IOF Financials – the past is dark, the future is unclear

With this post I would like to give the confidence to the representatives of Member Federations before the vote on the 2019-20 budget on the IOF General Assembly next weekend. I know that for people with no finance background it often looks like a daunting task to interpret financial statements and have confidence in their decision. So I would like to assure them that based on the IOF’s track record for the past 10 years, and especially for the past 2 years since the 2016 General Assembly, their vote doesn’t matter.

No matter how Members Federations vote, the IOF Leadership will spend the money the way they want, independent of the GA approved budget.

In this post I will quickly review the past, present and future of IOF finances as presented on recent General Assemblies.

Continued historic underperformance

The publication of the 2017 results and the forecast for the 2018 published in the Congress Binder have confirmed the remarkable feat achieved:

The IOF Leadership has missed the budget target set by themselves for 10 years in a row.

I wrote about this earlier here and here, the numbers published for the 2018 General Assembly just confirmed the expectations.

Ten years underperformance - Sept 2018

Not only the continued underperformance against their own budget targets set by themselves may come close to a Guinness Record, but the results were poor also in absolute terms.

The IOF has lost a total of €114,000 since 2009, and €38,500 since 2013.

Ignoring the approved budget looks like a recently established culture of the IOF Presidents. It started under Åke with unpublished promotions that very likely had budgetary impact, continued by Brian just informing the Council that he decided to overstep the approved budget to fund an exhibition on the SportAccord convention, and continued further by Leho who started to revise the 2017 budget already in October 2016, within two months after its approval (as discussed below).

Complete wipe out of the 2016 GA promises

Leho, as freshly elected President promised a period of plenty on the 2016 General Assembly, with highly profitable years coming starting from 2016. The result resembled the words of Chernomyrdin, the late Russian Prime Minister:

We wanted to do it better, but the outcome was the usual

Results 2016-18

For the avoidance of doubt, the plus zero result (or 0.2% of the promised total profit of the total of three years 2016-18) was not due to spending all the money on development projects. The reason for underperformance were the complete misjudgement of revenues, and overspend on some expenses, like the World Games (€10,000 planned, €29,306 spent in 2017).

Unfortunately, this poor state of IOF financials contributes to the bad feeling that there was an incentive for the IOF leadership to spend monies collected for anti-doping activities of the IOF differently than the original intention.

Continue reading “IOF Financials – the past is dark, the future is unclear”

IOF Anti-Doping activity questions

(This post has been updated with information received from the Portuguese organisers of the 2016 World MTBO Championships. The updates are shown in the text in blue)

I always believed that the anti-doping fight was too important a matter to be left to the anti-doping officers, to paraphrase Clemenceau’s famous assertion that war is too important a matter to be left to the generals.

Yet, I always found it difficult to have a meaningful discussion about it with Brian and the Council when I was the Chair of the MTBO Commission. Their argument was, of course, that anti-doping matters are highly confidential. That is obviously a very relevant point regarding specific tests, but I could never figure out the reason for their reluctance to discuss anti-doping strategy and finance. Were they hiding their lack of understanding and unwillingness to learn about the topic? Or were they simply reluctant to engage in meaningful discussions?

To the deepest regret of most top managers, questions do not disappear just because they do not want to talk about them. This applies also to the IOF’s anti-doping activity, and the more one scratches the surface the more questions pop up. In this post I will share with you some observations that suggests that all is not well. I have more facts about MTBO for the simple reason that I talk to most athletes and organisers in that discipline, but both anecdotal evidence and data available suggests that there are similar questions across all disciplines of the IOF.

Fewer AD tests

There was a sharp drop in the number of AD tests for MTBO athletes commissioned by the IOF. There is no official data available, but MTBO is a  small community (a bit like FootO was in the 80s and 90s), and people talk to each other.

IOF MTBO anti-doping tests - updated

 

Some explanation: OOC stands for out of competition, IC stands for in competition. The peak in 2016 was achieved in a hybrid year of financing when the IOF leadership introduced flat taxes (or “donations”, as they call it), instead of  just surprising the organisers on the event by the number of AD tests to be paid for. The Portuguese World Championship organisers were asked if they wanted to pay the then newly set fee of €4000 according to the new AD financing system, or pay for the tests as requested by the IOF according to the old system. Knowing that typical number of tests requested would  cost less than €4000, the Portuguese elected to pay themselves. They had the pleasure to pay for a record number of 27 AD tests on 18 athletes, far the highest ever requested by the IOF on a single World MTBO Championships. That cost the Portuguese organisers at around €6500, including doctors’ fee. There was a strong feeling that the IOF took advantage of the situation that the Portuguese elected to go by the old system. This feeling of being taken advantage of was strengthened, when both in 2017 and 2018 the IOF paid only for 8 tests (i.e. less then third that of ordered in 2016) on the World MTBO Championships, despite collecting a record amount of €5000 and €5500 from the organisers.

