FAI President's letter - July 2011

Dear Air Sport Friends,

As I sit down to write these lines I am still overwhelmed by the sad news of the recent sudden death of the General Aviation Commission President Hans Johann Gutmann. My thoughts and sympathy are with his family, and to reduce the load on them – and to fully appreciate the work he did promoting air sports and General Aviation – please turn to:

Nevertheless, I wish to send you this update on what’s going on within the FAI Executive Board. It is the first of what I intend to be routine open letters from myself to the FAI community. In fact, I intend to get the regular FAI Newsletter up and running again, reporting on the FAI position in the World of Sports and highlights from the various Commission newsletters.
It has been quite an experience to take on the work as the new President of FAI, and to lead a new Executive Board. I am most grateful for the support of the board and the staff at our headquarters.

The FAI General Conference (GC) in Dublin in October gave us several important missions

  1. The most far-reaching was a complete review of the structure and function of FAI as an organisation based on the report from our Secretary General.
  2. We were also tasked to further develop the ideas of the Strategic Task Force (STF).
  3. The 3rd major task was to review the financial management of the FAI, as presented at GC  in conjunction with the auditors.

A number of quite heavy strategic issues, to say the least.

Apart from this, there was a strong voice from our members (NACs) about the level and type of support they expect to be provided by the FAI.

Your new board then had a meeting in early December, brought forward from the usual late January date, to enable us to get on with reviewing and prioritising the missions. This we did, taking into account the feedback from the conference in Dublin and also reviewing the process that the Secretary General had gone through to reach his recommendations. We set up areas of responsibility/portfolios for each board member, and a Finance and Report Task Force (FRTF) with our Finance director in the Chair, and started to work.

Meanwhile there have been a number of urgent issues -“bush-fires” if you like - and to give you some idea about these, here are some examples of major time and energy consuming issues that started considerable e-mail debate, not always fully updated with the facts.

  • Air Sport Commission Secretary position. Shortly before an Air Sport Commission Meeting a NAC withdrew support for their Delegate, who was also the Commission Secretary and the person responsible for setting up the conference. This caused considerable disturbance in the Commission and our organisation and a lot of frustration for all parties involved. Although our HQ and a designated board member put a lot of effort into resolving the issue, it took some time, and only after significant (but not always subtle) diplomacy the issue was solved to everybody’s satisfaction, but - as another NAC pointed out - it did not enhance the reputation of FAI’s ability to deal with serious issues in a timely manner. We have learnt from this event and have changed the FAI By-Laws to better accommodate this most unusual situation.
  • Doping. A Category 1 world class competitor was penalized for doping for not reporting medical treatment within the required timeframe. Apart from the unjustified bad-will created for the athlete involved and for our sport, this caused a major discussion on WADA relations and the possibility and sense of appealing to the Court of Appeal for Sports (CAS). Most of us agree there are no effective performance enhancing drugs within air sports; nevertheless we must abide by WADA regulations to remain an IOC recognized sport organisation. WADA compliance is also, in many member countries, a pre-requisite for sport grants. We are now reluctantly forced to introduce a WADA Registered Testing Pool, to implement out-of-competition testing. A lot of work has been done to reduce the impact on our athletes – very few will be involved – and more information on this will follow. We will continue to fight this costly overregulation that might be appropriate for some sports but is irrelevant for ours.
  • IT melt-down. The company constructing our new Web site promised to have it up and running by April and we took the risk that our old server would not break down before that. We were then informed that our new site would not be ready before September and, of course, in April the old server broke down. So all work with the new site was put on hold, a new supplier brought in, and all efforts concentrated on moving the old web site to the new server piece by piece and to set up the new web site gradually. First previews of the new site shortly.
  • On a more positive note; we have signed the final contract and bought our new offices in the “Maison du Sport International” and moved in. This is the same building as many other sport federations. It has excellent facilities, and if you have the chance - please do look in!

Meanwhile, the work of the board with reviewing FAI structure and function, the STF recommendations, and the financial management of the FAI has been continuing.

To review the structure and function of a 105-year old, non-profit, organisation run mostly by volunteers is a sensitive issue. Many present anomalies are due to compromises and changes made a long time ago.

We have had live (and lively) consultations with the Commission Presidents. I am very pleased to increasingly involve our Commission Presidents more in FAI strategic issues, and now I plan to have similar consultations with those NAC Presidents that can make it to our meeting in August, hosted by our Centenary Founder member Aero Club of Italy. I appreciate that this meeting is not required under our Statutes, but I see it as an opportunity to engage with those NAC Presidents and representatives who are able to attend. For me it is important to get to know the key office holders in our member organisations better, and the GC week leaves little time for this.
Also, I anticipate that we will get more feedback on the discussed Statute changes at this meeting – maybe we can avoid some time consuming debate at the GC this way!

Finally I need to inform you that our Secretary General, Stéphane DESPREZ, will be leaving his position at his own request as from October 2011.

Now I wish you all a wonderful season of beautiful flights, training and competition; always fun and stimulating – in the spirit of Hans Gutmann.
Best regards,      
John Grubbström