David Owen

Luciano Rossi's appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) over last year's Presidential election (which he narrowly lost), has drawn my attention to a rarely discussed aspect of the democratic process on Planet Sport: proxy voting.

By my count, no fewer than 22 of the 160 member federations entitled to take part in the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF)'s 2018 General Assembly handed their voting authority to another member.

For example, the Indonesian Target Shooting and Hunting Association received the proxy from the Philippine National Shooting Association, the National Rifle Association of India that of the Syrian Arab Shooting Federation, the Russian Shooting Union that of the Fédération Algérienne de Tir Sportif, and the Shooting Sport Federation of Montenegro that of the Guyana National Rifle Association.

With some countries hosting more than one member federation, this could all get a tad confusing: on the one hand, the Federación Dominicana de Tiro is shown on the official roll-call as having granted its proxy to the Guatemalan Shooting Federation; on the other, the Dominican Republic Clay Target Shooting Federation received the proxy of another body, the Puerto Rico Shotgun Federation.

All clear?

Luciano Rossi is not the biggest fan of proxy voting ©ISSF
Luciano Rossi is not the biggest fan of proxy voting ©ISSF

I do not find it terribly surprising that this proxy voting system should be at the heart of one of the allegations made by Rossi, as he seeks to get last November's election - in which his rival, Vladimir Lisin, won the ISSF Presidency - declared "null and void".

As confirmed by the ISSF roll-call, both the Bulgarian Trap and Skeet Federation and the Cayman Islands Sport Shooting Association wished to appoint the Federazione Italiana Tiro a Volo, the body of which Rossi is President, as proxy.

The ISSF's constitution, however, permits each member federation to act as proxy for only one other.

So, again, as confirmed by the roll-call, one of the appointments - that of the Cayman Islands body - was declared invalid.

Rossi's allegation is that the Caymanian organisation was not informed that its proxy had not been accepted, effectively disenfranchising them and having an impact on what was a very tight election, won and lost by a margin of just four votes out of 292.

You can read more about this here.

No doubt CAS will decide in due course whether or not this particular allegation has merit.

I am more interested in considering the pros and cons of proxy voting in general.

I was amazed that, in this day and age, nearly 14 per cent of bodies with entitlement to participate in what, by any measure, was a landmark General Assembly – with a new ISSF President set to take office for the first time in 38 years – should take advantage of the proxy facility that the constitution allows.

Is this scale of proxy voting normal in ballots for key roles at global sports bodies?

It is a genuine question; I simply don’t know, and it had never occurred to me prior to this week that the phenomenon might be this commonplace.

A number of countries are still voting on major decisions from the shadows ©Getty Images
A number of countries are still voting on major decisions from the shadows ©Getty Images

I do know that voting by proxy is not allowed at Sessions of the International Olympic Committee; but while some international sports federations (IFs) do not permit it, others do.

I also know that, on balance, the practice does not strike me as terribly healthy.

Yes, I realise that some national federations, especially in relatively impecunious Olympic sports such as shooting, are likely to be small, one-volunteer-and-his-laptop-type organisations.

If, in addition, their country happens to be located far from the international centres that typically host the marquee meetings of global sports bodies, then, yes, the investment of money and time involved in travelling to, in this case Bavaria, might well seem onerous, perhaps even unmanageable.

But last year's ISSF General Assembly, to repeat, was a seriously important gathering, destined to set the course of that IF for a considerable time to come.

And while the choice of a new leader was the headline item, seats on the administrative council and other bodies were also up for grabs.

Forgive me but, in all but the most exceptional circumstances, it does not bespeak an especially avid attachment to the affairs of one's sport if one is prepared to delegate one's voice at such a key meeting to a colleague from another federation, however well-informed and trusted.

Luciano Rossi is challenging the result of the vote at the ISSF General Assembly in Munich ©ISSF
Luciano Rossi is challenging the result of the vote at the ISSF General Assembly in Munich ©ISSF

It can be hard, and often thankless, labour being an international administrator, in sport or any other field.

But in a world where international travel is certainly easier and probably cheaper in relative terms than at any time since money was invented, I do tend to think that the time has probably come to relegate proxy voting to the annals of history, certainly for the choice of IF Presidents and other key personnel.

At the very least, I would insist on full disclosure of who had given their proxy to whom at the very outset of each meeting.

The list of suggested considerations for IF electoral rules drawn up a couple of years ago by the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations indicates to me that I am not alone in edging towards this conclusion.

"Provision for voting by proxy is not recommended," it states.

Not to single them out, but I gather that changes to the ISSF constitution may soon be implemented.

I wonder if the rule governing proxy representation will be among the changes.