Anecdotal evidence from FootO elite athletes suggests that recently there was also a sharp drop in AD tests on major FootO events.

Unfortunately, the hard facts available also point to the same directions. The number of athletes in the IOF Registered Testing Pool has dropped by over 60% in 2 years. The number of FootO athletes dropped from 8 to 3 between 2016 and 2018. These are the athletes who have to report their whereabouts in WADA’s ADAMS system, that is, these are the athletes who can get an out of competition AD tests ordered by the IOF. You may find the lists of the registered athletes here.

 

IOF registered testing pool

But this is not the end of the story.

Continue reading “IOF Anti-Doping activity questions”

World Orienteering Day – fewer organisers in 2018

This was a busy summer. I had no time to write proper posts. I had to help more than expected to organise the European and World Masters MTBO Championship, went to the World MTBO Championship, and also spent lots of time mapping and then organising the Isle of Man Orienteering Championships (and even done some proper work on the side).

Now it is time to get back to this blog, as there is a long list of topics waiting to be published from concluding the WOD quatrology to a more in-depth look into the history of the IOF Leadership’s Olympic ambitions.

*  –  *  –  *

The announcement on the IOF website on the final numbers of the World Orienteering Day is rather subdued compared to in previous years. Not only the “World record” focused communication is gone, but there was little celebration compared to previous years. For good reasons.

The overblown targets of 500,000 participants on 5000 events in 100 countries set by the IOF leadership were missed by a wide margin from 19% to a whopping 56%. In 2018 over seven days there were even fewer events organised than in 2017 on a single day!

The Council, unsurprisingly, did not flinch in the face of defeat. There is no hint in the Council minutes #189 and #190 that they tried to understand the reasons for missing their own targets by a wide margin, figure out why organisers were not interested in WOD activities, or alter their approach other than setting the 500,000 target now for 2020 in the strategic directions (see the congress binder). As a reminder, “Let’s reach together half a million participants during WOD in 2017!” was the call of Leho for a single day event. We could get nowhere near even over a week in 2018.

One may even get the feeling as if IOF volunteers are expected to behave like Boxer, the  hardworking naive horse, who would never question the direction set by Napoleon, but believes that any problem can be solved if he works harder. In the meantime, the numbers suggest that there is a yawning gap between reality and the ambitions of the IOF leadership.

WOD countries -3

WOD events -3

WOD participants -3

WOD by country

The targets were missed by a wide margin. Even these numbers are hinging primarily on Turkey that delivered almost quarter of all participants, just a little bit less than the next three countries, Norway, Russia and Sweden combined. Unfortunately, Turkey does not have the orienteering traditions that could make these impressive numbers sustainable without strong central will. If Turkish organisers lose interest, WOD numbers will collapse.

Continue reading “World Orienteering Day – fewer organisers in 2018”

IOF’s World Orienteering Day website on the wrong side of the law

A reader of this blog has called my attention that something looks rather odd with the website of the World Orienteering Day (WOD). The volunteers who sign up cannot opt out from being included on mailing lists that are probably marketing oriented. I asked some legal experts of this field, and they confirmed that the WOD website is on the wrong side of the law, at least in Europe.

According to the lawyers with expertise in internet and data protection, the WOD website blatantly violates the Europe level law of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation on data protection and privacy for all individuals within the EU), coming into effect on 25 May. I dutifully passed this information on the IOF’s President and CEO, since they are the ones responsible for the lawful operations of the IOF.

According to the lawyers, the website also violates current EU guidelines on internet data use, thus chances are that it also violates existing Swedish laws, but they did not have time to dig into that. After all, it does not really matter. The big issue is whether the website complies the law coming into power on 25 May.

The GDPR requires that not only the current WOD website should be changed, but all data collected on the current website in a non-GDPR compliant way should be deleted before 25 May. All names, phone numbers, email addresses should go, unless explicit consent is obtained, one by one, from the volunteers signed up so far.

WOD_consent_form annotated

The current website forces consent from volunteers in a very deceiving way by showing a pre-checked tick box to accept that the user is included on mailing lists for information from the IOF and its partners. The above picture shows the deceiving check box. The little “forbidden” sign at the base of the cursor indicates that the box is frozen. It cannot be unchecked.  In addition, there is nothing to clarify what “relevant information” may mean.

All this does not look like an accidental mistake, but it gives the feeling of a premeditated deception showing the look of a legally compliant request for permission, while it does not give the legally required choice to the user.

This is bad news.

Unfortunately, it is not surprising.

