Blog entry - The challenges faced by an international sports federation

Following her participation at the Olympics last year, our Compliance Officer Joy Tottman has been selected to officiate at the International Ice Hockey Federation’s (IIHF) 2011 Women’s World Championships in Switzerland.  Here she blogs about the key challenges faced by an international sports federation. 

"It is great to be selected for the highest level of international women’s ice hockey in the world and of course to be with officiating friends from around the world.
At this tournament in particular I have found myself observing and absorbing the level of planning and the challenges that the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has to deal and be aware of.  Perhaps my awareness is heightened this year because I have been studying and writing assignments for my Masters in Sports Law, but over the last few days I have picked up several challenges that the IIHF have clearly paid attention to and in highlighting them I hope that other international federations and national governing bodies will be able to embrace the challenges if they have not done so already.
Social Media:
At our first referee meeting our supervisor highlighted to us the importance of using social media appropriately.  She asked us to respect ourselves and the job we have been asked to do and to not post anything about the decisions in games on facebook or to blog about them (easy for me as I don’t have facebook)!!!  It was highlighted to us that there may be controversial decisions in the games and whilst we may want to talk to mentors, friends and family back home about the decisions, that using social media to communicate could be damaging for our reputation and also allow teams and players to potentially use the information. 
My mind had a flashback to my day job where colleagues and I at the Sport and Recreation Alliance have been working on setting up a workshop for our members on social media, the impact it can have, and how to use and control it appropriately.  The IIHF have clearly started to use social media and instant updates on their website for games but it also became clear to me that this awareness had penetrated through to all facets of the sport right through to the referees where  we were given clear directions and guidelines on how to use it.  If it is a challenge for international federations then it is surely likely to be a challenge for all national governing bodies to think about.
At the first game, we arrived early to the rink so we could walk around and familiarise ourselves with the venue.  I met the official scorekeeper and the announcer for the game and they showed me a bucket full of special pucks which have been made up for the warm-ups and the training sessions for the teams.  It is not unusual for there to be pucks made up with the logo of the tournament on, however in this case the pucks made up are bright green rubber (as opposed to the regular black) and they have a ‘NO Doping logo’ on the reverse side of the puck.  (Before I get inundated with requests from puck collecting enthusiasts – I will try to get a couple at the end of the tournament for anyone who wants a green puck).  This highlighted to me again a challenge that the IIHF take very seriously.
Next to the officials room is a doping control room and at the end of each game one player from each team is randomly selected for a drugs test to be carried out.  As far as I am aware there have not been any drugs scandals uncovered in the world of ice hockey (I may of course just be blissfully unaware) – however I did start to wonder whether this is because all the players are aware of the consequences and the testing that goes on at the world championships.  Again if this is a challenge for international federations then it is certainly a challenge for nation governing bodies to tackle in a pro-active way before a scandal does happen.
Before the start of my second game a man from the IIHF came to the referee’s room because he wanted to test out a piece of technology which is being developed for the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014.  In a regular game the officials on the ice blow their whistle to stop play and the official timekeeper will be responsible for stopping the clock for the stoppage of play and then starting it again when play resumes.  The equipment being developed is a microphone which picks up only the sound of the whistle which will then be rigged to the clock to stop it automatically.  This will stop human error with the clock and teams will have the maximum playing time and will not lose the 2 or 3 seconds that it can sometimes take to hear a whistle in a crowded arena.  My linesman and I wore the microphones for the full game and we all discussed how great it was that the IIHF were thinking about ways to embrace and use technology to improve the game for the players.
After the game I started to reflect on the challenges that technology can present to different sports.  The media have been quick to get involved with the debate about the use of goal-line technology for football (in ice hockey at world championship events we have a video goal judge that we can call to review close plays).  The real question is whether it moves away from human involvement which is part of the game?  For me as an official I think it is great that an international federation is looking at how technology can enhance their sport and trying to use it to their advantage rather than resisting and guarding against it.  Again, this may be something that national governing bodies want to think about in terms of being proactive with developments rather than having to react to requests.
As referenced above, I can’t write too much about the games or any decisions that have been made.  As always I am enjoying the experience of being at the world championships amongst friends, officiating a high standard of women’s ice hockey and watching as the sport develops and keeps pace with the ever changing world and the challenges that it presents."