David Owen

The Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) would be neither the first, nor the best-known institution to be terminated in Yekaterinburg.

The Russian city on the eastern side of the Urals was also where Tsar Nicholas II and other members of the Romanov family ended their days in a volley of bullets and bayonet thrusts.

Yet the grim appropriateness of the venue for a General Assembly at which, we are promised, GAISF’s dissolution will be a "topic on the agenda", does not lead me to think that the umbrella body’s extinction will necessarily be accomplished easily.

Vocal opposition to the move has already surfaced, first from the International Life Saving Federation then from Patrick Nally, who besides being President of the International Federation of Match Poker is known and respected throughout sport as father of the marketing-based business model that helped to enrich the entire sector.

My antennae have also picked up mutterings from elsewhere in the industry, with phrases like "unmitigated power grab" being bandied about, albeit privately, in quarters which do not resort lightly to such media-friendly badinage.

Perhaps more to the point, having now studied them, there are elements in GAISF’s statutes, most recently set down in May 2019, which to my eye present potentially significant obstacles to proponents of the dissolution course, whoever they turn out to be.

Take Article 42.1: "The intended dissolution of GAISF shall require an extraordinary meeting of the General Assembly at which the proposed dissolution shall be the sole item on the agenda."

I can see nothing in Ivo Ferriani’s now infamous "Formal Calling Notice" to GAISF members, first reported by my insidethegames colleague Liam Morgan, in which the body’s new President reveals that dissolution will be on the agenda of the next General Assembly, to suggest that this meeting will be "extraordinary" in nature.

It is described, indeed, as a "Statutory General Assembly".

As for the idea that dissolution should be the sole item, well, members are instructed that if they wish to add an item to the agenda, it must be done by January 20, 2022.

This prompts me to wonder how well-prepared this push to get rid of GAISF actually is.

An extract from the Formal Calling Notice, where a proposal to dissolve GAISF was first put into the public domain ©GAISF
An extract from the Formal Calling Notice, where a proposal to dissolve GAISF was first put into the public domain ©GAISF

Such sentiments are reinforced when I read in Ferriani’s letter that "the agenda will be sent out to all members of GAISF by 20 May 2022."

This is the scheduled date of the General Assembly.

And yet, Article 24.4 of the statutes states that: "At least one month before the General Assembly meets, the administration shall circulate the agenda as prepared by the Council."

It is true - Article 25.2 - that the Council may "add any urgent matter to the agenda of the General Assembly at any time."

Nonetheless, this is not the process that appears to be envisaged by Ferriani’s letter, which is dated 17 November 2021.

There is more: Article 20.2 of the statutes, regarding quorums, states that "decisions regarding the dissolution of GAISF…shall only be valid if two-thirds of the members having voting rights are present."

This prompts the mischievous thought that opponents of dissolution could get their way if enough of them simply did not show up in Yekaterinburg.

This could be only a delaying tactic, however: Article 21.8 confers on the Council the right to "submit any resolution within the competence of the General Assembly to a vote by correspondence to the members."

And for the purposes of such resolutions, "the quorums set forth in article 20 shall not be applicable."

One can still not entirely rule out, moreover, that plans to meet in person might in any case be scuppered by the pandemic.

The statutes also make clear that GAISF’s dissolution is among those resolutions that would require a two-thirds majority of votes validly cast.

So what does that add up to?

Well, each full member is entitled to one vote, provided they have satisfied their financial obligations; associate members have no voting right.

New GAISF President Ivo Ferriani claimed in the letter that the dissolution of the organisation had already been discussed prior to him taking the role with the body ©Getty Images
New GAISF President Ivo Ferriani claimed in the letter that the dissolution of the organisation had already been discussed prior to him taking the role with the body ©Getty Images

Totting up the membership lists on the GAISF website, I come up with the following figures:

There are currently 42 members of the Association of International Olympic Committee (IOC) Recognised International Sports Federations (ARISF) stakeholder group.

This is comfortably enough for a blocking minority on issues requiring two-thirds backing.

The Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) stakeholder grouping consists of 28 federations, while the grouping Ferriani heads - the Association of Winter Olympic International Federations (AIOWF) - contains just seven federations.

Lastly, the Alliance of Independent Recognised Members of Sport (AIMS) covers 20 federations, including sports such as darts, practical shooting, sepaktakraw and soft tennis.

That all adds up to 97 full members, with 65 required for a two-thirds majority if everyone votes.

Could opponents of the move, whether it is put to members in Yekaterinburg or at a subsequent extraordinary meeting, muster 33 votes?

I don’t know: if the IOC - which has had fairly spectacular run-ins with GAISF in the past - puts its weight, publicly or privately, behind the umbrella body’s dissolution, the sheer number of levers at its disposal would make the move very hard to resist.

These are, after all, federations which, by and large, want to get their sports onto the loadsamoney Olympic programme, if they are not there already.

On the other hand, some opponents have already put their heads above the parapet and whispers that ARISF and AIMS would remain and be strengthened after GAISF’s dismemberment suggest that dissolution-backers appreciate where the voting power lies.

My own view? International Sports Federations, still more than National Olympic Committees, are disparate and diverse bodies.

Nevertheless, strength flows from unity, and they retain enough in common to make GAISF, a shadow of its former self as it might be, worth persisting with.

As I explained in October - in a piece that elicited much favourable comment from influential sports figures, one umbrella body, the Association of National Olympic Committees is now facing a severe wing-clipping, courtesy of a 70 per cent cut in its IOC subvention.

If at the same time GAISF disappeared in a puff of white smoke, who do you think would benefit? Would it be in the interests of international sport?