Having promised sweeping change for an organization he believes has become complacent, Johan Eliasch, running unopposed, has been re-elected as International Ski Federation (FIS) president.
The former chief executive officer of the Head Sports group, who was initially elected to the post in June 2021 after Gian Franco Kasper stepped down, will serve a new, four-year term, leading the organization forward with bold ambitions.
“Let me emphasize – change is not easy and we’re all entitled to our different opinions, but we must remain strong together to get to the next level,” Eliasch said, addressing colleagues, shortly after his re-election at the 53rd International Ski Congress General Assembly in Milan on Thursday.
“We need change, we need transformation, we represent 137 nations and our task is that we take control of our destiny again to create the best conditions for all of us,” he said.
However, the election was not without tension and minor controversy. Prior to the virtual secret vote among National Ski Associations, Vedran Pavlek of the Croatian Ski Association contended delegates should be permitted to vote “no” or “abstain” in the single candidate election.
FIS legal counsel Stephan Netzle explained this is not the case for an election as opposed to a vote on statutes or taking other decisions
“According to the democratic process all options should be present to the nations, otherwise those nations are ready to leave the room,” Pavlek threatened, insisting delegates have the right to express their opinion.
Netzle countered: “You cannot by majority say no - it’s not a decision, it’s an election.” A ten-minute break was called to sort matters out.
Upon their return, Netzle, once again advised of the official voting procedure and guidelines, utilizing the LUMI system, while admonishing the Croatian delegate for being out of line. Pavlek and delegates from approximately 15 National Ski Associations stood up and left the room in protest.
Eliasch then received all 70 votes, 100 percent, from the remaining NSA’s, some in attendance in Milan and others casting their votes from afar.
“Snowboarding” goes big and status of the Concorde Agreement
In other significant decisions taken by the FIS General Assembly, after numerous unsuccessful attempts, the longstanding International Ski Federation name has been formally changed to the International Ski and Snowboard Federation. However, the FIS acronym and branding will remain the same.
“The inclusion of snowboard, which makes up a significant part of our athletes and events, is very important, but it’s not perfect - we will still have to work on branding, but we look forward to moving forward as a more inclusive organization,” said FIS vice-president Dexter Paine.
In another breakthrough, FIS voted overwhelmingly with 94 percent approval to take over governance of Para Snowsports (Alpine, Snowboard and Cross-Country events) in cooperation with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). Further steps will be revealed after FIS and the IPC discuss details and the transfer of governance.
Treasurer Mats Arjes provided an update on budgets stating the federation’s strong financial health, while noting that 40 million USD is due from the International Olympic Committee related to the Beijing Games. Contracts with World Cup organizers for the upcoming season, under the new FIS leadership, have yet to been finalized and therefore not all finances for next season’s budget could be confirmed.
Also, five new members were approved to join the FIS family: Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Slovakia as new members, the latter because of a name change of its ski federation. Also, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay were accepted as associate members. The new additions increase the FIS NSA grand total to 137 members.
Eliasch addressed media virtually after the conclusion of the FIS Congress.
The FIS chief responded to Around the Rings, in regards to his new “Concorde Agreement” proposal, which effectively will centralize the management of all international broadcast and digital media rights, while eliminating longtime FIS partner Infront Sport and Media, which has served as a third party sales broker.
“As a group at the Council level, we have decided that we will have a consultation process with the major World Cup nations and that process will start now after the Congress,” Eliasch told ATR.
“The Concorde Agreement is not a unilateral agreement, it is a bi-lateral agreement, and different nations have different parameters and also conditions to deal with and that is what we will address over the coming weeks,” he said.
Eliasch was candid about the now turbulent relationship with the former FIS media rights partner, including recent legal proceedings.
“I haven’t chosen to fight with Infront, or FIS which doesn’t have any agreements or legal relations with Infront, in respect to the media and broadcast rights,” Elisach proclaimed.
“What did happen, however, is that Infront took us to court and issued a restraining order which basically said that FIS did not own the World Cup rights, nor did it have the right to transact with those World Cup rights and talk to broadcasters.
“The court held up our view 100-percent, which is very unusual, but I was not surprised because this was evident and obvious,” the FIS president added.
New FIS Council elected, United States and Russia lose seats
Eighteen individuals won new two-year terms on the FIS Council, in an election involving 23 candidates with 117 delegates having voting rights.
Electees include: ARJES Mats (SWE) * Dionne Deidra (CAN) GOSPER Dean (AUS)* KAST Magdalena (ARG) KUMPOST Roman (CZE)* LEHMANN Urs (SUI)* MINEV Tzeko (BUL)* MURASATO Aki (JPN)* ORTLIEB Patrick (AUT) PIGELET Anne-Chantal (FRA) RODA Flavio (ITA)* ROESTE Erik (NOR)* SMREKAR Enzo (SLO)* STEINLE Franz (GER)* STEVENS Fiona (NZL) TOUSSAINT Patrick (AND) UUSITALO Martti (FIN)* ZHENG Liangcheng (CHN)*. (Asterisks denote incumbent council members).
Losing their seats on the FIS Council were longtime U.S. representative and FIS vice-president Dexter Paine and Russian cross-country skiing, seven-time Olympic medalist Elena Vyalbe.
Additionally, FIS athlete representatives Martii Jylha of Finland and Hannah Kearney of the U.S. will serve new four years terms, a change from the existing two years.
Crans Montana among hosts elected for future world championships
In world championship host city elections conducted on day one, Tuesday, at the FIS Congress, four candidatures were awarded future events.
Forty years after it lasted hosted a memorable world championship in 1987, the historic Swiss ski resort of Crans Montana will once again be home to the FIS Alpine skiing flagship event in 2027.
Crans Montana convincingly won its bid receiving 11 votes from the FIS Council, while opponents Narvik (NOR) and Soldeu (AND) each received three votes, and Garmisch-Partenkirchen (GER) one vote.
Lone candidates in Nordic, freestyle and snowboard, and ski flying were also awarded future world championships. Falun, Sweden was confirmed as host of 2027 Nordic World Ski Championships, Montefon, Austria for the 2027 Freestyle Skiing and Snowboard Championships, and Oberstdorf, Germany will be home to Ski Flying Worlds in 2026.
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