The IOF leadership has a rich track record of doing and tolerating practices that may raise serious questions. I shared some of these stories in earlier posts here and here. Judging by this track record there are no assurances that meaningful action will be taken. Chances are that the IOF leadership will hope to “get away” with it.

That would be worse news.

The IOF may not be in the primary focus of a GDPR audit, but the breach of the law and its apparently intentional nature is rather obvious for people involved in this subject. Although the new GDPR regulation may have been inspired by marketing practices, it is taken very seriously even by charities and voluntary organisations across Europe in their effort to redesign communication with their volunteers. For example, the RNLI, a charity where I am involved as a volunteer crew member, has made it very clear to each and every of its members that compliance with GDPR is taken very seriously across the organisation both in internal and external communications. The RNLI has an almost 200 year long history with a reputation and social respect head and shoulders above all sports organisations.  Yet, they did not try to “get away” with ignoring the law. Maybe, that is one of the reasons why they have a far superior reputation.

The EU has significantly increased the fines on data protection related matters. Violation of the GDPR  carries serious legal, financial and reputational risk. The fines are several magnitude higher than they were previously: up to €20 million if there has been an infringement of the basic principles, including conditions of consent and data subjects’ rights, i.e. the exact situation with the WOD website. Compare this to the so far record fine of £400,000 for data protection violation in the UK. Apparently the regulators across the EU got pissed off by various entities who tried to “get away” with violating the law.

Needless to stay that even 1% of that maximum fine of €20 million could be lethal to the IOF in its current, rather shaky financial condition.

Is it worth the risk?

*   *   *

Below you may read more details on the nature of the WOD website’s violation of the GDPR. A more detailed description of the situation and an assessment whether it was more likely an accidental mistake or a deliberate deception of the user.

Continue reading “IOF’s World Orienteering Day website on the wrong side of the law”

IOF claimed new World Record after failing own aspiration to set one

In my last post about World Orienteering Day I expressed my doubts that anybody outside the IOF is really interested in the World Orienteering Day(s) for achieving another “World Record” of most participants on a multi venue orienteering event.

But let’s assume for a moment that somebody, a potential sponsor, a journalist, or IOC official gets interested in this metric. If they start to scratch the surface of IOF propaganda, they are in for a nasty surprise: the world records claimed are not verified despite the original aspiration of the IOF. In addition, the underlying numbers show failing participation masked by the unbelievably large numbers from Turkey.

The failed aspiration

People interested in offbeat world records traditionally look for the Guinness World Records as guidance. People looking for an independent confirmation of a verified orienteering participation record are in for a surprise:

The verified world record for most participants belong to a 2003 school event by the Swiss Orienteering Association, not to the WOD 2016 or 2017 as claimed by IOF press releases.

WOD - Guiness - full window

(see the above link here)

The IOF was of course aware of this record. In December 2015 it clearly stated that
“In connection with the World Orienteering Day 2016, the IOF has a vision to set a new Guinness World Record. The current record is from the WOC 2003 in Switzerland, when 207,979 young people at 1381 locations ran an orienteering course. “. 

The IOF leadership set out to break the Guinness World Record, but failing it just kept boasting with an “IOF” World Record. Just another example of the IOF propaganda claiming results even when they fail their own aspirations.

WOD IOF World Record

It is unclear if the IOF has actually tried to break the official Guinness World Record, but did not succeed with verification, or did not even try to deliver on its aspiration. But the aspiration was clear – and the IOF failed to achieve it. Yet, the IOF leadership kept talking about new world records both in 2016 and in 2017. Not a very sportsmanly approach, to say the least…

Of course, it is not easy to break a verified world record. Surprisingly, there are rules. Evidence required includes “For a mass participation record we require Stewards to supervise groups of 50 or fewer participants […] You need to upload all Steward Statements as part of your evidence. If your mass participation record involves more than 5,000 people, the counting process must be done by an auditing firm. etc, etc.”

So there could be very good reasons why an event like the WOD, focused more on promotion of the sport, does not attempt to achieve a verified world record. The focus of WOD should be on participation and fun, not on administration.

But then why claim new “world records”? Whom are we kidding?

Unfortunately, verification (or lack of it) is only part of the story.

Continue reading “IOF claimed new World Record after failing own aspiration to set one”

WOD = WOW – a Stroke of Genius

Before writing about the World Orienteering Day again, I have to stress that it is a great idea. It appears to be a good vehicle to organise orienteering events for communities, especially for schools, where sometimes all you need is a “good reason” to get things in motion.

The problem is the desperate hype around it. The desperation to claim another “World Record” of participation. It as a self-declared, self-reported world record that has no value outside self-congratulatory IOF press releases. It just reminds me too much of the Soviet hype I saw in my childhood, and the American hype I experienced in the beginning of my professional life.

