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Zhik 2024 March - LEADERBOARD

ISAF knew of Youth World champions' exclusion issue from outset

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World.com NZL 5 Jan 2016 23:06 PST 6 January 2016
2015 World U-19 RS:X Champion Yoav Omer competing in the RS:X Class Youth World Championships, Gdynia, Poland in July 2015 © Robert Hajduk / www.shuttersail.com

A detailed search of the Minutes of the then International Sailing Federation show that concerns over competitor entry were raised in 2011, when Langkawi, Malaysia was approved as the venue for the 2015 Youth World Championship.

Those concerns were that not all competitors would be allowed to compete in the event.

That premonition turned in reality on Christmas Eve for two Israeli windsurfers who had won the RS:X Class Youth World Championships in Portugal, earlier this year, and looked to be assured of a medal of some colour in the ISAF Youth Regatta, staged in Malaysia.

A protracted negotiation took place between the Malaysian Sailing Association and other parties, which resulted in a letter being sent to the Israel Sailing Association, which had what were described by the CEO of the Israel Sailing Association as 'grave conditions' relating in part to the requirement that they could not compete as Israel flagged entries, could not have their anthem played if they won. There was a total of seven draconian requirements, any one of which which would not have been tolerated by any other team.

The question as to the issuance of visas went right to the level of the Malaysian Cabinet, and the Minister of Youth and Sport is reported as saying the exclusion of Israel was a political one, having initially claimed the decision to decline was on security grounds.

As well as the 'grave conditions ' imposed, the Malaysian authorities had not sent visas to the sailors by Christmas Eve, three days before the start of the regatta, when the team was due to depart. The Israelis were effectively forced to withdraw. The visas still have not arrived.

Similar tactics were used by Oman against an Israeli sailor, competing in November 2015 in the World Laser Radial Championship. In that situation the visas arrived late, and the sailor missed two vital days of practice at the regatta venue.

The possibility that all entitled competitors might not be able to sail in the 2015 Youth Worlds was noted and reported through all levels of the International Sailing Federation - from the Events Committee through to the Executive Committee and ISAF Council, in November 2011 when the prestigious regatta was awarded to Langkawi.

After the news that the Israel Sailing Association had its team, the world sailing organisation acted with alacrity after finding out that the Malaysian Government failed to issue entry visas to the two World U-19 RS:X Champions.

Despite the swift response to the news headlines, the situation appears to have had the 'Ignore' box ticked since a site visit by an ISAF official in 2012, which reported no major issues. At that time it would have been known to all that the regatta was, and is, required to be open to all ISAF member nations. It would also have been known that the Malaysian immigration policy had been in place since 1998.

The Malaysian bid to host the 2015 Youth Worlds was first put on the table at the 2011 meeting of the ISAF's Youth Sub Committee. Page 6 of the Minutes for that meeting, held as part of the ISAF's Annual Conference on November 5 at the Caribe Hilton Hotel, San Juan, Puerto Rico records:

(a) Bids 2015 and beyond

The Youth Worlds Sub-committee received a bid from the Malaysian Sailing Federation for the potential host for the 2015 championship and made a recommendation to the Events Committee. Unfortunately there was no one from the organizing authority present at the meeting. As a result, it will be important that a site visit takes place early in 2012 to confirm the suitability of the venue and to meet with the Organizers.

The Youth Sub Committee, chaired by Fiona Kidd (CAN) made a recommendation to the ISAF Council - which is comprised of nominated representatives from the various geographical regions of the ISAF. That recommendation from the Youth Worlds Sub-Committee didn't reference the situation that visas could be withheld for some competitors.

Recommendation to Council

The Youth Worlds Sub-committee recommends to the Events Committee to approve Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia as the host of the 2015 ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships to be held from 27 December 2015 – 06 January 2016, subject to a successful site visit and satisfactory contractual arrangements.

The full 2011 Youth World Sub Committee Minutes can be found here.

Four days later on November 9, 2011 at the same venue in Puerto Rico, the Events Committee endorsed the recommendation from the Youth Events Committee, but made a comment in their recommendation to Council that all MNA's (Member National Authorities or ISAF-Speak for Nations). Interestingly one country voted against and three abstained.

The Chairman of the Events Committee at that time was Chris Atkins (GBR), now an ISAF Vice President and the man sent by now World Sailing, to Langkawi to report back to the Executive Committee on the reasons why the visas were not sent for the two World Champions.

Page 4 - Recommendation to Council

The Events Committee recommends that Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia is approved as the host of the 2015 ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships to be held from 27 December 2015 – 06 January 2016, subject to a successful site visit and satisfactory contractual arrangements and on the basis that all ISAF MNAs are able to participate in the event.

Vote: 17 Approve, 1 against, 3 abstention

The Full 2011 Events Committee Minutes can be found here.

That Recommendation got passed onto the Executive Committee of the ISAF. (The Executive Committee is top of the administration hierarchy at ISAF and comprises the President, seven Vice-Presidents and Treasurer (non-voting).

