AIPS overhauls sports commissions with eye to the future

by Emanuel Fantaneanu, AIPS Executive Committee Member

Lausanne, May 23, 2018 – It was on the Agenda of the 81th Brussels Congress, a point which, I believe, was quickly exhausted, even if it marked an extremely important moment in the life and structure of AIPS: the AIPS Sports Commissions, a fundamental pillar of the organisation.

AIPS’ difficult position – In my intervention from the congress stage, I stated: “In the today world of traditional media and new media on one side and on the other hand the world of sport, AIPS has a tough position, but can play an important role in the world of media and sport, considering its position, its principles, its traditions, its targets and its objectives generally accepted by global media and sport community… AIPS proved every time the flexibility in finding the best ways to maintain their prestige and be one of the media organizations recognized at the highest level. AIPS needed to adapt its actions in accordance with the new demands of a media and sport – constantly changing, constantly moving, constantly evolving technology, constantly modify the concept and concepts, social and economic condition, a constant chase for money mostly ignoring fair play and true values, more – to remain a strong organization, able to defend the real values of quality journalism in a quality environment…”

The role of the commissions – In this form and formula, established almost five decades ago, Commissions have functioned as a bridge between the world of sports media represented by AIPS and sports organizations. That has been their role. The AIPS Statute is very clear: “… These Commissions are responsible for the assertion of AIPS aims and interests and to cooperate with the Sports Associations and organizing bodies; recognize and maintain the authority and autonomy of its member associations; promote closer links between its member associations and the sports organizations; coordinate and protect the ethical and professional interests of its members and its member associations; develop the sporting spirit and solidarity among sports journalists throughout the world and to spread the ideals of fair-play in sports journalism and sports reporting; collaborate with organizations having as their objective the promotion of sport on a world-wide basis and to encourage them to facilitate the work of professional sport media; assist sports organizations which form mixed media Commissions and to help all sports organizing bodies by providing its experts to consult and advise in creating the best possible media service”… and more. Colleagues, who have worked over the years in these Commissions, with passion and soul, tried, but were to excel in their work.

Radical transformation – But, as I said, year by year, day by day, media and sports had undergone radical transformations, both in the way of action, and the relationships between them. Time and times have changed. Particularly in the last quarter of a century. Today, “…journalism is heading into a different era, where technology and data are becoming more important. This is giving more people the opportunity to enter into the field. The downward trend of the news industry looks bleak, but sports journalism is one of the fastest growing forms of media; and with the incorporation of technology and data, it isn’t slowing down anytime soon. In sports, statistics mean everything, which makes data driven journalism important. This creates a strong need for numerically-savvy journalists who can filter data, process and analyze it, and present information in clear and meaningful ways” (Sports Media: Transformation, Integration, Consumption – Andrew C. Billings)

Structural change – Caught in this veritable storm of change of the media, sport and global politics, AIPS has realized that we need a structural change in the Commission’s work. It’s clear, the influence of sports journalism in improving the quality of sport and increasing the awareness of public about sport and sport culture represent a very actually issue. Today, sport is becoming an industry and sports journalism as well. But, to better understand “the world” AIPS must act to achieve their objectives, we must also address an important aspect, which exceeds the strict scope of media and sport, but has a great influence: political interference in both areas.

In the world of business (traditional media, social media, sport) with a lot of money swashing in, between these “poles” – classic media, social media and sport or “media industry” and “sports industry” – AIPS has a difficult position.

Working group – One of the roads that AIPS may engage directly with high probability of success is adapting the AIPS Commissions structure to the new trend of the media and sports, but also to redefine the obligations and mode of action of each. A new strategy regarding the structure and activities of the AIPS Sport Commission has been proposed. As a result, AIPS has created a Working Group (Emanuel Fantaneanu – AIPS EC Member, Jura Ozmec – Treasurer and General Secretary, Josef Langer – AIPS EC Member), tasked with drafting these documents.

After several months of work our group developed a new vision for the Commission. On this road the Working Group work very hard and, finally, opted for a format with more flexibility, but with more responsibilities for all. “Balance” tilted in favor of a single “spearhead” – AIPS OFFICIAL DELEGATES – , who will replace the existing Commissions.

Purpose – For what? For better work. Our representatives should be a true community of experts with wide experience in the coverage and press organization of major sports events in the world, in permanent contact with international and continental sport organizations, world press and more. The conclusion of the analysis: this is only one way to stay alive, to have a strong and independent connection with the “sports industry”, represented in particular by the IOC, International and Continental Federations (FIFA, IAAF, FIAS, FIBA, FIG, FINA, IHF /EHF, UWW, IFBB and more) and major global sports organizations (International university sports federation – FISU, Association of International Olympic Winter Sports Federations – AIOWF; Association of IOC Recognized International Sports Federations – ARISF; Association of Summer Olympic International Federations – ASOIF; International Paralympic Committee – IPC; Sport Accord – GAISF; International World Game Association – IWGA and more).

In this way, the IOC, International Federations, Continental Federations, National Federations and many of sports clubs created and have “media entities”, have strong media departments that produce various press materials (interviews, photographs, films, video, Internet platforms etc.) that make them available and sell to the press and many journalists as a result of the crisis have chosen to work in these departments.

Obstacles to the profession – I recall, least but not last, having to face the ‘media industry’ with an impressive business, most sports entities began to impose its own media rules, even if they are exaggerated, and to sell their “products” at increasingly higher prices. These evolutions become heavy obstacles that block much of the media work to inform the public. Monopolies of big companies are looming large. Unfortunately, in chasing profit, the rules are not complied with, the frontier between sports business and media businesses is very fragile. Owners of media companies are at the same time owners of clubs, or players, seeing this deal as a source of profit.

Support of the national associations – Let’s go back. This change can’t be “impressive” at first sight. It comes after almost five decades. But careful analysis suggests it is a major change in every sense for AIPS. Not only in terms of organization, but, moreover, in terms of responsibilities. All the progress will depend on how each representative of AIPS will get involved, as he or she will know how to put their expertise and skills to the service of the journalistic community. Also, the support and involvement of all the National Associations, whose contribution is essential for the development of all AIPS Programs, should not be neglected. Of course, until the final implementation of these restructuring, many steps need to be taken. And they will be taken.

A final word. When the General Assembly approved this new change, it marked a true turning point not only in this important sector of AIPS activity, but it also confirmed that AIPS permanently looks to the future of our profession. From this perspective, I think this moment has become really important, demonstrating greater involvement and more responsibility for AIPS in the future.

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