On Tuesday, delegates from the World Ski Federation Fis arrived in Milan, at the Hotel Prinicpe di Savoia: a neoclassical facade, Turkish baths and other five-star luxury that was already tempting Queen Elizabeth. In front of the dignitaries of winter sports, of course, there were also two sweaty days of the conference: on Wednesday evening, the selection of the host for the 2027 Alpine World Ski Championships, which is also contested by Jarmisch-Partenkirchen, is scheduled to be selected. On Thursday, elections will be held for important positions, including the position of president. For associations, these are often holidays, not only to enjoy Turkish baths and fried scallops in the restaurant, but also to reassure yourself with strength. In the case of Fis, the holiday mood is just one thing.
One insider said the mood was “extremely volatile”.
The reason is precisely the president of Fis, who wants to go into a second term on Thursday, without a candidate: Johan Elias, the Swedish businessman, owner of Head Ski, sharp eyes, an attractive smile. Apparently, he also persuaded some of those who elevated him to the throne of the World Federation last year after the death of old patron Gian Franco Casper. Elias must rip the bandage off of his many years of courtesy, with notions of security, television broadcasting, and marketing. Much hope.
Indeed, there is a lot of movement in Fis, but the hard way: There is talk of property confiscations, defections, criminal charges and lawsuits, even the death of the sport. Milan’s latest effort is rarely included in the repertoire of sports associations, rich in illustrious rings: many delegates are considering, at least according to reports, pushing the only presidential candidate on the list by sneaking a vote against him.
President Eliash is determined to fulfill his electoral promises
Still the biggest annoyance is the meeting of the Fis Council at the beginning of April, a kind of winter sports board. By that time, Elias had already raised some contradictions – thinking about races in Dubai but at the same time declaring a “climate positive” association? Well, just two days before the council meeting in April, a statement was sent to delegates that stunned many: Essentially many National Societies were supposed to abandon their trade base.
You should know that Fis has been giving out its World Cups to state federations like the German Ski Federation for years. He markets the rights himself or, as in the case of TV licenses, assigns them to agencies like Infront, which negotiate contracts with TV stations and keep a portion of the income for themselves. To date, Fis has also sold its marketing rights through Fis Marketing AG (Fismag AG). The association owns 51 percent, and the remaining shares are owned by two brokers: Infront and Tridemsports Agency.
If all goes according to Elias’ plan, those brokers who are marketing all rights to Fis should be paid in the future – as well as distribute this money to national associations large and small. This demand was also the reason why Iliash won many votes when he was elected last June. merely: Like He finally wanted to fulfill that promise, shocking many. Many associations are still tied to contracts with brokers such as Infront, including DSV, in some cases until 2030. Dealing with this network is expensive and time-consuming. Frankly, Ilyash declared these contracts virtually invalid in one fell swoop: all rights belong to Fis alone; Thus, brokers trade in rights that they are not entitled to. This was demonstrated by an order filed by Fis with a court in Zug.
“I’ve never seen anything like this guy before.”
The bewildered council at first let Eliash’s proposal fall, but discussions only began. Christian Berzer, managing director of Fismag AG, said when asked by SZ that he had already indicated to the Fis board last September that they would be happy to give the global association its marketing rights — “within the contractual regulations,” sure. However, Elias went down the confrontational path: Berzer now asserts that the president “spoke to co-partners of Fis Marketing AG in a slanderous manner in writing about me.” On the other hand, he’s now taking criminal actions, and he can’t say more at the moment. Just to this point: He’s been skating for over thirty years, ‘I’ve never experienced anything like this guy. To me, skating has always been a world of law and order, where contracts are kept, and in which one treats one another with respect and fairness. Mister Eliash over there, it was completely different.”
When asked by SZ, Mr. Elias rejected all Berzer’s “blame”. His allegations were based on “factual evidence” that would prove that Berzer acted fraudulently. What, according to SZ information, still needs to be clarified in another legal process.
The competition calendar is still not fixed
Many experts and participants support at least Berzer’s basic impression: that Eliash communicates little and harshly. No specific plans. How much money associations, which are supposed to ditch their business models, can expect from centralized marketing in the future, not to mention operations promoted by isolated partners like Infront. The fact that the Alpine competition calendar for the upcoming winter was hanging in the balance until Wednesday: among others, without the classics in Norway, but with a second, less positive climate-positive American pause due to the presence of a regional TV station (!) There allegedly broadcast an hour of live broadcasts – Although, planned locations like Aspen lately have been not very popular with many teams.
When asked by SZ, Eliasch wrote that the races were awarded to the US “for a number of reasons”: fan potential, better TV ratings, among other things. Lack of communication, bad mood, loss of confidence? Can’t talk about it: you work “fearlessly” and “tirelessly” with everyone involved to improve the sport “step by step”.
And the participants from the member associations? Their frustration was so great that, according to SZ information, they were thinking of a hard maneuver for the election on Thursday to the end: although it was not possible to appoint an opposition candidate so quickly, one thought that he could not vote for Elias, but against him – from His position will likely become vacant again until a special conference is held. And the chances were clearly not bad, at least for a while: even influential Austrians recently turned away from Elias: Peter Schrocks, a bartender, ÖSV’s longtime head of the Fis Council, defected to Elias at the last minute of last year. But even at ÖSV, the new snow nanny mentality is emerging more and more.
Small association votes can be decisive
Project problem: it can only be visualized in secret ballot; Nobody cares about open opposition to Ilyask. However, the delegate will have to come forward for this secret election on Thursday with an open mask.
So it is likely that Elijah will be confirmed after all. Then for a term of four years, flanked by a new council, which will also be elected on Thursday, which may be more suitable for the president than the old council. And if Ilyash unites behind him several small National Societies, often knowing only Berg from postcard models, tempted by the promise of new cash flows – they can even veto the large ones when it comes to not looking closely at controversial plans.
Anyway, only dark clouds over Milan’s beautiful facade were certain until Wednesday.