BTF Summary Opinions

Any current (2005/06) members wishing to have or say in the new rules, structure and articles of association for the national governing body of triathlon in the UK must rejoin the current Britsh Triathlon Association (BTA) on April 1st. Since an Extraordinary General Meeting is proposed for the end of April, only members at that time will be able eligible to vote.

There are serious inconsistencies between the articles of association for the various bodies proposed and these cannot be allowed to go forward without correction. For example, as drafted (09/02/06), Triathlon England (TE) is not required to hold an AGM. It could be implied that it is by way of inheriting its’ governing principles from the British Triathlon Federation (BTF). However, the TE Regulations explicitly state that the Regional Committees of TE must have an AGM in October of each year. As second example, is that the makeup and voting structure of the regional meetings is specified but it is not for Triathlon England. It could be argued it is implied by the fact the committee consists of only the Chairman of the Regional committees. I see no reason why Triathlon England shouldn’t have an AGM, publish minutes, accounts etc.

How else will ordinary members see what is going on at a National Federation level and feel that they can contribute?

The language used in the documents “Memorandum of Association of the Brtish Triathlon Federation”, “Articles of Association of the British Triathlon Federation”, and “Triathlon England Regulations” is classic British legal speak. It does the legal minimum to define the structure and limit liability as required by law dating back 20-years. What it doesn’t do, and there is NO reason why it should not, is to define the spirit and principles of a modern association operating in a modern world. There is no reason why these documents cannot require the new bodies to publish minutes, accounts, attendance records on the federation and its’ committees on a web site etc. Legally accurate? Maybe. Useful? Not.

As currently drafted the position of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is all-powerful and pretty much unaccountable, as are those of a number of other important positions. There is no doubt that through the Government investment, the size and income of the sport in the UK there is a need for a fulltime CEO as well as other positions.

While the position of CEO has restricted voting rights, as granted by these papers, it would seem that the CEO is able to attend at will any meeting that HE(document language) wants without restriction. This gives HIM(document language) the ability to assert power and influence directly to all levels of the sport. In fact, the position of CEO requires no competency in the sport itself, only in the running of an association/business. I see no reason why these articles and regulations should codify the ability of the CEO to attend any meeting EXCEPT those where he has a direct role, such as the BTF Board and BTF Council. This is especially true since all relevant committees have the ability to invite external participation. Except where required by company law(ie BTF board, Council, articles/regulations granting power to the CEO to attend meetings should be struck off.

The documents include governance conditions which are unacceptable. For example, members are explicitly forbidden access to the accounts of the federation under article-79. of the BTF. Without further justification this must be removed otherwise it encourages complicity and secrecy.

While the current structure of triathlon in the UK, with the BTA representing English triathlon and assuming authority over Scotland and Wales for International organisation, elite programs etc. The documents as written give no assurances to members of the Scottish and Welsh associations that the new organisation does anything different. They give the appearance of devolution, but offer no written guarantee ascension to the BTF will deliver this. Such a guarantee should be codified in the articles of association and acknowledge Triathlon Scotland and Welsh Triathlon have total control of their own affairs, race organisation, rules etc. as a right. I would also want to see the role and relationship of the BTF board and CEO in relation to these National Governing Bodies (NGBs) documented as it is for Triathlon England.

All these points can be verbally justified, members should remember that volunteer sport is probably one of the most contentious organisational arena. As more and more money comes into the sport the number of people wanting their share will increase and this creates political and organisational tensions. It is not the spirit of the documents that will be tested in court, but what is written and this must be as clear and unambiguous as possible, with little or no room for interpretation.

While the regionalisation of the association is being carried out, the new structure also aims at encouraging greater participation. The reality is that I believe it will fail as the current engagement rules as defined in these documents, still shut out and disenfranchise too many active triathletes. Even at a regional level, let alone national level, having to travel to/from meetings will often require people to take a half day off work, and almost certainly cause them to miss one or more training sessions.

The language and probably the intent of the article of association is to require members and board/committee members to physically attend meetings in order to have a say and especially vote in important business of the federation and Triathlon England. This is simply unacceptable in the current day and age. In order to solicit greater input into meetings and voting, their must be postal or internet voting and meetings should make available teleconference or Internet broadcast facilities. While these may not be perfect they are much cheaper, and in many cases free.

There is no allowance or structure within the articles of association and Triathlon England regulations for representation from those members who do not belong to an affiliated club and do not live within one of the nine Triathlon England regions. It is not clear if this is an oversight or deliberate policy to disenfranchise non-resident members.

Despite having put considerable time into reviewing and thinking about the proposed changes, my view will not be heard and I will not be able to participate in a vote at the upcoming EGM unless I travel at my expense from the USA. I may consider doing that, but I know many UK triathletes who feel they cannot afford the travel to participate in a meeting where they just want to vote for or against a motion. Many other aspects of the Federation also serve as a barrier to remote participation and for the membership to be more active in the running of the federation, you could argue that this is desirable since the less involved the general membership is, the less likely they are to disagree and disrupt proposed changes, as generally no one likes change!

I cannot support the proposed changes unless there is significant change to both wording and intent outlined in the reviewed documents, as noted earlier I won’t have that opportunity unless I give-up 3-days of time and travel some six thousand miles. Progress or change?