It has been a few turbulent days and weeks for British Alpine skiing but the general feeling of people leaving the Alpine Gathering that took place in London on Monday 30 June was positive. There is no doubt that the Alpine discipline needs to look outside of UK Sport Funding if it is to provide programmes and support for the talented athletes racing under the British flag at all levels. … 

What ever the rights and wrongs of the UK Sport terms and conditions for funding, this was the start of doing things for the good of the sport in an attempt to get more funding for the athletes.

While Malcolm Erskine, who had instigated the meeting just prior to his contentious removal from office by British Ski and Snowboard, lead the meeting, Catherine Hawkins, from Think! Sponsorship, Kevin McCloud and Chemmy Alcott joined the boss of the British Ski Academy at the front of the VUE Cinema in Leicester Square.

Those attending included a varied cross section of the sport: From administrators in the sport: Dave Edwards from British Ski and Snowboard; Georgina Morris from BARSC; Jennifer Kehoe from the Combined Services Disabled Ski Team; To sponsors, Olivia Gregory representing long time sponsors of the Alpine Team, Championships and the Federation, Delancey; To many parents of racers, ex racers, current racers and also Ski Cross athletes.

With funding being a thorny issue for the sport, Catherine Hawkins gave an insight into the subject of sponsorship: How to go about securing it as well as the different types of sponsorship. It was heartening to see many in the crowd were busy making notes.

Following the presentation, the floor was opened to bring ideas as to how the discipline could go forward. Ideas mentioned included the current popular method of Crowdfunding that has proved successful in America for a number of athletes that are asked for $26,000 to join the US Ski Team D Team. Brian Sherras, father of two who used to race under the British flag, explained that 169 people had helped two brothers that had been selected: Donations varied from $1 to $25,000!

For the British racers, Richard Berry, from the Skiers Trust explained that they are already geared up to receive money in association with Just Giving and through Textfunding. If people use the text funding method, by texting 70070 with the SKIT14 this will make sure the donation reaches the Skiers Trust. Please be aware that people must reply to the bounce back email for the Trust to receive the Tax Credits.

The ball was rolling and Forbes Mitchell, ex Scottish Team racer now working in London, explained a few ideas regarding people he could contact both in the City of London and through his contacts in the business world. What he and his colleague and friend explained though was that a ‘cheat sheet’ of benefits and offers was needed that people could access easily.

The ideas and thoughts were now rolling and this must have been music to the ears of Dave Edwards in his efforts to raise funds for Alpine. After the event Edwards explained: “I was very pleased to see 60 to 70 people who were prepared to give some their time to discuss fund raising for British Ski and Snowboard and for the Alpine Discipline. The announcement from UK Sport the previous week was good news BUT the finances available for our Alpine athletes are now running at only about 25% of the money that was being spent on them immediately prior to SnowsportGB’s bankruptcy. Money generating initiatives are badly needed and I left the session feeling that quite a number of people were committed to pursuing new ideas.”

While the ideas rolled in, Olivia Gregory gave feedback from Delancey’s perspective. Gregory explained that while Sir John Ritblat had supported British Alpine skiing for the last 36 years, it was now his son Jamie who was running the family business and he was the one that needed to be persuaded that it was still worthwhile.

While skiing is still perceived by many as a glamorous sport, getting some media organisations to mention sponsors names is a hard task, no matter how hard they are schmoozed! The world has moved on rapidly in the field of sponsorship and raising funds for athletes and programmes. In the last fifteen years the number of avenues available to promote the concept has multiplied numerous times.Both Hawkins and Gordon Ritchie explained and emphasised every avenue needs to be looked at.

As the Gathering wound down, Stephen Metheringham from Ski Milton Keynes explained that it was very hard for the sport to keep the kids involved: “We have to keep faith so they have something to aim for,” he explained.

There is no doubt that there is still a huge desire for Alpine to be successful: They have the most amount of FIS Licence holders despite the current malaise. There is a desire of ex racers and current racers as well as businessmen and women to connect those with the money with those who need the money.

Has the sport reached its nadir now? Hard to say but what is clear is that there are definitely positive moves afoot to make the future brighter.

 

Picture of Jai Geyer competing at the Delancey British Alpine Championships in March 2014