BSSF Congress Notes
RAF Henlow, 21st May 2000
Tim Alcock BSSF Chairman
Peter Clarke BSSF Finance Director
John O'Grady BSSF Snowboard Director
Peter Mitchell BSSF Commercial Director
Peter Rooney BSSF Discipline Director (Part of Meeting)
Fiona McLean BSSF
Graham Bell BSSF
Kay Bates BSSF Freestyle
Susan Roy SNSC
Peter Bates SNSC
Graham Beck ESC
Peter Heath ESC
Alan Ashfield ESC
John Shaw ESC
Mike Head BARSC
Jim Hewitt Children's Selector
Susie Berry BARSC
Jenny Shute BARSC
Richard Berry Skiers Trust of Great Britain
Andrew Lockerbie BSSOA
Cliff Webb BSSF Events Director
Paddy Field BSSF Nordic
Dick Taplin National Seeder
Thanks are due to Lt Col Martin Price and RAF Henlow for their assistance in hosting this event.
1.0 TA welcomed delegates to Congress
He opened the meeting with a brief summary of BSSF achievements since the October Congress. Most notably our athletes should be congratulated for their splendid efforts last season. Results across all BSSF sports were some of the best ever. The BSSF now boasts nine athletes in the top 100.
TA stressed the importance of focusing limited resources on programmes and keeping administrative costs to a minimum. The BSSF office moved to Midlothian Ski Centre, Hillend in January, which has reduced overheads. Staff numbers are kept to a minimum and TA reminded Congress of the need to shield HQ from too much work. Great progress has been made this year in the financial management of the BSSF, and we will finish the year within budget. UK Sport funding continues to be granted on an annual basis. Indications are that we may receive the same level of funding as last year.
Communication with and among the constituent groups is improving although there is still work to be done. The BSSF is working towards a more open style of management, with policy documents readily available and changes in policy notified well in advance.
2.0 BSSF Board
All BSSF board members were given the opportunity to report on their particular area of responsibility.
John O'Grady - Snowboard Director
JOG is also Chairman of the British Snowboard Association (hereinafter BSA). Snowboard's structure differs from the current, established Alpine and Freestyle structures in that there is no club base. A club system is not generally considered desirable for this sport, whose participation base is driven more by lifestyle than competition. Nonetheless, there is a competitive element within the sport which needs to be developed independent of the machine evident in other snowsports. After only 12 years of snowboard competition, at any level, there are many disciplines with still more being invented.
Indeed, Britain's best medal hopes at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games rest with Melanie Leando and Lesley McKenna. BSSF focus currently rests with these girls, although there are a further 20 riders whose potential has been recognised. An international coach is desperately required.
Funding is still a difficulty and a fundamental reason for the BSA to become involved with BSSF. It is hoped that the BSSF will access Lottery funding for Lesley and Melanie in the coming season. Sponsorship has been relatively easy to come by for events - the British Snowboard Championships has been run by Board-Ex until now. There is also a Rider Cup series, in Scotland, which has attracted sponsorship. Athletes have also been successful in achieving small personal sponsorships but, as yet, a Team sponsor has not been found.
The BSA have put coaching schemes in place, working with BASI, Snowsport Scotland and the BSSOA. While progress has been good, this area still requires an injection of funding over the next two years.
Aside from Snowboard matters, JOG had also been involved in the working party relating to development of Centres of Excellence. Following discussion at the last Congress, it was decided that this type of work can best be carried out within the Home Nations, who are currently working on specifications.
Graham Bell - Performance Director
(PR had been unavoidably delayed and arrived for the afternoon session)
GB reported that he had been working closely with PR on a number of issues. PR had also submitted the World Class Performance Plan - as yet, no response has been received.
GB provided more detail on the excellent results achieved this season.
In Alpine, Emma had four top 30 results and came very close to a top 10 finish in Are - unfortunately falling just before the finish. Alain is challenging World Cup and although he has not yet made his break, he improved his ranking early in the season and reinforced his position in April. Johnny Moulder-Brown has made a remarkable return from injury to finish 4th in the Noram SL rankings. Both Alain and Johnny will compete for GBR's one World Cup start place next season. Finlay Mickel has made huge improvements this year, largely as a result of work with his new British coach, Mark Tilston. Downhill had traditionally enjoyed more coverage than other types of ski racing and there are many PR advantages to having a Brit on the World Cup downhill circuit again. Amanda Pirie placed third in the Austrian National Championships (ahead of Dorfmeister). Amanda unfortunately injured herself shortly afterwards, but should be back in training by August. There have also been some very promising junior results. Paul McMillan is ranked 8th among Junior 1 men in slalom.