On page 9 of the Executive Committee Minutes for the 2011 Annual Conference it states:

v) 2015 ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships
It was reported that athletes from some nations might be denied entry to Malaysia for the 2015 Championships.

Decision: The Secretary General will investigate and report to the Executive Committee February 2012 meeting.

The full Executive Committee minutes with a special note of item (c)(iv) on Page 9 can be found here.

That comment is as plain as day, and correctly outlined the concerns which had been noted and addressed by the outgoing Executive Committee, which had just 12 months left of its four year term.

Although the Secretary General/CEO (then Jerome Pels) was tasked with investigating the Malaysian proposal and specifically the restriction of entry, there is no Minuted summary or comment of the visit and report (which was undertaken by the Sailing World Cup manager). Any assurances given by the Malaysians were not minuted - if they were received.

This is the first formal indication that the ISAF were aware that there was a potential issue with the issuance of entry visas to competitors for the World Championship - which according to the Notice of Race approved by ISAF in December 8, 2014 states that the event must be open to to all MNA's in good standing with the ISAF.

On Page 46 of the 2011 ISAF Council Minutes

On a proposal from Chris Atkins, seconded by John Crebbin, Council approved the recommendation from the Events Committee for Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia to host the 2015 ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships to be held from 27 December 2015 – 06 January 2016 to May 2012 subject to a successful site visit and satisfactory contractual arrangements and on the basis that all ISAF MNAs are able to participate in the event (5 reject, 1 abstain, 32 approve - 38 participated).

The full 2011 Council Minutes noting the comment above on Pages 45 (bottom) and top of Page 46 can be found here.

At a Council level it is clear that there was an understanding and concern over all MNA's being able to participate in the 2015 Youth Worlds if they were to be held in Malaysia.

The ISAF then considered the matter at the next round of end of year meetings in 2012. This time in the Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire, Ireland.

At this meeting the Malaysian Sailing Association did front up and present. The Minutes of the Youth Worlds Sub-Committee are self-explanatory. The point of note is that the Sub-Committee did receive the report from the Sailing World Cup Manager Antonio Gonzales de la Madrid, a permanent ISAF staff member. It said there were no major concerns.

On Page 7 2012 Youth Worlds Sub-Committee

The ISAF Youth Sailing World Championship 2015, Langkawi, Malaysia

(a) Progress Report
The Sub-committee received a progress report and presentation from Mr Megat Will from the Organizing Committee on the contractual arrangements and preparation for the event. The event will take place in the December/January time frame as per the event regulations. The organizers confirmed the event would not be suitable to hold the Championship in July as the weather is not appropriate at that time of year.

(b) Site Visit
The Sub-committee received a report from the Sailing World Cup Manager on his site visit 28 – 30 March 2012. It was noted at this stage there were no major concerns

The full Youth World Sub-Committee Minutes noting the comments on Page 7 can be found here.

After that comment there seems to be no further reference in the Minutes for the 2013, 2014 or published meetings in 2015, to the possibility that visas might not be issued to some competitors.

It should be noted that in November 2012, at the same conference the ISAF elections were held for a new President, new Vice-Presidential ticket, and all Committee positions.

At that same meeting the Youth Worlds Sub-Committee held its last meeting - losing a level of review and specific focus on the conduct of the ISAF Youth World Championship.

Carlo Croce (ITA) came in as President. Chris Atkins moved up from being Chairman of the Events Committee to being one of seven Vice-Presidents. Pablo Masseroni (ARG) took over as Events Committee Chairman.

From the timelines previously published in Sail-World it is obvious that there was some negotiation and discussion underway for some time over the likelihood that entry visas were not going to be issued to the Israeli sailors and coach.

While the ISAF/World Sailing may claim that they were caught unawares by the Israel Sailing Association's withdrawal on Christmas Eve - three days before the start of the World Championship, there can be no doubt that the world sailing body was aware of the issue from the outset.

If assurances were given by the Malaysian Sailing Association over competitor entry, and these have clearly not been met, then that is a very serious matter.

The consequences for the two World Champion sailors involved are irreversible.

The situation is compounded by the Malaysian Minister of Youth and Sport saying before the regatta that the visa issue was for security reasons, and after the opening ceremony told the local media that they were not issued for political reasons. Many would see that comment and change in stance as being a deliberate act of deceit by the Malaysians.

While the ISAF/World Sailing has not denied prior knowledge of the entry visa issue, the organisation has expressed a degree of surprise and requested an urgent report from Chris Atkins, who was Events Committee Chairman in the period when this issue was first raised in 2011. Atkins attended the Langkawi event representing the ISAF/World Sailing who send the President or a Vice-President to each Youth Worlds. It is believed that much of the interim report was written by Chris Atkins, who is now apparently cast in the role of 'Mr Fix-It'.

World Sailing has called for an emergency meeting for January 7-8, 2016 - which is the normal February Meeting bought forward, (that having been rescheduled at least a month ago) rather than a special meeting in itself to consider the issue and actions.

The meeting is also expected to confirm the appointment of a new CEO for World Sailing to replace Peter Sowrey who stayed just five months in the role.

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