Tennis, basketball chiefs address monthly Olympic conference

JEDDAH: The Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee (SAOC) held its 2nd monthly virtual conference on Wednesday titled “Managing National Sports Federations.”

The conference attracted the participation of guest speakers Kelly Fairweather, chief operating officer at the International Tennis Federation (ITF), and Florian Pasquet, national federations and sport senior associate at the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), and was attended by more than 150 sports officials and specialists.

Speaking on behalf of SAOC president Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, SAOC director of international relations Prince Fahad bin Jalawi said Saudi Arabia has 64 Saudi sport federations some of which were only inaugurated 1 or 2 years ago.

“Improving the infrastructure is key in leveling up the game in any national federation,” said Pasquet in his speech, which focused on empowering national federations. He pointed out six important steps to follow based on FIBA strategy to empower national federations. These are building professional leadership, boosting grassroots basketball, leveling up the game, developing next generation of talents, professionalizing national teams’ structures, and building event hosting capacity.

He said that FIBA, for example, is not an organization for teaching all coaches around the world. “The national organizations have this responsibility. The only sustainable way to do it is to build the capacity of referees and coaches. To build the instructors’ capacity around the world,” he said.

Prince Fahad bin Jalawi

Speaking about the ITF model, Kelly Fairweather explained that federations are now reviewing their plans after the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. For him, the importance of having a solid structure is crucial. “We want more players, or better players. You need a better approach based on your nation’s goals. Every successful sporting federation had a good strategy and a good implementation of that strategy,” said Fairweather.

The speakers also agreed on the importance of learning from the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic. Fairweather said, “It’s a wake-up call for all of us with COVID-19, you have to spend your money very wisely. It’s a difficult time but will get better.”

Pasquet added that, although the federation does not usually encourage e-sport and prefers to encourage kids to stay active and try out different sports, e-sports are a new source of income, a new way to engage our fans, and automatically bring in new opportunities for our sports.

An important topic was raised about the successful relationships between the national federations, national Olympic committees and the ministries of sport. Pasquet explained that it is always based on trust, so the national federation should have the trust of the other two organisations. Fairweather explained that to deliver a successful federation management strategy you need to focus on; leadership and governance, income generation, and the technical development in sport itself.

To conclude, Prince Fahad said, “We were happy to have the presence of Mr. Fairweather, who represented an individual sport federation (tennis), and Mr. Pasquet, who showcased an example from a team sport federation (basketball). They both answered many questions as they represented different strategies and added value to our organisations through exchanging their experiences in the field.”

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