GAISF is considering establishing an office to lobby the European Union ©GAISF

The Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) will consider establishing a European office to lobby the European Union amid the growing challenges of third-party organisers.

A call for a unified approach from International Federations (IFs) was made by Andreas Zagklis, International Basketball Federation (FIBA) secretary general.

In a keynote speech at the GAISF General Assembly, Zagklis argued there was a lack of coordination from Federations over third-party organisers.

He said there was also a misunderstanding from public authorities over the role of IFs.

FIBA and EuroLeague Commercial Assets have been involved in a legal dispute in recent years, with the dispute centring on the sport's calendar.

International Federations have increasingly faced similar challenges, following the European Commission ruling against the International Skating Union (ISU) rule imposing severe penalties on athletes participating in speed skating competitions unauthorised by the world governing body in 2017.

The European Commission viewed this as a breach of EU anti-trust laws, with the decision seen as one of the most significant legal case in European sport since the 1995 ruling in favour of Belgian footballer Jean-Marc Bosman, which secured free movement of players within the EU.

Recent months have seen the International Swimming Federation (FINA) become embroiled in a dispute with the rival International Swimming League (ISL).

FINA had initially appeared to suggest athletes participating in ISL events would be suspended by the governing body, although this threat was later played down with athletes lodging legal action.

Zagklis suggested a joint lobbying effort would be needed from IFs to highlight their role to public authorities, which could be conducted by a European office.

This would be similar to the European Olympic Committees' (EOC) office in Brussels.

Zagklis suggested this framework could potentially be pursued by IFs, which third-party organisers would be required to meet to be recognised to stage competitions.

FIBA secretary general Andreas Zagklis believes a joint strategy from IFs is required ©GAISF
FIBA secretary general Andreas Zagklis believes a joint strategy from IFs is required ©GAISF

“We should emphasise our common interests, align them and have a joint strategy on the topic,” he said.

“We have learned there is a lot of confusion and the confusion starts when public authorities say you are regulators, you cannot be competitors in the market.

“Excuse me, but this is wrong.

“We are regulators, but we are prudent regulators and we know our limits.

“This is a discussion we need to have as colleagues in working groups, we need to define our limits jointly.

“When each of us is faced with the prospect of a breakaway or a rival league or a third-party organiser, the organisations what are the criteria before pressing the button of suspension.

“We cannot just go into the press and say we will suspend if you participate in this competition.

“But at the same time the public authorities need to understand, we have a very good set of rules in our federations.

“Not to protect our commercial interests, but our capability of raising funds which we can invest in the development of sport.”

Zagklis claimed IFs could operate as competitors in the market and should have responsibility for the rules of the game and coordination of the calendar.

Rules for rankings and Olympic qualification should also fall under the responsibility of IFs, he argued.

The Greek official pointed to governance assessments conducted by Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF), which ranked Federations based on criteria.

He asserted that while there was an increasing pressure of IFs to meet improved governance, IFs should push to ensure third-party organisers should be required to operate under similar standards if they are to host competitions.

FINA has recently become embroiled in a dispute with the International Swimming League ©Getty Images
FINA has recently become embroiled in a dispute with the International Swimming League ©Getty Images

“Within GAISF we should have a discussion on what are the criteria for third-party recognition,” he said.

“There have to be a body of rules we are more or less the same for all of us.

“Once we establish this common ground, we have to push hard and collaborate on legal cases, we have to lobby.

“We should be doing some lobbying activities.

“It is hard to understand why we are not represented in Brussels.

“We have an office of European Olympic Committees, but I think we should have an office for International Federations where we can explain what we do to regulators and decision makers.”

New GAISF President Raffaele Chiulli confirmed the organisation would consider the establishment of an office to lobby on behalf of IFs.

A working group could be established by GAISFs at their upcoming council meeting in Lausanne.

“Having listened the specific needs of many IFs, we felt it was appropriate to tackle that challenge,” Chiulli said.

“The first thing we will do at the next Council meeting in June is map the skills base that are available in our IFs.

“We will try to see to how to form a working group which will be specifically dedicated to addressing these needs.”

Philippe Gueisbuhler, GAISF director, added the process was at an early stage.

“It was interesting for us to see the reaction of the members when Mr Zagklis presented to us today,” he said.

“They gave strong support to this.

“We will look into this and collaborate with our members and key stakeholders to make sure we have a common alignment.”