At the IOF General Assembly on July 10th a number of changes were adopted in the Statutes of the IOF. The changes affect some of the basic premises of IOF governance so it may be worthwhile understanding why the changes were made and what they mean.
Strengthening of athletes’ representation
One of the most important changes to the IOF Statutes was that of adding 2 seats on the IOF Council for athletes’ representatives, gender balanced. The independent governance review carried out by the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) pointed out that IOF governance could be improved by giving athletes a voice directly in the decision-making bodies of the IOF. Following consultation with the current advisory Athletes Commissions and member federations, there was strong support for the idea. Council has determined a process for implementation where the first necessary step is the change in the Statutes. The Council will now finalise the rules for a formal election process for the Athletes Commission and the appointment of athletes’ representatives to Council and to discipline commissions. The first elections of the athletes’ representatives will occur in connection with next World Championships in the respective disciplines.
Strengthening of the gender balance in the Council
One of the other identified areas of improvement in the GAISF governance review was to improve the gender balance in the decision-making bodies of the IOF. On the Council elected for the period 2018-2020 the gender balance was 9 men and 2 women. Council proposed that the Statutes should be changed to raise the number of minimum spots on Council per gender, from 2 to 3 as long as nominations were received in that number. Actually Council had made proposals to this effect at the previous 2 General Assemblies but they had not been approved in voting. The Norwegian Orienteering Federation asked that the proposal be amended and to strike the words “nominations permitting”. The amended proposal was approved by the assembly this year. Should there not be enough nominations seats on Council may remain empty until the next election. The good news is that the new Council elected at the General Assembly fulfils the new requirement with 8 men and 3 women. But gender balance and diversity are still topics for further action and improvement.
Changes in the criteria for applying to be a member of the IOF
There has been a past history in international sports federations to want to have as many members as possible. This comes from a previous requirement from the IOC that you needed a certain number of members to be considered for IOC recognition. The strategy of the IOF has moved away from this “showing of flags” towards instead establishing sustainable members, in other words recruiting and assisting members who are truly developing the sport in their country and can participate in IOF activities over time.
The IOF provides an opportunity for organisations to become a Provisional Member of the IOF in preparation for regular membership. A provisional membership gives access to IOF support but with fewer obligations and membership rights. However, previously the requirements for applying for provisional and regular membership were nearly the same. Particularly regarding a requirement to have a letter of recognition from the national sports body in the member country, whether it be a Ministry of Sports or the National Olympic Committee. But many national sports bodies require that the organisation first be a member of an international sports federation prior to giving recognition. So many potential members of the IOF have been caught in an impossible situation. To solve this situation the IOF made a change to the Statutes allowing organisations to become provisional members without the recognition of the national sports body, as long as they are a properly registered organisation and can show proof of good governance and development of the sport. This will allow these organisations to focus on developing the sport and they have up to 6 years to achieve national recognition and become a regular IOF member.
An additional requirement was however added to apply for membership, that of an application fee. This is a good measure of how serious an organisation is about applying for membership and developing the sport in their country.
Including a reference to eSports
The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that orienteering in electronic forms can be very attractive. The Council therefore proposed that the IOF should reference orienteering disciplines as eSports also in the Statutes. This was approved by the members and will now lead to further consultation with members and the eOrienteering community about potential development paths going forward.
In addition a number of changes were made to clarify, modernise and improve understanding of the Statutes. One example was to clarify that representation at the General Assembly could be virtual.
The complete revised Statutes will be published on the IOF website once they have gone through an editorial check.