MARBELLA, Spain – The 2017 IIHF Semi- Annual Congress kicked off on Thursday, with national federations and associations from around the world gathering in Spain to discuss a wide range of topics surrounding ice hockey.
The Congress, taking place in Marbella, is held each September and heralds the start of a new hockey season. It follows the Annual Congress which was held during the World Championship in May, and gives the opportunity for IIHF member national associations to take part in workshops and meet directly with tournament hosts.
“The coming season is a very important one, especially considering that we have an Olympic year,” said IIHF President René Fasel in his welcome speech.
The Congress also aims to tackle many of the major issues facing MNAs and the sport in general. One of the first items on the agenda was a sobering presentation by Youth and Junior Development Committee chairman Petr Briza.
Briza introduced a carefully-researched and in-depth analysis conducted by the committee in cooperation with the IIHF office, on the status of the various developing MNAs, in a bid to shed light on the amount of investment currently being made into ice hockey development.
“We were talking throughout the season about development, within our committees and with others like Coaching,” said Briza.
We came to the conclusion that in order to understand the issues of other federations and how best help them with the resources we have, we needed to get more information and so decided to set up a questionnaire for MNAs, starting in February with a pilot group with countries in the Balkans and then extending it to other federations.
In total overall 64 MNAs of the IIHF’s 76 member national associations responded to the questionnaire. Briza shared some sobering statistics on date covering 46 of the respondent nations that participated in the 2016/17 IIHF Championship program.
For example, he said that 30% of federations have none or just one full-time staff member, and 43% have max of three full time staff.
“On one side we give a lot of respect and credit to these MNAs for the work they do, because sometimes it can feel like a Sisyphean task. But on the other side it shows our challenges to invest time and money for development when you have this kind of setup.”
On the financial side, Briza reported that 57% of the respondent MNAs do not generate enough revenue to break even on their yearly budget, which has a negative effect on development and infrastructure planning. In total, 63% of the federations didn’t spend more than 20% of their budget on development and coaching. On the facilities side, 11% of MNAs have none or just one ice rink that fits the IIHF requirements. 15% of MNAs have two or three indoor facilities.
“We face a lot of challenges ahead to increase these numbers,” admitted Briza, while emphasizing the need for individual reviews with MNAs on their long-term development plans.
The next item on the opening day of Congress was a major workshop addressing governance reform, the first of its kind to be organized by the IIHF. The Governance Reform Workshop main objective was to start dialogue with membership about the IIHF’s status.
“A year ago I said that we needed to have a review of our governance structure,” said Fasel. “There is a lot of pressure from other federations, from the IOC, from media, for all sports organizations to take steps to enhance their transparency and analyze their internal structures to see if they fall under principles of good governance.”
“We want to hear from you on this,” said Fasel, addressing the members directly. “Please do not hesitate to bring your ideas or your view on how the IIHF should work in the next five to ten years.”
“It is my goal that when I leave we have a structure within the federation that we can keep the dynamic of this hockey family but also enhance communication and discussion in this group. You are the delegates of your national associations and it is important for you to speak on their behalf.”
The workshop was presented by Dave Ogrean, the former executive director of USA Hockey who currently sits on the new IIHF Governance Reform Group.
“If you look at the financial health of the IIHF...the size of our Congress compared to when President Fasel began in 1994...the perception of the IIHF’s status in the international community...how it’s perceived by the IOC, the NHL, the KHL, and other winter sports federations in the Olympic movement, the IIHF is an organization that is held in very high regard and looked as a leader and a very successful federation.”
“But we have to plan for the future. As we go through these discussions we have to think about what is the best governance model for us? A lot of the backbone of this federation lies in volunteerism, which is why adopting a corporate approach may not be the best idea.”
“The word here is evolution, not revolution. There are other sports federations that have been embarrassed and had radical transition forced on them in the last couple of year, that's not us. We want to be efficient, we want to be fiscally responsible, and we want to be able to increase the exposure for our sport and have the game growing.”
The Congress was then canvassed on a series of questions about governance reform and the IIHF, on topics ranging from term limits for Council members, vote distribution among MNAs and potentially other stakeholders, and the distribution of power and responsibility within the current IIHF structure. In the leadup to the next Congress, the reform group will evaluate the input from the MNAs and come up with recommendations.
“Nobody in our group is suggesting that we need to change, but we need to determine whether we should change, because we all want a healthy IIHF.”
Delegates from the 50 member national associations in attendance then got together into groups for the IIHF Rule Proposal Workshop. The Workshop was initiated as a way to get direct feedback from the IIHF membership on 19 Major Rule Proposals that were submitted for consideration to include in the 2018-2022 IIHF Rule Book.
The vote on the Rule Proposals will take place on Friday, among the rule proposals being tabled are:
-Changing size of the goal crease to National Hockey League standards
-Use of technology (tablets) on the bench by team staff for statistical purposes
-New rule proposal addressing goals scored with the net frame off
-New video goal judge review criteria
-Revised interpretations in the IIHF Rulebook