Exclusive Interview with World An Sailing President Kim Andersen
Dear Mr. Andersen, it seems that the world of sailing has fallen into a perfect storm. For the first time, the Olympic Games were postponed for a year, which had a huge impact on athletes and event organizers, on the finances of major sports federations, and on sports in general.
The pandemic exacerbated the problems that had already affected WS: the lack of adequate funding, the dismissal of the CEO, an unsuccessful attempt to modernize the charter of the federation itself, as well as attacks by some people who personally accuse you of what is happening. The Russian sailing community is following the situation with interest and would like to know about your plan to get out of it.
And the first question I want to ask: when did you decide to run for president of WS in 2016, how deep was your knowledge of the financial situation, including the obligations of the federation itself and its sponsors? In other words, which “farm did you inherit” from your predecessor, who was also your electoral competitor in Barcelona? Can you tell us what the situation was with the head office in Southampton. Why did you decide to move to London? Opponents accuse you of the fact that high rents are one of the causes of ongoing financial problems. Was it possible to stay in Southampton? Have all sponsors fulfilled their obligations to WS after 2016? Were you aware of these arrangements before taking up your position?
First of all, I think it’s very important not to confuse the problems that World Sailing faces with the misinformation and policies that the opposition group supports. Unfortunately, there are people who do not like the decisions made by the WS Council and the annual General Assembly. They are currently using the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic to create uncertainty and doubt in our sport around the world.
When I and the new management were selected in November 2016, the only information available to us was the verified accounts for 2015, the forecast for 2016 and the budget for the upcoming four-year period 2017–2020. In the second quarter of 2017, budgetary expectations related to the commercial income of the federation already raised questions. But the board of directors was assured that it would become clear. However, over time, these contractual expectations did not materialize, and it took longer than anticipated to attract new sponsors. While the board of directors tried to cope with the situation in accordance with the initially agreed strategies and plans, it was necessary to start saving in order to reduce the budget deficit. In 2020, in the “last year” of the four-year period, we made the necessary budget cuts, and the last financial problem that we had to overcome in the first nine months was a cash deficit of approximately 0.7 million pounds. It is important to note that throughout the entire period the management informed the council and also submitted annual reports for the previous year in May (in previous years reports were provided only in November). This 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 to Tokyo, World Sailing, like any other International Olympic Sports Federation, would not receive Olympic funding, which was to be paid after the Olympic Games in 2020. The WS Board of Directors has set up an operations team, working closely with senior management to address this difficult situation. It was a great job, and I am very proud of what the board members and our employees have achieved in terms of communicating with our members, implementing security measures regarding COVID-19 and managing the financial situation. Thanks to our close and strong relations with the IOC, we also received the financial support that we requested, which will allow us to continue to develop our wonderful sport and ensure high-quality Olympic competitions in Tokyo next year – this is the value of the work that we done.
At the moment, evaluating the previous period 2012 – 2016, it becomes clear that many mistakes were made then. Starting from the administration, which most of the time was left without operational guidance, to events related to the World Cup in sailing, including the failure to comply with agreements concluded with the organizers of the Dubai and Abu Dhabi KM stages, and finally the conclusion of sponsorship agreements based on personal relationships, not in partnership with WS. During the 2016 election, not one of the new board members knew anything about finances and contracts with sponsors. The only positive aspect of the previous cycle that comes to mind was the creation of a Program for Developing Countries, but even it was threatened by an ambiguous sponsorship agreement.
A recent subject of discussion was the relocation of the WS head office. But as I said to representatives of national federations, the topic of moving has been raised more than once in the past few years. In fact, we had an additional office in Lausanne. He was needed to be present in the Olympic capital and to be closer to the Olympic “family”. But most of the time he was empty. The previous manual opened and closed it. Therefore, it is simply ridiculous to hear how many say that no one wanted to relocate WS and that this was only the desire of the new board of directors – this is simply wrong.
We acted on the information provided by our predecessors to us at the general annual meeting in 2016 (including budgetary expectations). The new council had no reason not to believe in the presented budgets and not to plan accordingly.
