Small numbers, high ambitions when new volleyball federation was founded

The symbolism was highly visible as about 25 volleyball representatives from different countries met this weekend under a heavy November sky at the Copenhagen Island Hotel – a brand new hotel which is built on an artificial island in the port basin. Here, a brand new world federation was founded by people who over the years have felt put out on an island and isolated by the International Volleyball Federation FIVB.

Long-serving volleyball-leaders like Argentine Mario Goijman, Peruvian Luis Moreno, the Swede Lasse Svensson and many others have all experienced being expelled from all levels of volleyball as soon as they opposed the absolute powers of the FIVB president, Ruben Acosta from Mexico.

After several failed attempts to make the alleged democracy of the FIVB work as it ought to, a number of these ousted or alienated leaders, players, clubs and federations met to found a new international federation by the awkward abbreviation FIABVB – International Federation of Beach Volleyball and Volleyball Associations.

To find a new name proved to be the least of the challenges the assembly took on this weekend. Attractive beach volleyball tournaments and regional volleyball competitions have been planned already from 2007 together with development programmes for the poorest countries. Participation in the Olympics in London 2012 is the provisional climax in the FIABVB action plans.

These tasks must be carried out in an environment where any person that dares to contact or sign up for the new federation, can expect immediate expulsion or other hard retaliation from Ruben Acosta and the old FIVB.

According to the newly elected president of the FIABVB, Jean-Pierre Seppey, who served as General Manager of the FIVB from 2001-2005, 28 out of the 219 existing national volleyball federations have signed in officially, predominantly small nations from Africa and Oceania.

Moreover, 12 new federations have been formed in countries like Brazil, Peru, Germany and Switzerland. In addition to this FIABVB offers membership to clubs and individuals.

A federation list will be made public within a week, Seppey promised Play the Game and declared himself convinced that the number of federations will grow considerably over the coming months.

Ethics must be first priority
Although visa and ticket problems held many African delegates away from Copenhagen and about a dozen federations had sent proxy letters to the arrangers, the attendance at the founding general assembly was not quite what the organisers had hoped for.

”All federations in the FIVB have received strong warnings not to attend this meeting or even talk with persons who are gathered here. Therefore very few federations have made it to this meeting. They are afraid to say what they know and what they feel,” the former president of Argentine volleyball, Mario Goijman, said.

Goijman and others stressed the need for a high ethical performance of the new federation which adopted several pages of ethical principles (link disabled).

“It must be our first priority to put ethics above politics, otherwise we will not achieve anything but reproducing what we already know.”

Among those backing this viewpoint was the professional beach volleyball player Gregor Lah, Slovenia, who like around 50 colleagues has been thrown out from FIVB tournaments after playing for the Mediterranean tournament Pro-Series.

“I am urging the chairman of the ethics commission to spend all his efforts to keep rules and ethics in the first place. This is the only thing that will make a difference to other organisations.”

The Pro-Series has joined the FIABVB and plans to be the driving force behind the organisation’s development of beach volleyball.

IOC members invited to join the board
Though the founders of the new organisation did not find much to disagree about, the debate climate appeared very open and the few differences were handled correctly.

Here, too, the Pro-Series played a role as its director, Goran Valic from Slovenia, insisted that the three forms of membership – individual, association and federation – should be more consistently mentioned in the statutes. In the proposal, members were often referred to as national federations, but Jean-Pierre Seppey promised to correct this systematically.

The Slovenian had less success in trying to remove the IOC influence that the statutes invite to. According to the proposal, “IOC members coming from Volleyball and Beach Volleyball” can automatically join the board of administration.

The organisers insisted that this referred only to three present IOC members with whom the FIABVB would like to have a close partnership.

Also the voting procedures were run in a way that differed substantially from those employed by the FIVB. Elections were made by secret ballot and supervised by three scrutineers. It did look like an unfortunate heritage from the old FIVB that Jean-Pierre Seppey – who was the key person in preparing the meeting – also had ensured himself nine votes by proxy for elections in which he was also a candidate.

But the issue was out in the open, no delegates protested and the nine extra votes turned out not to be necessary to ensure a convincing 34-0 over the rival candidate for the FIABVB presidency, Idriss Adiker from the Republic of Chad.

Luis Moreno from Peru, a former president of the South American volleyball confederation CSV, was elected 1st vice president.

On the board of administration, women are notably representated with four members including former volleyball star Yang Xilan.

Other members are:

  • Eselealofa Apinelu, Tuvalu,
  • Idriss Adiker, Republic of Chad,
  • Dominique Atehawe, Benin,
  • Mario Goijman, Argentina,
  • Alfio S. Filho, Brazil,
  • Cristina Coto, Costa Rica
  • Geneviève Mendoza, Switzerland,
  • Arne Kiesewetter, Germany

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