‘Global Athlete’ Aims To Drive Change Across Sport

February 13, 2019


A new international athlete-led movement for change launched today, aiming to inspire and drive change across the world of sport. Global Athlete will be a movement by athletes, for athletes aiming to collectively address the balance of power between athletes and sporting leaders, and enable athletes an opportunity for meaningful input into how sport is run.

Global Athlete will, in the words of Olympic cycling champion Callum Skinner, “inspire and change sport for the better and bring it into the twenty-first century” by mobilizing athletes following the recent unprecedented uprising in which athletes have called for enhanced rights and changes to the way sport is run.

It will operate as a progressive athlete rights movement whose job will be to listen to, engage and empower athletes, athlete groups and agents to speak up and work towards the common goal of addressing the disconnect that currently exists between the world’s athletes and sports leaders.

In a sign of the ambitions of the new initiative, former World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Deputy Director General Rob Koehler has been appointed as Director General, and will lead a “listening exercise” with athletes in all countries in the coming months to understand what changes they want to see in sport.

“Having worked closely with athletes and taken an athlete-centred approach to my work for over 20 years, I am thrilled to open this new chapter of my career,” said Koehler. “Everyone has a role to play to grow sport and that includes athletes who want a greater role at the decision-making level. For too many years, athletes have been sidelined when speaking up – the fear of retribution must stop.”

“Athletes have an inherent interest in a healthy sporting environment and to leave sport in a better place then they found it. The long-term well-being of sport can only benefit from more meaningful athlete engagement.”

“Athletes are the ones that fill the stadiums and attract TV viewership and sponsors; so surely it is only right that they become a part of developing the sport that they want. I want athletes to know that we are here to listen, engage and empower. There is a clear realisation that change has been demanded, and change is now coming.”

“In my role as Director General, I will be guided and led by athletes’ points of view, and I’m confident that following this listening exercise over the coming months, we will have a clear idea of the changes athletes want to see and how we will approach and secure that change,” said Koehler.

Global Athlete is being funded initially by FairSport along with other individual donors whose desire is to drive change for a better athlete environment. Global Athlete is entirely independent from government, sport and National Anti-Doping Organizations.

As such, the funders will have no part in the decision making or operations of the Movement; they have contributed because of their passion for sport and a desire to see improvements to athlete rights across the world of Olympic and non-Olympic Sport. This will be a movement led by athletes.

“No one knows sport better than the athletes on the field, track or water, and it is clear that many governing organisations need to have more meaningful engagement with athletes,” said Skinner, a Team GB cycling gold medallist at Rio 2016. “Athletes’ voices should not be suppressed or manipulated to further personal aims. It’s time for the athlete voice to be embraced and empowered. We want what is best for the athletes and athletes want what is best for the sport.”

“We want to reach out to athletes across the world to find common ground that all athletes, from east or west, can get behind. It may be issues such as better athlete welfare, harassment, ensuring that athletes receive some Olympic revenues or prize money, a more robust anti-doping system, or better representation at the top table of governance.”

“It’s 2019, and, frankly speaking, sports governance lags far behind other sectors of society in terms of engaging their constituents. As we’ve seen of late, athletes care deeply about how their sport is run, and they want an opportunity to provide input and to help shape sport’s future. A sporting landscape that it is democratic, representative and in-touch with wider society and opinion is critical to progress and staying relevant.”

Skinner continued:  “I’m delighted to be joining Global Athlete, which will be a refreshing, positive, and meaningful force for change in world sport and we couldn’t have chosen a better person than Rob who is a trusted leader and an experienced advocate for athletes. I have full confidence he will deliver this mandate to the fullest.”
Athletes who are passionate about seeing change, and want to start a conversation on how they see the future of sport, are encouraged to sign-up at the Global Athlete website here.