isaf – a lesson from egypt

wheatley’s world

isaf – a lesson from egypt

Legend Magnus Wheatley delivers this exclusive for the anarchists…

The breathtaking pace of reform in ousting a morally bankrupt regime in Egypt probably has, you may think, little to do with the parochial backwater sport of sailing, however I would contest that the process of people-power reform is absolutely of the moment for our sport. The political nuts and bolts of the Egypt crisis are irrelevant here but what has been made so strikingly obvious by the protesters there is that they are sick to the back teeth of being run by an overbearing (overweight) politician who surrounded himself with a hated secret police force and restricted his country from growth on the international scene whilst plundering billions for his family and associates.

Now I’m not suggesting that Goran Petersson and his flunkies at ISAF have plundered billions but I am saying that the sport of sailing has had enough of being run by overbearing, overweight politicians who surround themselves with questionable self-serving individuals, royalty and lawyers, shrouded in intrigue and nepotism on a global scale whilst decimating the sport they claim to represent and support.

The Egyptian protesters in Tahrir Square were intelligent, well-educated, downtrodden and brow-beaten (ring any bells?) but crucially they connected to social media, blogs and forums and when the history is written, you can be darned sure that Goggle (and in particular Wael Ghonim, the marketing dude from Google) will be credited with the downfall. What Mubarak failed to grasp was that change was upon his country. What Petersson fails to grasp is that change is desperately required in sailing – especially at Olympic level.

It is widely known that ISAF looks down on the likes of Sailing Anarchy or Rule 69 Blog, they hate us with a passion and would love to see us closed down. They hate being criticised or called to account and they think the sailing public are stupid in the extreme and that they can get away with anything they like. They can force through measures that give absolute power, ignore their own members and sub-committees and they turn an absolute blind-eye to anyone that dare criticize their pinnacle event (read cash-cow) – the Olympic Games.

The problem with sailing is that we let these non-entity, political beasts get away with it. The “too-polite-to-say-boo-to-a-goose” brigade that are standing in yacht club bars on a Thursday night are absolutely complicit in ISAF’s destruction of our sport. You are the equivalent of Mubarak’s secret police. You are the guys, guffawing into your G&T’s and small malts, that are enabling ISAF to get away with utter murder. When will you get off your backsides and force through change? What will it take…? Well I would suggest that when the day finally dawns on sailing that it is excluded from the Olympics owing to complete disinterest by the global sporting public both online and on broadcast then suddenly you will wake up, smell the coffee and point the finger at ISAF. By that time, the current incumbents will be long gone…

Change HAS to happen. There are no two ways about it. I can just imagine the desperation in the sport in the four years after we’re excluded. There will be idiots throwing the kitchen sink at the IOC with all manner of wacky ideas…we don’t need that situation. We need to embrace the new technologies that are filtering through the sport and encourage them, indeed usher them, politely in to the glare of publicity offered by the Olympic Games. We need to encourage wings, foils, kites and all that’s good on the scene. If we do, we’ll blow the watching public away and it will be a wonderful spectacle that draws in the viewers and encourages the next generation.

Let’s not beat about the bush – even the Olympic women athletes hate the Elliot 6…why is it there? The 470 and Finn are throwbacks to a time that even I struggle with remembering. The Star is a dinosaur sailed by backward, history gazing people, the windsurfers are simply embarrassing and (whisper it softly) even the Laser is looking a bit dated…

The classes need to be intelligently thought about again but ISAF needs to be overhauled radically, structurally and systemically. It needs recognizable figureheads with a vested interest in furthering the sport, unencumbered by the weight of political expectation. The Royals on the Committee need to be thanked and got rid of. The image projected needs to be more encompassing of the grass-roots and technology. Sailors need to feel an affiliation with those representing them and the unelected back-room lawyers whispering at the sides of these meetings, guffawing that they have all the power “old chap” (you know who you are) need to absolutely be got rid of. Transparency and debate needs to replace back-room dealings. The sport, all sport, is sick of it and sick because of it. We do not need nor require a carbon copy of the corruption, sleaze and scandal at say FIFA or the IOC, we demand change and accountability. Sailors and sailing must be listened to and there are numerous candidates at the pinnacle of the sport who would excel if given a clean slate to work with.

I know sailors who have won multiple medals at successive Games who openly criticize ISAF on the golf course but won’t say a thing against them openly. Sure, they are in the system but they seek me out to make their point. I know World Champions who despise paying their ISAF levies but won’t say a word. The list is endless and the emails I receive, number the thousands in support of my mission to reform this out-dated, defunct, politically obsessed leviathan that is presiding over the biggest sham in the history of global sport.

If there’s a lesson to be learned from Egypt, it’s that you, ISAF, may think that you’re getting away with it and that all is well in the Garden of Eden but beware the left-field voices that are gathering momentum. Social Media is coming to get you and if it can bring down a dictatorial regime, it can bring down a tin-pot sailing stitch up. The kill will be swift…it’s just a matter of who gets there first – the sailors or the IOC? For their own sake and for the sake of the sport and its continued involvement in the Olympic Games, I hope it’s the sailors that lead the coup.

 NB: I would like to personally thank the sailing community for the huge amount of emails I have received following the closure of Rule69Blog owing to family circumstances. Once life has settled, the blog will return but this will be in late 2011 at the earliest. I would also like to thank Scot and the SA Team for the opportunity to write for them when I can find the time. Gone but not forgotten…Cheers.