Based on the information provided, the lease of the former WS headquarters was drawing to a close. The situation allowed the board of directors to consider the optimal location for World Sailing for the next decade, recognizing that any change will provide new opportunities, but also carries some risks. The following criteria were used to assess various locations: proximity to the international airport, attractiveness for qualified / foreign employees, stable tax and legal regime, the ability to save key employees, travel expenses, and the cost of office space. Market research and analysis were conducted in the following places: in another office in Southampton, Winchester, London, Geneva, Monaco, Lausanne, Barcelona, Valencia. Following the assessment, the board unanimously supported the move to London.
You also inherited several top managers with long-term contracts. When and who hired these people? What changes are planned?
In the period leading up to the 2016 elections, the organization underwent many changes. Including the fact that the Secretary General was released by the Board of Directors, elected in 2013. After a lengthy selection process in 2015, a new CEO was hired. But he was dismissed the same year. In January 2016, a new CEO was hired, who shortly afterwards hired a new sales manager. This senior management at World Sailing did not have experience in sailing, but had experience in sports management and in Olympic structures.
Due to the lack of an appropriate governance structure, we had to face serious organizational problems after the elections in November 2016. Unfortunately, only after the election did we learn exactly which problems we had inherited. It was a difficult path, but today we see some very good results, including hiring a new CEO with successful experience in sailing and management, a 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 solve them, and I am sure that sailing will have a good future!
Now we and our readers more understand that the image of WS in 2016 was much more glossy than the real situation. When did you understand the scope of the problems and what did you decide to do? What was the main goal of WS after 2016? What WS 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 had many questions regarding the structure, location and cooperation with the IOC. Finance at that moment was not a concern.
As a leader, I have always been guided by the principle of problem solving in accordance with an agreed strategy, therefore the Board of Directors agreed to develop a strategy for World Sailing. And it began with a survey of all national federations (NFs) – we wanted to understand the needs of our members and get their support. For many years there has been no dialogue between World Sailing and the NF. As an international federation, we held events and helped with development, but in reality we did not know what they needed. I wanted to convince them that they have a say in this new strategy, so an extensive survey was conducted with each of them, followed by group meetings of the NF, as well as discussions and analysis of all their answers.
At the Annual Meeting in 2017, after all the answers of our NFs were collected, with which they contributed to determining the development vector for World Sailing, a strategy was developed and presented. It was well received by the Council, as they fully supported the strategy presented. Creating a strategy with our NFs and for our NFs is probably one of the achievements that I am most proud of.
I am also very proud of our work on the modernization of sports. There were many difficulties with the need to apply the new rule 23 – the assessment and selection of Olympic disciplines and classes. We all worked within the framework of this new regulation for the first time, and due to the fact that the process was postponed by the previous leadership, political tension and discussions were huge! But the Council showed great courage in supporting major changes and allowing our sport to focus on the future when choosing a new list of disciplines and classes for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, reflecting the diversity of sailing. Three new mixed classes were selected that take into account gender equality. I believe that this is a very positive step forward in expanding our sport, and I look forward to seeing the results of our work at the 2024 Olympics.
Choosing a new direction is always difficult, World Sailing has a glorious history, but this does not mean that we should not continue to progress, or development should be focused only on equipment! The legacy is preserved, the sport continues to develop and look to the future. The WS Board of Directors has something to be proud of, we did an understandable job under my leadership. Here are some examples of progress so far:
For people with disabilities: The sailing development strategy for 2019-2023 shows how World Sailing will continue to grow, promote and develop all the disciplines of Paralympic sailing around the world. Sailing has the unique ability to attract people of all ages and abilities. Along with the call for the NF to make the Paralympic sail more integrated and friendly at all levels, in recent years positive steps have been taken with the help of Para Sailing (PDP) development programs to increase the number of participants by 30%.
World Sailing Strategy: As already mentioned, the WS Strategy was developed on the basis of NF contributions with four main goals: inspiration and participation, membership and management, sports integrity and leadership in sports. These goals identified strategies and measures in place.
Gender balance and youth involvement: in sailing, we bring gender development discussions to the forefront, and our 2024 Olympic program with gender equality is a clear signal to young and future sailors. It is gratifying to see that so many initiatives and programs are being implemented around the world on this issue. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “Gender equality is the responsibility of all people.” Late last year, the WS Foundation published a strategic review of Women in Sailing, an extensive research project focusing on gender balance in sports. Another important challenge for sailing is attracting and retaining youth. One size doesn’t suit everyone, so again it’s nice to see how new ideas and programs appear and develop in regions and countries, in different cultures and religions.