This is a minor topic amongst the issues around the IOF, but it illustrates very well the mindset of the leadership: a desperate demonstration of results where the picture looks very different when you scratch the surface; a focus on meaningless numbers to avoid an honest discussion about the real issues.

This is the same mindset that decided to present great looking IOF financial plans in 2016 to the General Assembly that soon after turned out to be lightyears from reality.

Last year the oversized ambition of the IOF leadership has fallen flat on its face as discussed earlier. Overall participation has increased thanks only to the unbelievably high numbers of Turkey. In fact, participation for the rest of the World has even decreased from 203,519 (2016) to 201,571 (2017). Far-far away from the declared ambition of the IOF President of 500,000 participants.

WOD participation 2016-17 v2

The 500,000 participation level dreamt up by the IOF leadership looked beyond reach even for 2018. They were desperate to find a solution. And they did!

The Council has declared that World Orienteering Day in 2018 will start on 23 May and will last till 29 May. Stretching WOD over a week, but keeping the WOD name for continuity instead of introducing WOW, World Orienteering Week.

WOD calendar

 

There are good reasons to extend the event over a week instead of keeping it on a single day. In some countries it may be difficult to organise these types of school events during weekdays, in some others it may be difficult during weekends. It gives lot’s of flexibility to organisers to adapt the idea to the local environment while keeping the “urgency” element of an internationally coordinated event. But why shall one still call it a “Day” instead of a “Week”?

No particular reasons were given in the Council meeting minutes #185. It was simply declared that the branding of the event stays the same. After all it has a long-long brand history stretching over a grand total of two occasions.

The WOD slogan “Be part of something bigger” has acquired a completely new meaning.

Have you ever been part of a day that lasted for a week?

The only benefit one may think about is that this way the optics would be just perfect. Overwhelming participation on WOD 2018 compared to WOD 2017. The IOF target of 500 000 participants, at 5000 locations in 100 countries becomes quite achievable, especially when organisers encourage even “normal O-training” done anytime during the week to be declared as a WOD event. Anything goes, as long as they increase the headline number to achieve the President’s vision of 500,000.

One example is the recent email from the British Orienteering Federation sent to clubs explaining “Your club can simply be involved by tagging on the words ‘World Orienteering Day’ to fixtures planned to take place on Wednesday 23 May through to Wednesday 30 May 2018 on the fixtures list on the British Orienteering website“. No new activity is required. Just add the number of participants of events planned anyhow. It really starts to look like a pure accounting exercise to inflate the numbers irrespective of the content.

But this is not the end of this story…

Continue reading “WOD = WOW – a Stroke of Genius”

The (s)elected ones

Just a quick detour into the realm of social psychology as a follow up article to my previous post on IOF elections. It presents a possible explanation why some members of the Council feel themselves highly empowered in discussions with practitioners as “member of a body elected by the General Assembly” – despite the fact that simply being selected for nomination by their national federations almost guarantees an “elected” seat in the Council.

I have to admit that during my 4 years as chairman of the MTBO Commission I got rather annoyed by Council members a couple of times . In discussions with different IOF commissions, when they ran out of arguments they simply declared that they were the ones elected to lead the IOF, hence they are the ones to decide. In some cases the Council did not even bother asking questions from practitioners, but made decisions that caused predictable confusion amongst athletes and organisers. The argument was the same: the Council was elected to make decisions, so they do what they feel like.

How can educated people who were well aware of the “election process” (or lack of it) as described in my previous post behave as if they would have won the US Presidential elections?

Most Council members completely ignored the fact that simply being selected for nomination by their national federation, almost guaranteed being elected. This was most comical for the Council sitting for the period between 2014 and 2016. In 2014 all candidates were “elected” without any voting for the simple reason that the number of candidates was equal to the number of seats to be filled.

Recently I stumbled on the explanation. The members of the Council may have fallen victim of a psychological trap explained by Paul Piff in a TEDx presentation below. Being selected to a privileged, dominant position (even if it is done randomly) may alter the way one perceives the world, talks to people, or thinks about their own achievements.

 

 

The short summary: Paul Piff, an Assistant Professor Of UC Berkeley, shows a footage of a psychological experiment – a rigged 2 player monopoly game where they randomly pick one player to be the rich guy with additional privileges. The rich player starts with more money, gets two dices to roll, and gets double the income for completing a circuit. As the selected “rich” player inevitably start winning, they start to act more aggressive, play louder, eat more of the free pretzels, mock their opponent, keep talking about their money. After the game, when they are asked to reflect on their experience, they talk about their superior tactics and strategy, rather than acknowledging the huge advantage given at the start.

Continue reading “The (s)elected ones”