The World Rowing Federation’s (FISA) Extraordinary Congress is only held once every four years in order to consider if any changes are required in the Statutes and Rules. At this year’s Congress, held from 15 to 17 February in Copenhagen, Denmark, FISA is considering making alternations to its Statutes and Rules of Racing to better reflect the core values of the sport of rowing.

In 2010 FISA re-confirmed that rowing’s long-held and inherent core values were even more relevant today. It conducted a detailed Strategic Re-assessment Exercise which looked at all aspects of the sport, its events, its marketing and governance. With considerable input received from thousands of rowers and rowing officials worldwide through a global survey published on www.worldrowing.com, the following values were confirmed to be:
- Rowers are: Balanced, Dedicated, Focused and Determined
- Rowing is about: Teamwork, Inclusiveness, Nature, Endurance and Fairness

FISA is committed to ensuring that these values continue to be lived and exhibited in every aspect of its work and activities.

The strategy for the modifications proposed by the FISA Council for the Statutes and Rules has been with a focus on critical principles and values in the sport of rowing: ethics and autonomy, the health of the athletes, inclusion, equality and universality.

With regards to the ethics and autonomy of the sport of rowing, FISA aims to reinforce its Statutes and Rules to address potential issues including rules to prevent attempts to manipulate competitions, to interfere in the leadership of national federations and to unduly influence the World Rowing Federation. The FISA Council is recommending the creation of policies that will ensure that only those who are truly involved in the sport of rowing can reach positions to make decisions about rowing at all levels.

FISA initiated the “No Needle” policy at events in 2010 and has been a leader in the anti-doping movement having been the first international federation to conduct out of competition testing starting in 1983. It wishes to do more, however, to protect the health of its athletes and suggests requiring pre-competition health screenings to reduce the risk of sudden cardiovascular death and also recommends eliminating the averaging of weight in lightweight rowing to discourage unhealthy and potentially dangerous sudden weight loss practices.

Rowing is proud of the progress it has made in terms of rowing for those with a disability. The next step for inclusion would be to use the same “field of play” for Paralympic athletes by extending the Paralympic racing distance from 1000m to 2000m. This has been a principle in the Paralympic movement and is the case, for example, with the wheelchair marathon (same distance – same “field of play”) and wheelchair basketball (same hoop height and court size). Other issues include adding an additional boat class, the LTA mixed double sculls, to offer further competition opportunities to nations that only have two athletes in this classification category and to change the name of “adaptive rowing” to “Para Rowing” which is deemed to better communicate this discipline of the sport.

FISA emphasises equal participation between men and women, and this has had a positive effect in many countries. FISA is a leading federation in terms of women in positions of leadership. However, work is needed in terms of the participation of women in competitions from club level up to senior elite level. The FISA Council has identified strategies to encourage national federations to create programmes and to hold federations accountable in their work towards this important principle. Proposals such as the re-introduction of the women’s four event in the World Rowing Championships and also the introduction of the women’s lightweight single sculls at the Olympic Games (a change which would be only possible with the  approval of the International Olympic Committee), are being considered.

To achieve universality, FISA is now considering a proposal to ensure that World Rowing regattas are held outside Europe every four years – not only at the senior level, but also at the under-23 and junior levels.

The Extraordinary Congress delegates will discuss and debate these proposed changes to the statutes and rules on Friday and Saturday of this week, and then vote on changes on Sunday at the Extraordinary Congress.