Olympic Games: The latest list of disciplines and classes at the Paris Olympics in 2024 demonstrates the diversity of sailing. The sailing program will involve girls and boys in full equality. And disciplines demonstrate a variety of sports. The program included kiteboarding, wing windsurfing, single and twin sailing dinghies, Scythians and an offshore keel boat race. This will demonstrate sailing and its development in the best way, since more countries will participate in the Olympic qualifying tournaments than ever before, this will emphasize the versatility of sailing and increase the real value of the Olympic program.
Media Development: WS continues to attract the attention of a new and existing audience. All WS platforms for the period 2016-2019 showed a significant increase. At the end of 2017, the WS page on facebook had 2.8 million views. Thanks to cooperation with the main organizers of the competitions, classes and NF, with a focus on exciting stories, we were able to increase this figure to 8.1 million. And this is more than in the previous two years together! The number of views on all platforms is 15 million. And our Instagram showed the strongest growth in 2019, increasing its audience by 25 thousand people. Collaboration with SAP on sports visualization for athletes and spectators led to the fact that reports from the Hempel World Cup were broadcast on 60 television channels around the world, and 15 million unique viewers around the world participated in the viewing.
e-Sailing: WS just finished the second year of the World Sailing Championships, which was a great success. Thanks to a long-term partnership with Virtual Regatta, eSailing currently has 1.4 million unique players, of which 320 thousand play in the inshore version. In the coming months, it is expected that the audience will increase to 500 thousand. World Sailing has yachtsmen, NFs, classes and event organizers who are fully familiar with the basic principles of the eSailing platform and its values, which provides us with brilliant global fame. During the Covid-19 pandemic and quarantine, the WS online platform showed unprecedented interest in it. The number of players increased from 5 thousand to 18-20 with peaks to 25 compared to the beginning of the year. For 2020, WS has exciting plans to maintain the leadership role they play in simulated e-sports as part of the Olympic movement.
2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: World Sailing has successfully implemented a sustainable development strategy, becoming a pioneer among Olympic sports. These efforts have been recognized by the UN and the IOC and have become a powerful tool for attracting youth programs and liaising with sponsors who are committed to environmental responsibilities. The sustainable development agenda continues to grow and evolve. World Sailing received two international awards from the IOC and Beyond Sport for its work in this area and has been highlighted as a leader in sustainable development. These bonuses led to a significant improvement in our financial situation and brought along loans that helped cover our costs in 2019.
World Sailing Foundation: A global charitable organization created to support sailing in all its diversity. Its employees work to promote participation and access to competitions, to support young sailing athletes and protect our waters for future generations. The World Sailing Foundation was created to catalyze change around the world. This year 4 exciting projects were launched, 3 of them on ecology – training material on 6 topics in 8 languages, a guide for yacht clubs, as well as the World Sailing Ocean Heroes online platform and a pilot platform for seminars. Earlier this year, the World Sailing Fund launched an independent strategic review on women's issues in sailing.
What should be done in the near future? What is the plan to overcome financial problems? Do you still insist on management reform? What do you expect from this reform?
In recent years, significant progress has been made in the world of sailing, our sport has received a much stronger platform in the world of sports and in the Olympic family. We are very proud of all our achievements, but, of course, there are still a lot of cases.
Но чтобы продолжать прогрессировать, нам всем нужно работать вместе. К сожалению, небольшая группа изгоев из «старой гвардии» противостоит руководству WS и мне лично, как президенту. Старая гвардия заинтересована в сохранении статус-кво в парусном спорте и пытается оказать давление на руководство WS, начав использовать серию клеветнических кампаний против президента и руководства, чтобы сохранить старую систему и остановить развитие нашего спорта.
Я искренне считаю это позором, без прогресса малые страны и женщины не получили бы тех возможностей, которые они имеют сегодня. Наш спорт перестанет развиваться, и наши фанаты перестанут быть столь активными. Я верю, что парус может многое предложить, и возвращение к старому образу мышления сведет на нет все то, чего мы достигли за прошедшие 4 года.
Вместе с НФ у нас есть четкое видение, миссия и стратегия для World Sailing – та, которая включает голоса и идеи самих НФ. У нас сильная платформа и отличный прогноз на будущее. С финансовой точки зрения, в последние годы мы внесли изменения, чтобы остановить «начало» ложных ожиданий. Это четко видно в наших финансовых отчетах. Также нам удалось создать новую коммерческую платформу со спонсорами и World Sailing Trust, поэтому я уверен, что мы сможем сохранить положительную динамику и продолжить развивать финансовый потенциал парусного спорта.
