ISA sees CAS as only solution to StandUp Paddle dispute with ICF
By Simon Ward
The International Surfing Association has called on the International Canoe Federation to agree to enter arbitration at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in order to finally determine the governance of the discipline of StandUp Paddle.
The two federations have been embroiled in a two-year battle for control of the sport, which has descended into dealing via lawyers and sending out conflicting missives, with the basis for a settlement yet to be reached.
Earlier this month, the ICF “expressed hope” that “for the sake of the athletes” a resolution will be reached before it hosts its first SUP World Championships at the end of August and start of September, accusing the ISA of being unwilling to negotiate on reasonable terms.
However, the ISA, which has run its own SUP World Championships since 2012, today reasserted its claim to be the only legitimate governing body for StandUp Paddle, insisted that it had proposed “clear and reasonable solutions” and called on the ICF to agree to a full hearing at CAS, which first began addressing the matter in June 2017.
The ISA claimed 12 months ago that it was the sole governing body for SUP following a "historic partnership and sanctioning agreement" with the Association of Paddlesurf Professionals, in which it acquired a minority ownership stake in the APP World Tour, and pledged to sanction the events.
The ICF, however, disputes that stance, arguing that as a paddle sport, SUP should fall under its jurisdiction.
The launch of the ICF’s new SUP World Championships has only stoked the fires further, and last week the federation announced that masters, juniors and inflatables competitions had been added to the inauguaral event that will take place at Esposende and Viana Do Castelo in Portugal from 30 August to 2 September.
It has also claimed that bidders are lining up for the subsequent championships.
The ICF wants the governance issue to be resolved by the time of its new showpiece, with president Jose Perurena saying this month: “For the sake of the athletes, we wanted to try and find a resolution to this problem. Sadly the ISA was not prepared to accept what we believe are reasonable proposals. This means the situation remains unresolved, so the ICF will now focus on building on the strong SUP foundations we have already established through the strong work of our National Federations.”
While seeking a resolution, the ICF claimed that it was committed to proceeding with SUP activities, including its World Championships, regardless of whether an accommodation is reached with the ISA.
However, the ISA insists that it has been willing to maintain a dialogue, and that the ICF is to blame for a breakdown in communication, and for defiance of International Olympic Committee recommendations, with the surfing body now seeing arbitration at CAS as the only way to settle the governance issue.
In a statement today, ISA president Fernando Aguerre said: “Contrary to what has been reported recently by the ICF, the ISA has continued to propose clear and reasonable solutions throughout the ongoing situation. In November 2017, we set out in writing a fair and constructive framework to ICF which would have distinguished the two IFs’ roles while giving ICF a well-defined scope of activity given their newfound interest in the discipline.
“We basically proposed that ICF run their StandUp Canoe Racing, since that is exactly where they classified SUP in their late 2016 Congress, as a subcategory of Canoe. For the ICF, SUP racing was essentially a type of canoe. It was a pity that our proposals were summarily rejected by the ICF, who instead chose to undermine the mediation process. We have always sought to engage and communicate with ICF to achieve a positive outcome for SUP - but ICF seems to have little interest in finding a reasonable solution.
“The ICF has also not respected a process agreed with the IOC, including refusing to accept that the fundamental question of governance – a question which all the stakeholders are eager to answer – is put before CAS Arbitration. Instead, the ICF is proposing that the only subject of discussion at CAS Arbitration be the legal basis of an IF’s exclusivity to govern a sport. The ISA is ready and eager to take this question to CAS, as agreed with the IOC, but our petition to ICF’s lawyers has now gone unanswered since May 2nd. These facts have never been mentioned by the ICF in any of their SUP related communications.
“In the absence of an agreed solution, we are convinced that the ICF should accept our request to go to CAS, so we can progress to a resolution in the interests of all, and most importantly, the athletes and competitors that take part across the world. Ultimately, they are the ones who suffer.
”In the end, the facts surrounding this dispute will speak for themselves and, we believe, will demonstrate to CAS and the wider Olympic Movement, the ISA’s true history of leadership, commitment and development of SUP.”
ICF and ISA trade claims In stressing the ICF’s commitment to SUP this month Perurena said: “We have already shown the depth of this sport through the multitude of SUP activities which have been run by our National Federations all around the world over the last few years, including many national championships.”
However, the ISA believes it has a stronger claim, pointing to the fact that SUP was first included as a core discipline in the ISA Guide back in 2008, and that no other international federation has governed the sport since then.
Aguerre said: “We find the claims by the ICF to the contrary to be disingenuous, at best. As a matter of fact, the ICF has yet to organise any world championship or even international SUP events. These are factual, historical and on the record matters.”
He also stressed that, since 2010, the ISA has invested $5 million in SUP, not including the work carried out by national federations, with no other investment forthcoming from any other international federation until November 2016.
To demonstrate the ISA’s global commitment, Aguerre noted that its 2017 SUP World Championships involved 286 athletes from a record 42 countries, and took credit, on behalf of the federation, for the inclusion of the discipline in the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, and the appearance of SUP surfing and SUP racing in several South and Central American multi-sports games since 2012.
He added: “The ISA also officially sanctions the Association of Paddlesurf Professionals World Tour, the sport’s only global professional tour. Importantly, the APP recognises and acknowledges the ISA as the sole worldwide governing body for SUP.
“As is clear, the ISA is the real long-standing sole governing body for StandUp Paddle, and has existed as such without interference or objection for a decade. It is a shame, and a detriment to all involved in the sport, that this governance has been challenged by the ICF.”
In addition, the ISA maintains that it led efforts to have SUP included on the sports programme of this year’s Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, only for the objections of the ICF to scupper the plan, a claim that has been denied by the latter.
The ICF refutes the allegations that it has neglected the elite sport, while emphasising that its focus has been on developing SUP from grassroots level, with the co-operation of national bodies.
Perurena said: “It has been quite frustrating at times to read and hear some of the claims which have been made about us, but now is our time to show the world’s best SUP athletes what we have to offer. In the end we are looking at this for the long term. Our main focus over many years has been to develop SUP from the club level up, with the co-operation of our National Federations. We have the experience of staging multiple World Championships and World Cups across many disciplines each year and the SUP World Championships will be of the highest quality as well.
“The ICF has disciplines which take place on all sorts of different water; streams, lakes, oceans, swimming pools, just to name a few. It’s this experience and knowledge which we believe gives us a strong advantage when it comes to looking after SUP activities, which is practised on both flatwater and in the ocean.”