Sam Temple has had his best season to date in Freestyle Moguls and is having most success in the dual (head to head) competitions. His season best was 9th in World Cup Duals in Nagano, which was also a personal and British best.
While there is currently little British international activity in Freestyle aerials, the long awaited water ramp has been opened in Sheffield.
Lesley McKenna and Melanie Leando had 12 World Cup top 10s between them. Both have a best placing of 5th at World Cup - Melanie was also 5th at the World Cup Finals.
GB talked a little about his role within the BSSF. He was first employed in December 1998, partly in compliance with the Sports Council 10 point plan and partly in recognition of the need for guidance from an individual with more experience of the sport at its highest level. GB spent 14 years on the World Cup circuit. His contract has always been part-time, to allow Graham time to pursue his media interests, which also provide the BSSF with a useful PR platform and contacts. His aim is to put in place the right atmosphere to create results.
One of GB's first tasks was to review selection procedures, this process is now complete within Alpine. Althletes are now clear in their aims and have a defined performance pathway against which to measure themselves. Freestyle already had a more target led selection policy, although further development is required. Team athletes - particularly those with TAP (Scottish Lottery) funding - have clear annual targets. Targets for coaches need to be investigated, although success in terms of athlete results is as dependent on the quality of the athlete, as the performance of the coach. The correct coaching relationship is important. Clearly we have found the right combination with Mark Tilston and Finlay Mickel.
GB has also done a great deal of work in developing programmes with the coaches. We must be more tactical in our approach. Funding is still key - the better the funding the better the quality of the coaching staff and programmes. We await response on our level of UK Sport exchequer funding. Application has also been resubmitted for World Class Lottery funding for GBRs two elite snowboarders. The initial application was rejected, pending proof of the athletes' ability. With 12 World Cup top 10s and placings as high as 5th, we now have that proof. Forward planning is very difficult with funding levels only confirmed as the financial year begins. We must increase sponsorship levels. The search for sponsorship is the collective responsibility of all those involved in British competitive snowsports.
Peter Mitchell - Commercial Director
We have had some success in attracting new sponsorships with Morgan Stanley Dean Witter and Syntax Integration new contributors in 1999/2000. PM thanks PC for his efforts in attracting these two major new sponsors. We must also continue to promote our relationship with existing sponsors - notably The British Land Company PLC, Nevica and Audi UK.
We face intense competition in the market for sponsorship, not just from other sports but also from the Arts and other good causes. We must do everything we can to increase media coverage and create stars out of our athletes. While regular press releases are sent from Hillend, we need a stronger PR effort, ideally by professionals in this field, although it unlikely that our budgets will run to supporting this. The BOA now have a press officer working on wintersports, which is a facility we can tap into. We must also investigating PR already existing within the industry.
One major disappointment is the level of interest among recreational skiers. We must work to improve this profile.
Peter Clarke - Finance Director
We have been working very hard to tighten accounting procedures and coaches are now issued with weekly budgets and statements are received weekly from Company Barclaycard. We project a surplus against budget of approximately £1,000 by the year end.
The premises at East Calder was sold and the majority of the proceeds (£100,000) are currently ring-fenced within a deposit account. A Sports Council grant was used to buy the property initially and indications are that it will not be necessary to return this money if it is used exclusively for capital projects and is not swallowed up in revenue funding.
We have taken tentative steps towards forming a budget for next year, although until funding levels are confirmed - Sports Council, Lottery and sponsorship (probably late in July) the budgets are little more than a wish list based on ideal programmes.
Fiona McLean - Operations Director
FM outlined the work carried out by the office staff. She thanked Jennifer Kirkwood in particular for her work since she began at the BSSF in August. She is on a very steep learning curve, but coping well and is now well known to most of our callers. The office is the public face & voice of the Federation and an information point for athletes, media and sponsors.
