By Callum Murray at SportAccord in Bangkok
World Rowing, the international rowing federation, is considering opening its new bidding process, or ‘event attribution process’, for the World Rowing Championships of 2025 and 2026, after the system helped it to find a host for the 2022 event, despite the federation having received no formal bids for the championships.
Following in the footsteps of the International Olympic Committee, the new process, which was launched last year after a lengthy consultation process, aims to identify hosts and assign events through a process of negotiation and consultation, instead of via a traditional bid process with fixed deadlines.
Speaking on the sidelines of the SportAccord convention here in Bangkok, Matt Smith, World Rowing’s executive director, told Sportcal: “What we’ve recognised is we have a lot of investment going into venues by government authorities. National federations can’t do it without government authorities. We need to be more flexible in our rhythms, to adjust to theirs.
"We’re now in a four-stage process for 2021 to 2024, in which we listen to the goals, ambitions and strategic objectives of the authorities and venue operators to try to match up with them, to make our event calendar better match their rhythms. Up to now it was an arbitrary process that didn’t match their calendar. Now, it’s a two-year consultation process of alignment and understanding."
Asked if the process had been directly influenced by the IOC’s Agenda 2020 reforms, which have resulted in a looser, more consultative bid process for the Olympic Games, Smith said: “We are paying very close attention to the IOC. Going around here [SportAccord] the uptake shows the new approach is very much appreciated. They want a strategic approach.”
Last month, Racice in the Czech Republic was chosen to host the World Rowing Championships in 2022 after no suitable bid was received, prompting the ruling FISA Council to take action.
The federation said in a statement: “The bid attribution was made directly by the FISA Council in accordance with FISA Rule 6 that states 'Where no bid has been received or when no bid meets the minimum requirements for consideration of Congress, the Council may identify a suitable candidate and may directly attribute the event provided the Council is satisfied that the bid meets the minimum standards for the regatta'.”
The 2021 World Championships will be hosted by Shanghai.
Smith said: “We will probably open up 2025 and 2026 as well. We have a longlist of appropriate regatta venues. It’s not cheap to prepare a complex bid. The likes of UK Sport and Events New Zealand appreciate this long-term approach.
"The first phase [of the process] runs to 31 July, during which we’ll meet with national federations and government authorities to listen and get an indication of what events they’re interested in. We’ll collect confidentially preliminary indications. If we have two venues interested for one year, and none for the next, we can discuss one of them moving. Then we work out if we have a competitive process or go straight to attribution.”
The procedure is as follows:
1. Expression of interest Dec 2017 to 31 July 2018: Interested national federations, organising committees and government authorities inform FISA (World Rowing) of their event objectives for the period 2021-2028 and indicate the events they are interested in hosting for the 2021-2024 period. Indications of interest in events from 2025 to 2028 may also be provided. A video conference or meeting in Lausanne may be requested to discuss an expression of interest in more detail.
2. Preliminary allocation and reassignment of events 1 Aug 2018 to 31 Oct 2018: FISA reverts to interested parties with suggestions for alternative events where they have indicated interest in an event in which more than one organisation is interested.
3. Bid preparation period 1 Nov 2018 to 31 Mar 2019: Distribution of bid documentation and preparation of preliminary bid dossiers, including bid questionnaires and bid budgets. Site visits would be conducted to those venues that have not hosted a World Rowing event in the past four years.
4. Final bid submission 31 May 2019: Deadline for submission of final bid dossiers, including guarantees and accommodation offers. Bid presentations to the FISA Council may be required depending on the event.
5. Attribution 2 Sep 2019: Attribution of the events by the FISA Congress or FISA Council, depending on the event.
Meanwhile, Smith said that World Rowing has undergone a “big re-evaluation” of its sponsorship portfolio, with the help of Octagon, the international sports marketing agency, to “assess our assets and improve the presentation of those assets.”
With no top-tier sponsors presently signed up, Smith said it was important for the federation to present a “new value proposition.”
He added: “It’s a very tough environment for sports organisations, with recent corruption scandals in sport. But we believe we can differentiate ourselves, through our association with water, the World Wildlife Fund, the spirit of rowers and our tough position on doping [World Rowing has been one of the most uncompromising of international federations in relation to the recent Russian doping scandal].
“It’s a very difficult moment and that’s why we’ve stopped, restructured and reassessed. At present we have minor sponsors and suppliers, but we’re looking for a presenting sponsor and major partners, and we believe that because of our business-to-business appeal we will have four to five.”