I regret not being able to attend the recent unofficial â€˜Alpine Gatheringâ€™ but I am pleased to see from the â€˜Racer Readyâ€™ report on the internet that it went well with Malcolm Erskine still showing a positive attitude, despite the unfortunate start to his BSS position. Â It was also pleasing to note that some â€˜officialsâ€™ were present. …Â
I am not sure that it is always appreciated that BSS can only act within the funding available, much of which comes with strings attached. Â I think all sports are aware that UK Sport operates a very short sighted policy, but use of its funding in turn is probably largely controlled by Government policy. Â It is therefore essential that snow-sports have an effective political lobby. Â BSS and the HNGBs need to get together, on a regular basis, with those members of both Houses of Parliament who are interested in snow-sports at whatever level. Â I am sure there are many. Â The case has to be made both to change UK Sport policy and to make politicians aware that there is a vast British participation (over 1M) in snow-sport that should be given support at all levels, commensurate with the number of participants. Â We need a political leader for this. Â Would Lord Moynihan be willing to take it on or could he suggest a suitable person?
Alpine skiing has to recognise that it is up against much stronger competition from international rivals compared with other newer disciplines which are not yet well established abroad either. Although Britain has a great pool of talent, so long as funding is linked to medals previously won, Alpine athletes will have to continue to raise their game, despite all the obstacles. However, there is no justification for setting British Olympic criteria at levels above most other Nations. This is contrary to Olympic traditions (the creed). If we are to keep youngster in the sport, they must have targets (at all levels) which are realistic. This also means targets for those who do not achieve British Team status but wish to carry on beyond the all-too-common drop-out age of about 18.
Whilst the meeting clearly focused on fund-raising, the need for the sport to pull together at all levels was also highlighted. Unfortunately, I do not believe that snow-sport has the right infrastructure to achieve this. We have 5 (if we count the defunct Northern Ireland) autonomous Governing Bodies, with England divided into autonomous Regions, and a number of other bodies which aim to represent the interests of various sectors of the sport. This makes snow-sport a Type 4 Organisation as defined in the report â€œInvesting in Change â€“ High Level Review of the Modernisation Programme for Governing Bodies of Sportâ€, Deloitte & Touche, July 2003 published by the Sport Councils (IC). This Report (IC) recommended that such sports should be identifying the pathway to change as a priority either by merging with other subgroups within the sport or seeking to join a broader federation. In response to IC, the former BSSF (SnowsportGB) presented a â€˜Green Paperâ€™ at its Congress in Autumn 2004 which recommended setting up a new single body, referred to for convenience as â€˜Bobâ€™, which would embrace all the work of the BSSF and its constituent groups, that is a Type 2 Organisation as defined in IC. Unfortunately the working group set up to implement this plan, having failed to resolve some key issues, produced a structure which deviated considerably from the outline in the Green Paper. Hence this was rejected by the majority of the BSSF membership.
I had been advocating, without much support, the need for a unified governing body structure (not necessarily a single body) since 1996 and hoped that IC would bring it about. This seems to me to be essential to creating smooth pathways from novice to Olympiad and/or to elite coach. Potential sponsors are more interested in sports where they can be involved with both high-profile events and mass participation. British Cycling has been particularly successful in this way. I think the time is now ripe for snow-sports to re-address this issue. However, it needs a totally different approach or the result will be the same as last time. I think it failed largely because some of the members of the working group put the interests of the group they represented (which is probably what they were elected to do) before the best interests of the sport. If there are others with similar views, I should be grateful if they would get in touch via SnowsportUnity <firstname.lastname@example.org>. I am looking for people with a broad interest in snow-sports (all disciplines, UK wide and novice to Olympiad, but not necessarily competitive) who do not currently hold an official position within a snow-sport governing body or one of the other constituent members of the former BSSF. A person with experience of web-based surveys and their analysis would be helpful as I envisage a process of wide and open consultation through this medium. I hope that, between us, we can set up a working group which will propose a way forward acceptable to the current governing bodies and the Sports Councils. Its first task will be to take on board what was agreed during the previous debate and identify the things which went wrong to ensure that they do not happen again.
Alan Jones, retired FIS Masters and UK Snowsport licenses holder and former Chairman of NWSF 14 July 2014