Recent work includes the submission of the BSSF operational plan to secure funding for the coming year, the search for sponsorship and, in particular, official suppliers goes on. The office acts as a support structure for all the various roles carried out by the Board and particular attention has been paid this year to financial management and careful budgeting for next year is already underway.
Beyond the day to day activity FM had focused on 3 major areas for 1999/2000:-
1 The BSSF moved to new premises by Midlothian Ski Centre (Hillend) on 14th January 2000. This has been beneficial on a number of levels. In sharing facilities with Snowsport Scotland, savings will be made on practical items , such as the photocopier. On an intellectual level, there is a combined knowledge on hand and greater awareness of each others activities. The increase in the number of colleagues has had a positive effect on motivation and we are now more accessible to visitors. The new location should also be more attractive to sponsors.
2 The British Alpine Championships moved venue for the first time in many years, which breathed new life into the events for organisers, competitors and sponsors alike. The championships are our showpiece and we should make them as attractive as possible to all concerned. An Events Executive has now been formed to work specifically on events issues, such as the smooth co-ordination of the calendar and the provision of new ideas for branding, social programme, etc. Events Director, Cliff Webb chairs this committee and was forced to withdraw from today's meeting for family reasons. He had chaired a productive meeting of the Events Executive the previous evening, which had made some headway into organising the calendar for next year, and had begun discussions on the British Artificial Championships, which will take place in September in High Wycombe. We hope to open up our events to a wider audience by making them less discipline specific and inviting greater co-operation and understanding between our sports. There had been no British Freestyle Championships in 2000, but Kay Bates had had discussions with the Danes re 2001 and FM expressed her hope that a 2001 championships would be on the calendar.
3 FM had not made as much progress with the BSSF web presence as hoped, although she is currently investigating a number of new possibilities. The BSSF have made greater use of email to circulate results information and press releases to press, sponsors and friends, which has had a positive effect. The friends list is devoted to people with an interest and is designed to get people talking and create a 'buzz" about Team activity. Anyone who wishes to be added to this list need only email the office (firstname.lastname@example.org).
FM congratulated the athletes on their results this season and urged the support of Congress for their activities.
3.0 Q&A session
Mike Head asked Peter Mitchell when the BSSF was going to bring in more funding?
PM believes that we need to make a more concerted effort. In many ways, as well as competition from outside, we face competition from our member organisations. Perhaps a central register of sponsorship approaches could begin to address this issue. We must conduct and analysis of our press coverage. We receive more coverage than we think on BBC, Eurosport and a number of lifestyle oriented programmes.
There is also a benefit in approaching firms using existing sponsorship muscle. PC has been very successful in this area, using British Land contacts.
PM asked PC how British Land view their sponsorship of Alpine. As a company they are atypical in the sponsorship area, in that they use their sponsorships to access corporate hospitality opportunities, rather than for pure marketing purposes. They do not apply any financial measure of benefits. It is a difficult sell in pure marketing terms. MH cited the case of sailing, where sponsorship appears easy to come by.
Susie Berry asked if areas of corporate hospitality had been fully investigated. Syntax plan to use their sponsorship relationship with skiing to entertain customers and are planning a trip, possibly to the British Land Seniors and Kitzbühel in January. The BOA are also considering a corporate winter sports package. The BOA also has a register of athletes who accompany groups. Access to current skiers is difficult to plan, as schedules need to be flexible. We should perhaps co-opt a group of ex-athletes for this kind of task.
Richard Berry stated that more use should be made of the Skiers Trust of Great Britain. We should also be more co-ordinated in our approaches. The Skiers Trust ran a donation leaflet at the same time as the BSSF. TA asked for more details of how to use the trust to be provided. Mactaggart & Mickel use the trust in relation to their sponsorship. FM pointed out that she has had difficulty in communicating with officials of the Trust regarding an existing offer of funding. RB acknowledged that this was a problem and we recognise that the Trust is run on a voluntary basis.
Graham Beck raised concern over the suggestion that the ESC should also move to Hillend. The accommodation in Halesowen is very cheap and the administration has been slimmed down.
There was some discussion on differing levels of funding amongst the home nations and the effect of devolution on sport.
