#irishsailing – The Irish Sailing Association (ISA) has axed two senior roles, scrapped its annual conference, sold its jet–ski fleet and is drafting new policies to 'refocus on core activities'. The moves are part of a fundamental restructuring programme announced this week by its president David Lovegrove.
The redundancies follow a far reaching strategic review report commissioned by Lovegrove on taking office six months ago.
Commodores from a network of over 100 sailing clubs across the country were advised of the new blueprint for Irish sailing by email this week. (The documents that include an executive summary of changes and an organisation chart are available to download below as PDF files).
The plan follows a period of severe criticism aimed at the National Governing Body that admits it was 'out of touch' with its members.
A discredited 2012 strategic plan was aimed at 'growing the organisation' at a time when the sport was in decline, betokening a culture within the ISA that had not kept pace with a sport that had changed dramatically.
Lovegrove's new board thus has major issues facing it, not least the fact it has lost a quarter of its members and key yacht clubs are in choppy financial waters.
How Sports Council funding and ISA club affiliation funds are spent is at the heart of the matter. For over a year critics of current policy say there is an 'over-emphasis of the training of selected juveniles by the creation of elite squads of possible future Olympians'.
In round terms, the association turns over €2million per annum, €1m is ring fenced for the Olympic team. Another €1m is provided by clubs and other state grants that say critics is largely eaten up by the bureaucracy of the organisation.
This morning Lovegrove rolls out the first stage of a 'remodelled organisation' that he claims is focussed on servicing the needs of grass roots sailing enthusiasts but also retains its commitment to the Olympic dream. It's a big ask but Lovegrove says he is serious about bringing about change.
As a result, the senior roles of the Training and Racing Manager have been made redundant with immediate effect.
It's just one of a number of key operational and policy changes that have already taken place and are contained in documents entitled The 'Way Forward' that are downloadable below as PDF files.
As the association disposes of jet skis and other 'services' that have been cut out of the operation, it is becoming clear that activities such as the ISA Black Tie Ball, the purchase of jet skis and other trappings symbolised an ISA that acted in its own interests and not in those of the sailors that elected it.
The heave against the organisation began at the 2013 agm when two dinghy sailors – one from the west coast and one from the east – proposed a motion seeking change. It paved the way for over 300 'suggestions for change' heard at a stormy meeting in the National Yacht Club in April 2013.
Over a year later, the new board includes Brian Craig, a leading light in the organisation of sailing in Ireland.
Also included is former ISA President Roger Bannon, an outspoken critic of recent ISA policies. A dinghy and sportsboat champion in his own right, Bannon used his term in office two decades ago to secure the position and financial viability of the association as a national sporting authority by making every member of a sailing club in Ireland also a member of the ISA.
It was a bravo move that unified Ireland's sailing clubs into a stronger whole fit to nurture the talent necessary to challenge the world at the top levels of sailing. But in more recent times as that fitness was called into question, Bannon was among those who hit out at an authority that had arguably lost its relevance to all bar those at the most elite levels in the sport.
In a call for change on Afloat.ie last March, "The ISA has lost its way over the last few years," Bannon said, giving his view of a bureaucracy "detached from the reality of what is going on in the front line".
But it appears all that is now in the past. Today, Lovegrove says 'the primary challenge is the necessity to remodel the ISA into an organisation with relevance and accessibility to its members, affiliated organisations and training centres'.
Lovegrove maintains this has to be achieved with initiatives that are seen to have a positive impact at grass roots level.
'The ISA's role has to change in emphasis from being largely a regulator of standards to one of providing guidance and support to its members and the organisations affiliated to it', he added.
Details from the executive summary:
Under the Chairmanship of Neil Murphy (a member of Howth and Malahide Yacht Clubs), a Strategic Planning Group is developing a draft Strategic Plan 2015-2020. Following consultation with the clubs and affiliated organisations, the new Plan will be presented for approval at the AGM in March 2015. The underlying focus for the Plan is to: "Develop Sailing in partnership with Clubs, Training Centres & Affiliated Organisations". The Board recognises the need for the ISA to work in union with member organisations to build a strong network of clubs and affiliated organisations. This will be the Mission for the next five years.
Specialist groups in Training, Communications, Competition, Cruising, High Performance, Participation, Government and Risk Assessment will assist with the implementation of the Strategic Plan. These groups will play a key role in connecting with the membership and harnessing the volunteer expertise amongst the sailing community. These groups are up and running and the initiatives already underway are set out in the more detailed document.
The Core or main body of the Association is being reorganised but the High Performance area remains unchanged.
The objective of the reorganisation is to create a more cost effective structure providing accessible expertise at a local level to help Clubs and Affiliated Organisations, increase and retain members. That local expertise will also help facilitate access and increase the numbers participating. The efficient delivery of support services to members remains a major priority.
The roles of Training and Racing Manager are being made redundant as part of this plan. This will allow key resources be redirected at a local level through the investment in Regional Development Officers (RDO'S). It is, when finances permit, proposed to recruit an additional RDO for the Eastern Region and redefine the territories of the two existing RDO's. The changed structure will also allow the Association channel funds into areas of more direct benefit to sailors.
The RDO's, whose primary role is to support the Clubs, will each specialise in individual areas of expertise such as Racing, Participation, and Communications. After the reorganisation, Training and Racing will continue to be pivotal areas of activity and the Board is confident that the necessary expertise and resources are available to support these activities.
Refocus on Core Activities
In an environment where the ISA's members have difficulty sustaining existing activity levels, it is essential that the Association focuses resources on the core activities of members, be it sailing or motor-boating. Peripheral areas of activity are under review and some may be exited over time to ensure the focus of the ISA is not deflected from its primary responsibilities to its members.
Continuity of Operations and Service
The continuity of activities and maintenance of service remain of paramount importance to the Board and staff of the Association during this period of change. The ISA will continue to service the wide range of activities expected of the Governing Body for Sailing. 2015 will be a pivotal year in executing these changes and we look forward to working together to achieve these challenging goals.