Ivo Ferriani

The time has once again come for change at the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) and SportAccord. 

Throughout our history, the better sports organisations have understood the need to evolve and reform. It is by making these changes that we are best able to develop our sports and deliver on their promise.

Fifty-five years ago, 26 International Sports Federations (IFs) met in Lausanne to establish a permanent liaison. That permanent liaison would become GAISF.

At that time, IFs had almost everything in common. They were run mainly by volunteers. Most had no offices and organised just a single World Championship every four years. 

GAISF’s introduction and impact on the wider global sports community was therefore significant. There was a very clear scope, and GAISF stepped in to play a role in providing a forum for Olympic and non-Olympic sports organisations alike.

GAISF went on to strengthen and protect the interests of its members and create services and events for the benefit of all. Over the years, GAISF made a historic contribution to the development of the international sporting landscape.

The world now, however, is very different. IFs have evolved into professional organisations with significant permanent staff and commercial contracts. We put on a myriad of events, often only days or weeks apart.

In turn, the needs of IFs have become more complex and more specific. The umbrella bodies - the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF), Association of International Olympic Winter Sports Federations (AWOIF), Association of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Recognised International Sporting Federations (ARISF) and the Alliance of Independent Recognised Members of Sports (AIMS) - have become more professional and have developed their own services for their respective members.

Indeed as these bodies have developed, we have seen that they have increasingly taken over the services once provided by GAISF and other services have been taken over by third parties, such as the International Testing Agency which took over all of GAISF’s anti-doping activities.

The Global Association of International Sports Federations assets are set to be distributed across various different platforms following its dissolution ©GAISF
The Global Association of International Sports Federations assets are set to be distributed across various different platforms following its dissolution ©GAISF

The reduced scope of GAISF’s activities also meant that its underlying business activities became unprofitable. We owe it to ourselves and to our constituents to invest our resources wisely and opportunities for efficiencies should be embraced.

Following the unanimous recommendations of a taskforce established by my predecessor to disband GAISF and my own observations, I came to the conclusion that GAISF has indeed ceased to be viable as a stand-alone organisation.

Dissolution is the most appropriate option, with the few remaining activities of GAISF being transferred to a restructured SportAccord. This is the way to deliver a stronger, more agile and business-orientated approach for the future.

With a governance structure and expanded Executive Committee where the four umbrella bodies are represented, SportAccord will ensure continuity of the remaining common services, like the .sport domain and the sustainability.sport platform.

At the same time, the SportAccord Convention and the IF Forum will continue to bring IFs together alongside other stakeholders, as we discuss issues that are critical to our future. A perfect example of this is the programme for the forthcoming IF Forum, which will be held later this month in Lausanne and which will carefully consider human rights, safe sport and sustainability.

SportAccord will also take over GAISF’s role as the entry point for the recognition of IFs. A Membership Commission will be created consisting of representatives from each of ASOIF, AIOWF, ARISF, AIMS and the IOC in order that all parties can be assured of fairness. 

As sport continues to develop around the world, new activities are growing and there is a strong pipeline of applications. SportAccord, with its proven ability to organise events, will also be a better home for multi-sport games.

By streamlining our structures, we can all ensure a better focus on these services that IFs really need and which SportAccord is best placed to provide. We can contribute to a culture that is prepared to make the right decisions for the right reasons. 

I have no doubt that the dissolution of GAISF and a restructuring of SportAccord represent the right decisions for our common future. In a world that is so full of challenges, we must ensure all of our resources are clearly directed at what is most important - enabling IFs to play their vital role in serving athletes and delivering positive social change.