"We are school sport"
Dear ISF members, dear colleagues, dear friends, I'm extremely happy to see so many familiar faces with who I share a passion for empowerment and education for youth through sport. It is already 1 year since you put your trust in me to continue to represent our movement and to lead our development. I would like us not to forget why such an occasion is so important. I believe such an event allows us the chance to look back on our activities, to shape the future and empower young people through school sport.
For the launch of this first year of the current mandate, we immediately took on the demands you made clear to us at the last General Assembly. We identified these as 4 different key priorities.
Namely: professionalisation of the ISF; reinforcing ISF as a service provider to its members; opening doors to the world to be a part of the ISF family and further strengthening the recognition of the ISF.
In terms of professionalisation, it is the work of ISF members that allows the ISF to continue to contribute to the positive impact on the development of youth through ISF events. Let's never forget that we aim to achieve a more educational, accessible, innovative, worldwide and transparent school sport. The increased level of professionalism our cooperation creates, has strengthened our movement substantially, further growing our reputation in the world of sport and education.
To implement this; especially this year, we made important structural progress within the ISF which will certainly benefit the quality and impact of our mission.
Facilitating the interaction with key institutional stakeholders and member state representatives as well as being more internationally connected, moving the ISF to Brussels in the summer of 2018 was seen as greatly beneficial. This move helped the administration and human resources of the ISF expand which was then followed by the much-needed appointment of Mr Hrvoje Custonja as the ISF Secretary General/CEO. This structural change has added an increased professional level of organisation to the ISF office, which then benefits the rest of the ISF and all of its members.
Regarding inclusion and professionalising ISF governance, for the first time in the history of the ISF we saw the creation of 7 ISF committees represented by 25 countries from 5 continents, enabling the ISF family to raise their voice and expertise. Similarly, mandates of technical commission chairs and coordinators were realigned and are now represented by 34 countries from 4 continents.
This global level of cooperation and representation is the direction we all aim for in the ISF, to allow our organisation and each of our members to become stronger and more recognised in the school sport world.
Furthermore, in terms of professionalisation, the ISF has had in the past 12 months no less than 3 Executive Committee and 3 Management Committee meetings. As always, these occasions provided us with chances to further evaluate the current development at ISF and to make important decisions for its future. These gatherings have been important towards the growth and continuous sustainability of our federation.
In respect to participation and inclusion, right rom the beginning of the 2018 season, including all 2019 events so far, ISF events have seen an increase of over 30% in participation. Combined with 10 new members joining the ISF family since the last General Assembly, our family has increased in a very short space of time. We are proud to say today that the ISF has 119 members. Of course, we always aim for more, to further promote and develop all school sport. At ISF we are only as strong as our members. Therefore, it is also for this reason that we made the recent proposal to reduce the membership fee to 100EU. To allow you all to continue to provide the high level of professionalism and opportunity to the young generations from all over the world.
The high increase in interest to host World Schools Championships is again a new experience for the ISF. Never have we had so many countries display their interest in hosting events. Whether they are new or experienced in organising events, more and more countries have shown how eager they are to host ISF events, both new and well-known to our calendar. Currently, Argentina, Armenia and Azerbaijan are the most recent 1st time host countries, having been recently attributed with ISF events for the 1st time.
New Countries Participating
In addition to the overall number of participants increasing at 2019 events, new members have taken the initiative to enter ISF events as well. During these past 12 months 8 new countries took part in their very first event. Firstly, I would like to thank all members, as well as congratulate the new members for joining the ISF and for giving an opportunity to the young people of your country to participate in ISF events and therefore contribute to their empowerment and their discovery of new experiences.
In 2019, we have already seen 3 new events take place with volleyball U15, climbing and flying disc resulting in great successes. Increasing participation in our events requires us to develop and grow, together in cooperation, working towards a unified goal. Integrating new sports and formats as well as welcoming new member countries as participants and organisers has brought real dynamism to the ISF.
We aim to continue to do all we can to help grow and develop our calendar of events to continue to raise event participation and provide all members with the platform to best support the youth of their country and at ISF events.
Continuing the evolution of the ISF calendar. This year's ISF began with a new ground-breaking event 'She Runs Active Girls' Lead' which aims to promote health, empowerment and leadership for girls.
With support from the Erasmus+ Sport programme of the European Commission the event gathered over 500 girls from 33 countries to participate. This project has been a great example of our mission to encourage the participation of all youth, in this case especially girls.
Encouraging participation of all youth means to not leave anyone behind and therefore we are extremely proud to organise this year the first ever ISF Inclusive Games which will provide the opportunity for young people with or without disabilities to share together and to learn from each other thanks to school sport. We can be proud of creating such opportunities.
ISF invited to national and regional events
By better serving our members we are able to reinforce our 2-way cooperation. It is crucial for the ISF to learn from our members, particularly from their own national and local experiences and to understand their needs. I am always extremely honoured and delighted to have the opportunity to personally visit our members and learn from them and to improve how the ISF serves their members.
In the last year elected ISF representatives had the chance to attend several events. I myself was fortunate enough to be invited to visit Argentina, Ukraine and Puerto Rico.
