Finnish Athletics Federation – Sport+Politics=Shambles

One can always speculate why politicians, bankers and other busy leaders always want to be appointed to head up major sport associations.

Looking at Fifa and the Olympic bodies you will see plenty of really bad examples of crooked activities, financial corruption and blatant politics. Extravagant sport venues are built in countries that can ill-afford them, construction contracts are given to buddies, and politicians are found to be sitting in the best seats and taking credit for their nations’ success in winning gold medals, etc.

There are lessor evils too – ordinary people in Finland play Lotto, play poker on one-armed bandits, or place bets on the state sponsored gambling monopoly. The parents of sporty children do volunteer work to raise money for club fees that are paid to the national associations. These funds and part of the profits of gambling goes to the Minister of Education who then pays out generous grants to various federal sporting associations for their amateur athletes, players and coaches. However, the money does not always end up where it should – the senior folk from these associations receive nice salaries, fly Business and stay in good hotels while the athletes and coaches don’t! Athletes receive tiny scholarships and no pensions – they must work part-time or get money from their parents – most coaches have to take second or third jobs to have a living wage. 

The associations are meant to collect funds from sponsors for their athletes, players and coaches but they often fail as has been the case for the last few years as seen with the Finnish Athletics Federation that has failed to deliver new big sponsorship funding contracts.

Naturally, they are pleased to take payments from volunteer work of parents and membership/participation dues from athletes and players. But one must assume that these fine folk at the Sport Committees and Associations are above the act of asking for hard cash – perhaps they feel it is demeaning if they have to go hat in hand to ask companies for long term funding contracts. One can imagine that the senior managers of big banks and law firms do not like getting their hands dirty…

… and then what happens when money is scarce and the big bosses are not really involved at all in sports, because they are really very busy running big companies with lots of political and business connections to be developed?

Well the obvious thing is that the level and quality of the athletes suffer… and that has been clearly seen these last few years when the number of medals has fallen to record low levels!

A new Chairman is about to be appointed

The Finnish Athletics Federation is about to appoint a new Chairman and there are three names mentioned in the press. The first is Mr. Olli Lehtilä, a senior banker in the OP Group who works for Mr. Ritakallio, the CEO of the OP Group and Chairman of Finland’s Olympic Committee – the bank has very close political connections to the Center Party here in Finland. Hardly the right man for the job!

The second person is Mr Kimmo Oila, a Conservative politician from Espoo and a partner in a big law firm and current board member of the association! In all honesty can anyone explain how these busy people have the time for such positions that require constant and detailed attention. These are full time jobs not some hobby. Hardly the right man for the job – after the few years in the board the results are far from impressive!

The third person is Sami Itani – he is an ex-decathlonist national champion with a PhD in business and an HR Director, who works in an HR company called Adecco. He understands and knows what it is like to be in the stadium at home and abroad. This is the strong favourite of the athletes and the coaches because he is one of them and a trusted person. Possibly the best man for the job!

And perhaps you may have noticed that they are all men, but that is another topic!

Given Finland’s really poor results in the last Olympics and in the last big international arenas it is time to sweep away the notion that only “important people” are eligible for such posts! We can all see that this is no longer the case…

Athletes, players and coaches all need decent wages and pensions and especially the young athletes also need to feel that they are properly supported and guided by their national associations which many feel is not the case today.

Site Footer