BTF Preamble and background

In the “short” time I've been involved with triathlon, from complete novice, to Chair of a large UK club, to race organiser; volunteer at National, International and Commonwealth Games triathlons; competed at many of the Worlds largest and classic triathlons; a sometime GB Team Member etc. I think I've had broad exposure to both the way the current BTA works and the way triathlon does work and is managed in most of the major triathlon nations (USA, Australia, and Canada).

I've not stood for, nor been part of the regional or national set-up in the UK. It has been suggested from time to time that I stand for Eastern Region Chair or even indeed a board position on the BTA. However, each time I dismissed these suggestions out of hand as I still enjoy competing, and this has the demand of training for three sports. Most of all I declined because I wanted to use the time I had left to encourage and support newcomers to the sport to share the sense of achievement and satisfaction of starting and growing, in what is rightly considered one of the most demanding sports.

It is in this area, volunteers, I think is the crux of the discussion about the future of our sport, both its formal organisation and its structure. The proposed memorandum for the new British Triathlon Federation and Triathlon England, explicitly forbid their officers to be paid, except where employed. This means that all meetings and activities carried out by and for the various boards, councils and committees will be done be people volunteering their time.

One only needs to look at the number of meetings the committee members of Triathlon England regional committees will need to participate in up and through Triathlon England, the British Triathlon Federation council, the British Triathlon Federation Board, the four subcommittees and more to see how this might play out.

I think this is the key question. Can what is still a fledgling sport, with very, very few non-participating members support the organisation and structure proposed. I assert that it cannot. In addition, there are some serious constitutional implications in the documents published (09/02/06).

Since the first question asked when you dismiss is a proposal is “What is your alternative?” I simply put forward that what is needed is a variation on the current structure rather than the complex web that is currently proposed. The documents are putting in place a behemoth where one is not needed and which will mean those individuals currently volunteering will come under increasing pressure to do more.

However, there seem to be a number of truisms, which are inexorably linked and need to be considered when looking at the structure proposed.
I The future of employment in the UK has to become more focussed on the leisure industry – while I have no statistics, I would guess that there are now as many people employed directly and indirectly in the running of sports clubs and sports centres than there ever were in the coal mines!

II The Government, through the lottery and other schemes is investing heavily in sport and therefore it wants it investment to reflect its’ priorities and structure.

III The health of the nation needs to improve, and its weight needs to go down

The question that has to be asked, are the proposed organisational and structural changes the right way to approach these challenges?

Finally, at the 2004 British Triathlon Association Annual General Meeting I submitted an “Open Governance” requirement which was subsequently defeated at vote. This was submitted precisely so that there would be greater transparency and openness in the organisation which would, as it morphed and reorganised be carried over into the new bodies. I was assured at the time that the ideas and concepts would be considered and adopted where possible. What we see from the new organisation is that NONE of these have been adopted and in places the new body becomes more closed and restrictive by forbidding normal members access to accounts, minutes, AGM etc.