As editor-in-chief of FinnishNews, I have been looking at how sports associations are organised and how they work. There is no question that national and international associations are necessary to organise our very important and active sporting culture, but it appears that they are somewhat out of touch with reality and care less about the athletes and more about prestige, and big sponsorship contracts from the likes of Rolex, Coco Cola, Pepsi and other big brands.
The fact that bankers, politicians and senior business people want to head up these associations tells you much about what needs to be changed!
In Finland, we have seen our “fair share” of doping that has involved senior members of these associations. Corruption is alleged to occur within Fifa and the International Olympic Committee, and we all know that too many countries as using the Olympics and other big sporting events for political reasons – not for supporting sport or athletes.
I was introduced to Kristiina Mäkelä through a mutual friend some years ago and have followed her career. We have spoken many times about the fact that her career as an athlete means that she will miss out on what every other working person has – she will miss out on 10 years of pension accrual – 10 years that any pension expert, and I am one, knows are crucial for final pension payments.
I am prepared to bet that 99% of young people in their late teens and early twenties have no idea about pension saving.
Missing 10 years or more actually devastates the final pension for women, especially if they plan to have children, which means that they could miss out easily on another 4 years pension accrual. Taken together female athletes will lose one third of their final pension because of these sacrifices. Sponsorship agreements are available for some team sports and for athletes who appear for the popular sports – but even these agreements are not that great with some very rare exceptions.
The support from the associations is clearly missing and that is quite clear from all of the misinformed comments from SUL’s side in the media. Furthermore, there were no sympathetic comments on the question of medical treatment and support when athletes suffer injury which is common given the levels of mental and physical stress placed upon them.
The public comments from the sport’s representatives are basically insulting when saying that athletes like Kristiina Mäkelä should be able to arrange their own affairs for healthcare and financing. This is exactly what Kristiina Mäkekä has been doing all these years and not complaining…
The distance between SUL and the athletes appears to be a wide, and there appears to be little positive interest in closing that gap.
All athletes like all other people have the right to freedom of speech. They should not be belittled by the very people who should be supporting and caring for them.
It appears that governance within the sporting association is sadly lacking and now is the time to reconsider how these associations are organised and funded.
These big associatioons do not receive any support from taxpayers but receive large grants from Veikaus, the Finnish gaming monopoly, owned 100% by the Finnish State. This publicly owned company generates some €1 billion each year and this is used for grants to culture, sports, science, social welfare and health. The associations also receive substantial licensing fees from local sports associations around the country that raise money from membership fees, parents, tickets sales and voluntary work at the ground level.
There is therefore a major public interest in reviewing the matters brought up by these younger athletes regarding governance issues of the big sporting associations. Saying that individual athletes should just stop complaining and get on to win the next competition is just another form procrastination when reforms are needed.