Passion to the fore but the work goes on

The passion and the desire to see the sport move forward after events this summer has been heated and at times controversial. What has been clear has been the desire of some of those involved in the Alpine discipline, to try and bring the largest and oldest section of the sports run at an elite level by British Ski and Snowboard, back to a successful level. It will not be easy due to the competitive nature of the sport and the numbers of athletes involved in it around the world but progress can be made. …

While the election to the Alpine Speed and Telemark Committee Chair of Malcolm Erskine was annulled, the passion that Malcolm Erskine shows in wanting to bring the discipline out of the doldrums is fantastic to see and is recognised by many others. Many could learn from his passion to modernise the sport and give the alpine athletes a fair route to getting as far as they can.

Both sides have acknowledged mistakes as recriminations from the election, review into how selections for recent major events and subsequent legal proceedings all came out. Racer Ready has discussed with both sides the actions and goings on and while at times there has been a feeling of being a Judge over the matter, this is not our role. Others with far greater jurisdiction (and remuneration) have deliberated and ruled over this.

One of the big issues has been the need for British Ski and Snowboard to improve their game in regards to communicating with their members and the athletes. The report by Wharton Consulting that was announced at the AGM in September has been released yet for many this has not gone far enough: No apology to the athletes whose careers and hard work was not recognised.

The report into the Sochi selections was in part a reaction to Snowsport GB going bust as the teams headed to Vancouver in 2010. The selection for the 2014 Olympics was set and agreed to in the aftermath of the BSS being set up. With this in mind the BSS have pointed out that this was before many of them joined the board.

Athletes now have to realise in this era post London 2012 that the money being invested into sport by UK Sport, is not as easy to come by, as it was pre the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. The paymasters at UK Sport want success. Success equals medals in their mind. This means that athletes and coaches and the back up teams on and off the snow and ice, need to work hard, smarter and better. Winning is a team effort.

In the fall out from the election for Chair of the AST Committee, the end result has been Malcolm Erskine being removed from his position of Chair of the Committee after failing with an appeal. Adrian Pery, from a Telemark background, has stepped in to be interim chair of the committee. While many are now asking what next for the position, Pery explained: “both the Alpine Speed and Telemark Committee as well as the Alpine Business Group are making recommendations to the BSS Board to ensure that there is time for suitable debate before elections take place. Further news will come from the BSS.”

Candidates are advised to start canvassing support now.

Some will argue that this may seem that the Alpine section of the BSS is being left rudderless and allowed to meander through this winter, a winter that sees another World Championships, but Pery argues that it is for the long term benefit of the discipline that the right person is seen to be taking the sport through its next phase.

In some ways the issues that have come to light this summer have moved things forward healthily: More people are starting to get involved and take an active interest in the sport. Yet others will argue that the fear of being persecuted by stepping up above the parapet still exists. This is something that the BSS are at pains to try and remove and has been raised at Board level. With the demands set by UK Sport in return for funding changing the landscape, the lack of funding for all disciplines apart from Park and Pipe, means that innovation off the slopes is required to attract new players to the slopes.

Delancey’s funding is great but the sport cannot exist on their funding alone. New sponsors are being sought to help other programmes on the pathway to success.

So while new sponsors are being sought to fund parts of the bigger picture, the reaction to the election has stirred up matters from both sides. In the wake of Malcolm Erskine’s failed appeal against dismissal from the AST committee he assures Racer Ready that the campaign for change is far from over. He wants to see a restructuring of GB Alpine’s financial management and has called for the BSS board to split the roles of chief executive officer and company secretary. He is not satisfied with what has been described as a “drip-feed of support” for national ski team racers who deserve world-class competitive programmes. Erskine assured Racer Ready that he is not a lone voice; there are many committed supporters ready and willing to drive the transparent democratisation of the top level management of GB Alpine, a process which he believes is not just overdue but imperative.

Having read Erskine’s response to BSS appeals panel decision post the appeal, John Brewer, Chair of the Board of BSS, explained that he “was disappointed how things had evolved,” yet wanted to make clear that changes were in the pipeline.

Racer Ready received the statement from Malcolm Erskine on 24 September and asked for comments back from the BSS the same day. The end shot of this and conversations with Brewer may have hastened the release of the report Wharton Consulting report into Sochi Selections.

Whether you are on the side of the existing structure of the sport or looking for change, this summer has seen movement. As one person put it to Racer Ready recently, this is your sport so get involved. Contact your representative on the Alpine Speed and Telemark committee in the first instance to get involved.


Picture of Nick Moynihan competing earlier this year in Meribel at the Delancey British Alpine Championships. Credit Racer Ready, all rights reserved.