Также мы наконец-то наняли нового генерального директора, у которого не только отличное резюме, но и огромный опыт в парусе. Я не сомневаюсь, что он успешно возглавит и будет управлять WS в ближайшие 4 года. Я и впредь намерен поддерживать Дэвида Грэхема.
Что же касается управленческих реформ, то многое уже сделано и стало ясно, что необходимы структурные изменения и что от этого спорт только выиграет. Я оптимистично смотрю на это, так как 94% из 144 НФ понимает, что изменения нужны, чтобы руководство WS было на современном уровне.
Реформа заключается в позитивном руководстве и управлении в соответствии со стратегией, одобренной НФ, с четким направлением, динамикой и, что не менее важно, четкими целями. Как только она будет одобрена, она поможет во многих отношениях, особенно нашим процессам. Текущие процессы принятия решений сдерживают нас, например, процесс подачи заявок в режиме онлайн вносит своевременные и прозрачные изменения. Таким образом, структура комитета будет работать с четкими мандатами и рамками, установленными стратегией, утвержденной на общем собрании. Новая структура управления подразумевает включение и участие всех 144 НФ по всему миру, что делает их частью руководящих органов World Sailing: речь идет о развитии нашего спорта во всем мире, а не только на Олимпийских играх. Предлагаемая структура создаст платформу, состоящую из двух Советов директоров, один из которых является Олимпийским советом, а другой – Советом по участию и развитию, который создаст прочную базу для разнообразия парусного спорта в мире и других видов деятельности по всему миру.
Мистер Андерсен, кажется, Вы «крепкий орешек». Вы недавно объявили, что собираетесь бороться за второй срок президентства. Таким образом, Вы должны ожидать ситуацию, аналогичную той, что была четыре года назад, с одним важным отличием: на этот раз вы являетесь Президентом WS и, следовательно, подвергаетесь атакам конкурентов. Какова ваша мотивация для этого? Вы не устали жить и действовать в столь напряженной ситуации?
Я не считаю себя жестким, скорее, сильным, и я верю, что парусному спорту сейчас, как никогда, нужен сильный лидер, потому что состояние нашего спорта пострадало в последние годы, и пострадало оно от рук тех, кто критиковал новые идеи и прогресс.
«Старая гвардия» делает все возможное, чтобы сохранить статус-кво, сохранить неравенство полов, свести к минимуму роль малых наций, не меняться со временем и так далее. К сожалению, именно такое мышление сдерживает наш спорт.
Множество удачных вещей, о которых я говорил ранее и которых мы достигли только сейчас были проблемой на протяжении многих лет. Возьмем хотя бы нашу медиа стратегию. Несмотря на то, что стратегия WS существует уже 14 лет, мы смогли воплотить это в жизнь только сейчас благодаря современной структуре менеджмента. Мы никогда не были столь успешны в социальных сетях, как сейчас.
У нас еще множество вещей, которые нам необходимо закончить в WS и я надеюсь, что в ближайшем будущем появится новое поколение яхтсменов, которое будет принимать решения о развитии парусного спорта. Это то что меня мотивирует.
Какие важные встречи WS планируются в ближайшем будущем? Что по поводу голосования во время ежегодного общего собрания?
В конце июня у нас пройдет виртуальное полугодовое заседание Совета WS, чтобы попытаться сохранить преемственность и контакт во время пандемии. Мы привлекли все комитеты и комиссии, чтобы они докладывали Совету и президентам НФ, чтобы те в свою очередь были информированы касательно текучих задач, а также вопросов касательно пандемии Covid-19.
После заседания совета назначена встреча с президентами НФ для поддержания диалога и для обмена информацией.
Что же касается ежегодного общего собрания и выборов. Совет директоров обратился за советом к конституционному и выборному комитетам на случай, если мы не сможем провести запланированную встречу в Абу-Даби в конце октября. Был предложен план Б в виде резолюции для участников, которая позволит провести онлайн голосование. Окончательное решение, будет ли проведено собрание или же будет задействован план Б, будет принято первого августа.
Желаем Вам удачи!
Интервью взял Василий Сенаторов, издатель журнала Yacht Russia