ISF events - Attendance of President
Continuing with attendance at ISF events, in the last year I myself had the pleasure of being present at 8 sport events, including a total of 5 World Schools Championships. It is always very moving when visiting our organising members who put a huge amount of effort in organising ISF events to the highest possible standard. Every ISF event is unique, further adding to the ISF legacy.
Reinforcing bridges between the ISF and its members is as well greatly supported through continental development.
Further expanding our network whilst at the same time improving the organisational infrastructure of school sport across all continents is vital to our growth as a movement. On July 18th the ISF saw the African School Sport Federation constituted, here in Agadir. This is a strong example of what the lasting legacy of an event can provide, after the tremendous success here in Morocco of the 2018 Gymnasiade which took place in Marrakesh and Casablanca. This development has mirrored the rising number of members from Africa who since joining, have shown real ambition to create further dynamism at a continental level.
Back in March of this year we had the European meeting in Cyprus held in Larnaca, providing the European members an opportunity to gather for discussions whilst also being able to join their colleagues from all over the world.
Between the 11th - 13th December, the Asian School Sport Federation organised its General Assembly and Executive Committee. Our members on the continent of Asia have been proactive in developing school sport and creating dynamism towards the development of school sport whilst aligned with the ISF vision of 2030.
ISF Sport Policy
It is obvious that the strategical development of the ISF includes the reinforcement of a strong and coherent sport policy, aligned with ISF values and vision. This year, for the first time at the ISF, we launched the process of reflection on the restructuration of the ISF sport policy. This was so that our organisation can broaden its youth target group, offering equal sport and educational experiences through specific events under the umbrella of 4 key areas, namely excellence, tradition, innovation and inclusion.
Furthermore, one of the key subjects of ISF sport event professionalisation during these last 12 months has been the ISF Gymnasiade School Summer Games development. The Gymnasiade 2020 symbolises the raising of the bar for ISF in terms of event preparation and delivery. Cooperation between the ISF and the Jinjiang organising committee is huge progress in ISF professionalisation.
This year the ISF attended multiple preparational meetings with the organisers and local officials of the Gymnasiade 2020 in Jinjiang. During these meetings, it was very clear that our member from China was implementing an already high level of organisation and professionalism. This confirms the strong and stable position the Gymnasiade event controls in the ISF calendar. The aim of growing this event, as with all our events is for the benefit of all members and the youth they represent. The size of this event is what makes this truly special, for it helps to create a bigger impact and to resonate further around the world.
Bidding for Gymnasiade
The dynamism and ambition of our members is always encouraging, especially when it's shown through a strong interest to host ISF events. For the first time, we have 4 candidates for the ISF Gymnasiade School Summer Games 2022. Those official candidates are Azerbaijan, France, the Russian Federation and Serbia. As the largest ISF event, the Gymnasiade has the platform to provide the biggest impact. To have multiple candidates, all of great experience and ability in school sport is a tremendous position to be in.
Representatives from each candidate gathered officially at the ISF headquarters in Brussels on 30th April this year, in order for the newly updated process towards attribution to be presented and explained in detail to them. This new structure is designed to support all candidate countries throughout the whole bidding process, in order for them to present their bid as successfully as possible. Today's General Assembly will be yet another important step towards the attribution of the Gymnasiade. I would like to thank all 4 of the bidding countries today for displaying the level of ambition and determination required to host ISF's largest event.
The new dimension of the ISF has seen in the past 12 months a great amplification of partnership development with sponsors bringing an increased level of credibility and financial stability. The ISF developed partnerships with 5 new companies namely Anta, Shuha, Lilanz Panpan as well as VinylPlus, whilst reinforcing the cooperation with our long-time sponsor Kinder+Sport.
Since marketing is linked to communication, to help sustain our partnership opportunities we are developing solid cooperation with important media stakeholders, namely the Asian Broadcasting Union and the Olympic Channel. This will then help us to increase our reach and promotion of school sport around the world. We wish to further develop and will continue to progress and to intensify our great communication effort to raise awareness and engage people in school sport.
Sport and Institutional Relations
This year we corporated with important sport organisations and stakeholders. This shows the trust and willingness that international sport movements possess in cooperating with the ISF, namely with SportAccord, International federation of Sport Climbing, International Federation of Sport Officials and World Archery.
Furthermore, in terms of recognition and credibility it has been is important for the ISF to maintain a high level of representation within political institutions that can help support and develop our mission. Namely the Council of Europe, International Mayors of French Speaking Countries, UNESCO, CIGEPS, the EU Sport Forum, EPAS and the ENGSO.
Acquiring strong representation in different sport organisations and institutions for the ISF enables school sport to become increasingly recognised. In the past year, the ISF has been outstanding in reinforcing sport relations in order to strengthen our position in the world of sport.
Thank you all once again for your presence here today. These occasions are a true representation of our shared dedication to youth. Your strength and ambition are what drive the ISF to continue to evolve. The exceptional engagement you all deliver at ISF events, both participating and hosting is of no surprise and the ISF feels privileged to be on this journey with each and every one of you. I hope you continue to lean upon my commitment to you as ISF members and as pillars of the school sport world.