial problems? You still insist on management reform? What do You expect from this reform?
In recent years in the world of sailing, there has been significant progress our sport has got a much stronger platform in the world of sports and the Olympic family. We are very proud of all our accomplishments, but there is still a lot.
But in order to keep progressing, we all need to work together. Unfortunately, a small group of outcasts from the “old guard” opposed to the leadership of the WS, and I personally, as President. The old guard is interested in maintaining the status quo in sailing and tries to exert pressure on the management of WS by using a series of smear campaigns against the President and the leadership to keep the old system and stop the development of our sport.
I honestly think it’s a shame without progress small country and women would not have received the opportunities that they have today. Our sport will no longer develop, and our fans will cease to be so active. I believe that the sail has a lot to offer, and return to the old way of thinking will destroy what we have achieved over the past 4 years.
With NF we have a clear vision, mission and strategy for World Sailing is the one that includes the voices and ideas themselves NF. We have a strong platform and an excellent prognosis for the future. From a financial point of view, in recent years we have made changes to stop “the beginning” of false expectations. This is clearly seen in our financial reports. We also managed to create a new commercial platform with sponsors and World Sailing Trust, so I am sure that we will be able to maintain the positive momentum and continue to develop the financial potential of sailing.
We also finally hired a new CEO, which is not only a great summary, but also vast experience in sail. I have no doubt that he will successfully lead and manage the WS in the next 4 years. I will continue to support David Graham.
With regard to management reforms, much has already been done and it became clear that the necessary structural changes and that this sport will only benefit. I’m optimistic about this, since 94% of the 144 NF understands that changes are needed to the WS leadership was at a modern level.
The reform is positive leadership and management in accordance with the strategy approved by the NF, with a clear direction, dynamics and, not least, clear objectives. Once it is approved, it will help in many ways, especially our processes. The current decision-making processes hamper us, for example, the process of applying online makes timely and transparent changes. Thus, the structure of the Committee will be to work with a clear mandate and framework set by the strategy approved at the General meeting. The new governance structure implies the inclusion and participation of all 144 of NF around the world, making them part of the governing bodies of World Sailing: talking about the development of our sport worldwide, not just in the Olympics. The proposed structure will create a platform consisting of two Boards, one of which is the Olympic Board and the other Board participation and development, which will provide a solid base for diversity of sailing in the world and other activities around the world.
Mr. Andersen, You seem to die hard. You have recently announced that they are going to fight for a second term of presidency. Thus, You should expect a situation similar to the one that was four years ago, with one important difference: this time you are the President of WS and thus are exposed to attacks by competitors. What is your motivation for this? Aren’t you tired to live and act in such a tense situation?
I don’t consider myself tough, rather strong, and I believe that sailing now more than ever, needs a strong leader, because our sport has suffered in recent years, and suffered it at the hands of those who criticized the new ideas and progress.
“The old guard” does its best to maintain the status quo, to preserve the inequality of the sexes, to minimize the role of small Nations, does not change with time and so on. Unfortunately, that kind of thinking is holding back our sport.
A lot of good things, of which I spoke earlier, and which we reached just now been a problem for many years. Take our media strategy. Despite the fact that the strategy WS there for 14 years, we have been able to translate it into life only now due to the modern structure of management. We have never been so successful in social networks as it is now.
We still have a lot of things that we need to finish WS and I hope that in the near future there will be a new generation of sailors, which will make decisions about the development of sailing. This is what motivates me.
What WS important meetings are planned in the near future? What about a vote during the annual General meeting?
At the end of June, we will be a virtual semi-annual meeting of the Council of the WS to try to preserve the continuity of the contact during a pandemic. We brought together all of the committees and commissions to report to the Council and the presidents of NF, so that they in turn were informed regarding fluid problems, as well as questions about pandemic Covid-19.
After a meeting of the Council scheduled to meet with the presidents of NF to maintain a dialogue and to exchange information.
As for the annual General meeting and elections. The Board of Directors asked for advice on constitutional and electoral committees in case we will not be able to hold the planned meeting in Abu Dhabi in late October. A plan has been proposed B in the form of resolution for participants, which will allow for online voting. The final decision whether there would be a meeting or will be involved in plan B will be taken the first of August.
We wish You good luck!
Interview by Vasily Senatorov, publisher of Yacht Russia