British Canoeing jeopardising democracy “in true Soviet style”

Writer: John Mason | Freelance

Saturday 25th March British Canoeing (BC) will have its Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM). This meeting is surrounded by issues that are being debated in clubs and through social media. Below we make an attempt to give you an overview of what’s going on.

BC Elections, an introductionIn the past 25 years (or longer) the President of BC is determined by a ballot. Any person can be nominated by two other members from different National Associations and then the decision is made by ballot and announced at the AGM (Annual General Meeting).

Candidate During the last 25 years there have been very few times when this post of President has been contested. Now there is a candidate, Ivan Lawler, who is campaigning to become the new BC President. In his sporting career Lawler has competed Internationally in sprint and marathon at the highest level, winning 6 Gold and 3 Silver medals at World Level, and competed in 3 Olympic Games. He was awarded an MBE for Services to Canoeing in 2000. In 1990 he was awarded the Pierre de Coubertin Award for Fair Play by UNESCO.

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BC’s response – Apparently BC does not feel comfortable with the post of President being contested. They intend – in an Extraordinary General Meeting – to create a new role of Life President and they already have a candidate for this position: Albert Woods.

If the motion at the EGM is carried that allows the creation of the Life President role (including appointing Woods in that role without voting by the members), then there will be no election for President as BC will have automatically allowed themselves to appoint whoever they want in the role.

John Coyne, Chairman of British Canoeing, explains BC’s motivation in an open letter.

Now the question is whether this abrupt and ad hoc change of electoral governance is to strengthen and improve the sport, or to eliminate Lawler as a candidate for President in favour of their desired candidate Woods.

Member’s response If you go by what’s been discussed on social media and in blogs, BC’s members do not seem to approve shifting goalposts and this proposal to change electoral governance:

Also David Owen from ‘Inside the Games’ has a clear opinion about issues like these: How to signal time’s up for those old men of sport who just keep rolling along:

Convincing old leaders when to quit is one of many problems confronting the sports movement as it strives to improve governance standards.

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