Alan Ashfield raised the issue of the children's team. GB explained that summer training had been organised last summer, a voluntary coach had been found in Malcolm Erskine and short training camps had been held prior to the most prestigious events. The intention was to get the best children 2 training together and encourage competition. Susie Berry stated that she had heard some very positive feedback from last year's summer training. Training with the senior and junior squads had been particularly inspiring and gave the children a clear idea of what they are aiming for in the long term. A clear competitive pathway is not fully established in Freestyle and Snowboard.
An improvement in the performance profile at senior level will have a positive knock on effect. A top result should also inspire a boost in recreational levels.
4.0 Constituent Group presentations
Jenny Shute presented a report on behalf of Snowsport Wales, who sent their apologies. The main points were as follows:-
The office has moved to cheaper accommodation (£500 per annum)
Their sports council funding has been cut again to £12K
Work has been carried out with other Home Nations on coaching schemes
Llandudno will host the European Artificial Championships (228 entries so far)
Graham Beck gave a brief update on the ESC, who held their AGM the day before. The new Board were as follows:-
Graham Beck (Chair), Graham Pickles, John Gledhill, Nigel Matthews, Benny Hill and Alan Ashfield
Graham Beck will be ESC Electoral College representative
FM would write to the ESC with regard to FIS licence costs, which currently include gender testing.
This led on to a discussion on the need for gender testing and other FIS Congress proposals. FM admitted that she had been slow to send out the proposals for discussion, for which she apologised. However, she had now circulated an email listing the issues for debate to as wide a group as possible. Those who wish further info can order it from the office. Some responses had been received. The information should also have been available on the FIS web site, but was not.
The Congress felt that this issue was merely symptomatic of the wider issue of communication. In many cases it appeared that decisions (not necessarily bad ones) were being made, but the chain of command was not clear. The general structure of the Board and its Executive committees needs clarification, as does the remit of each committee. It was felt that the Alpine Executive should deal with much wider issues than team matters. Concern was also raised about the decision making process with regard to FIS Congress delegates. The voting delegates must represent the wishes of the whole membership.
Delegates to FIS Congress were also asked to raise criticisms to FIS with regard to their web site and communications.
TA asked Susie Berry to draw up proposals for the shape and remit of executive committees. The Board should only need to ratify to the proposals of its executives.
4.3 Snowsport Scotland
Peter Bates presented on behalf of Snowsport Scotland
Team programmes at an elite level were run for Alpine and Freestyle squads
A whole range of policies had been put in place; child protection, equal opportunities, codes of conduct
Alpine Coaching schemes had progressed with co-operation from other organisation courses would be run to the same standard and with the same materials throughout the UK. There is no nordic coaching scheme, but one individual had been funded to take part in a foreign course. Snowboard coaching on dry slopes had been progressed and a number of safety issues had been addressed. There has also been work done on an adaptive course for disabled coaching
A quality scheme had been introduced for the clubs.
Following financial meltdown a few yeas ago, the organisation was in a much stronger financial situation.
Part-time regional development officers were now being sought.
Snowsport Scotland hold the following expectations of BSSF:-
Select on clear criteria and support the elite
Attract and manage funding equitably
Collaborate and communicate with constituent groups
Collaborate on coaching qualifications - support from Team coaches
Gain value for money from salaried staff
Andrew Lockerbie - British Ski Slope Operators Association
There has been good communication with the constituent groups
Work has been progressed on the star awards scheme - a Snowsport Scotland initiative
Work has been carried out on the web site
Together with the Snowsports Forum a "Teachers Little Helper" has been produced
The competitive pathway is confusing in snowboard as there are two different circuits. Athletes prefer the ISF circuit generally, but funding lies inextricably with the FIS circuit and the Olympics. A squad approach does not work for all disciplines.
There is a draft policy for support of high achievers currently on the table for Alpine athletes. A similar document needs to be drafted for Freestyle and snowboard. In a way, this is their reward for rewarding the team - e.g. a top 100 ranking = extra start place at EC
5.0 Chairman's Summary
TA was asked about the vice-chairman's resignation. Andrew Steel is generally supportive of the work that the Board is doing, but recently had felt that his views were not given sufficient weight.
90% of the 10 point plan has been achieved. This should not lead to complacency, but BSSF needs to move on from using these as our guide.
Finally, we congratulate all our athletes on their terrific performances last season.