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Who’s in Charge? U.S. Skateboarders Want to Know

18 Oct, 2017

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

The struggle to govern in the U.S. isn’t limited to election day. Just ask the sport of skateboarding, which continues to see a power struggle when it comes to naming an national governing body.

And to say things are getting ugly might be the biggest understatement of the sports season.

To be fair, the problems have existed since before skateboarding was named one of five new sports to be featured in the Olympics in 2020. In fact, at the international level, the sport struggled to name one organization to be the authority.

Ultimately, what followed was a protracted series of negotiations which ultimately saw the International Roller Sports Federation (FIRS) selected as the world governing body, rather than a specific skateboarding organization. Neither of the skateboard-specific international groups, International Skateboarding Federation (ISF) and the World Skateboarding Federation (WSF), could be eligible to apply because they were not recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

SF President Gary Ream was appointed head of an FIRS Commission governing the sport, however, while the Tim McFerran-led WSF opened a lawsuit against rival bodies after appearing to have been cut out of the process. FIRS rebranded itself as World Skate, receiving accolades from the IOC for doing so. Meanwhile, the lawsuit brought by WSF appears to have stalled out.

But in the U.S., the struggle continues. According to a recent article in Inside The Games, USA Roller Sports, currently recognized as the NGB, has little to no experience in skateboarding. This puts it into direct opposition to U.S.-born Gary Ream, the new head of the Skateboarding Commission within World Skate. A final decision over which one will be recognized should be made by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). The USOC Membership Working Group is currently conducting a review on the two bodies and will provide a recommendation to the board, although there is no immediate note as when this recommendation will be made.

There is a group known as USA Skateboarding; however, it has yet to respond to media inquiries as to its involvement in the process. Inside the Games notes the organization is ”a somewhat opaque body about which not too much information is known.”

An official application submitted to USOC earlier this year, lists USA Skateboarding’s principal office as Woodward in Pennsylvania. This is the same small town where Ream is based and where the ISF is located.

Inside The Games notes even further complications:

An article in Real Skate has also speculated that Ream, a business and skate camp entrepreneur who owns Camp Woodward, may have commercial incentives behind harbouring control at a national and international level. 

Neither Ream nor Friedberg have yet responded to Inside The Games' requests for a comment.

"I believe that both the purported ISF and USA Skateboarding organizations were ghost entities, from our research it was very difficult to obtain any information at all on either one," answered McFerran when asked about his involvement. "I have advised [USOC chief executive] Scott Blackmun and the USOC that they need to thoroughly investigate the group that they align with, so as to not open themselves up to liability and be embarrassed in the future. Personally, I have no confidence that Reams group will work in the best interest of skateboarding."

World Skate are also yet to respond to insidethegames' requests for a clarification on which claim they support.

USOC is unable to give any public update on progress so far.

The U.S. is not the only country having trouble with naming an NGB for skateboarding, Inside The Games added. Six-time Summer X Games park champion Pedro Barros has vowed to boycott the skateboarding competition at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games if the Brazilian Confederation of Skate was not chosen as the governing body. Brazil Roller Sports and Hockey Confederation ultimately were selected as the body responsible by the Brazilian Olympic Committee.

A letter was sent to all National Olympic Committees by the IOC on August 11, 2016 during which they requested they recognized all national bodies affiliated to the respective National Federations for the five new sports.

It added, however, that “in the case of skateboarding, a more specific approach may need to be adopted on a case by case basis, to best reflect the reality of the sport in specific countries.”

SDM will continue to follow this developing issue.

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