"The future of taekwon-do will be better if we achieve the merger of the federations within the ITF". RDP/ITG

During the European Championships in Lublin, Inside The Games had the pleasure of interviewing Gustavo Livon, Chair of the ITF's Mergers Committee, which is responsible for merging federations with the aim of improving the martial art's activities.

In a wide-ranging interview at the Medical University of Lublin, Mr Gustavo Livon was kind enough to explain in detail the new strategies outlined following the renewal of the mandate of the current ITF President, Grand Master Paul Weiler.

Asked about the new committee and its functions, the Argentinian, who has been based in São Paulo, Brazil, for the past three years, said: "The Merger Committee is new, it is an idea of the new administration led by Grand Master Paul Weiler in his second term (2023) and its function is to work together where there is more than one association per country. We have representation in 120 countries and only 16 have more than one ITF affiliate".

As for who decides on the participation of national representatives in international events, Livon said: "In general, the national federations are responsible for organising national selections. Usually there are two of them and it's not a big problem in the end, but for administrative reasons it makes sense to change in order to grow".

Deepening the relaxed conversation with Inside The Games, Livon explained the importance of the merger for the future of the ITF: "As we have recently moved our headquarters to Lausanne and the new regulations require us to be part of future bodies such as SportAccord, you need to have one representative per country and a number of countries recognised by the government of each country where it is recognised as a sport".

Gustavo Livon, Chair of the ITF's Mergers Committee. RDP/ITG
Gustavo Livon, Chair of the ITF's Mergers Committee. RDP/ITG

Without hesitation, he stressed the importance of reaching agreements between federations to merge: "The building of the future depends on getting these countries that have more than one federation to merge. That would get the support of the government in each country. There will be greater resources, not only economic, but of all kinds, from infrastructure to support for the management of resources that will improve these martial arts".

And what if they do not merge? was the obligatory question. "If they do not merge, there is a maximum deadline, which is the 1st of January 2028, so a lot of commitment is required, which means debating, changing the statutes in each country and reaching a consensus, which is what our President, Grand Master Paul Weiler, is looking for".

And if, despite these efforts, merger agreements are not reached? he was asked again. "If not, the ITF Executive Board will have to decide, but our President wants the decision to be taken by those involved and not by an administrative decision. That is very wise and will certainly bear fruit.

Of course, it is not easy to negotiate in so many places around the world at the same time, as the chair of the Mergers Committee admits: "Negotiations are important, they take place every day via Zoom, but negotiations are resolved in tournaments where you can have a different dialogue with counterparts from conflicting associations or with opposing positions. That is why these tournaments are used to bring the parties closer together".

Over 800 athletes in three categories competing simultaneously on six rings in Lublin. ITF
Over 800 athletes in three categories competing simultaneously on six rings in Lublin. ITF

You might think that since they are peers and all want the same thing, the growth of this competitive martial art, but this is not the case. "Negotiations are intense, many are comfortable with the status quo and have had a historical position for many years. The good thing, beyond the differences, some of which are significant, is that they understand that what is being sought is the good of international taekwon-do and from there we are trying to build, that is the basis of the talks," explained the native of Buenos Aires.

An important factor is the legislation of each country. "It is not easy. Often the solutions are sui generis, because what is allowed in one country is not allowed in another.

All these efforts are worthwhile, at least when one considers the overall objective, which, in the words of the interviewee, is "to create an organisation without conflicts between institutions, a federation that, in the medium term, will have the backing and physical and economic support of governments and will have an impact on the quantity and quality of tournaments and better training facilities".

Finally, when asked about specific cases that many athletes do not understand, beyond economic support, how can taekwon-do practitioners benefit from the ITF?

Without hesitation, and before continuing his busy day of meetings with national federation representatives, he replied: "The ITF has activities such as Taekwon-Do Kids, Adapted Taekwon-Do and Taekwon-Do for Seniors, all of which will benefit, as well as instructors and coaches. This goes along with this growth and improvement and therefore I have no doubt that this will improve people's quality of life through the practice of this martial art with sports competitions".