Interview with Stephan Fox, President of AIMS
Stephan Fox is a former Muaythai world champion, who now holds various administrative roles in sport including the Presidency of the Alliance of Independent Recognised Members of Sport (AIMS). Fox is also Vice President of the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) and the General Secretary of the International Federation of Muaythai Associations (IFMA). He has a passion for global sports development and has been integral in guiding multiple International Federations on their journey in the Olympic Movement. Fox is also dedicated to using sport as a tool for social change, with AIMS being the founding member of United Through Sports, which brings many organisations together for the benefit of youth around the world and also has been the driving force behind the sport festival during SportAccord and other events. Stephan Fox also serves as President of UTS.
Can you tell us more about the background of AIMS?
AIMS was formed in 2009 when all the GAISF recognised Members that had not yet been recognised by the IOC and had no voice in the GAISF family as an umbrella group. As a result, all the recognised Members at the time, that did not belong to ARISF, ASOIF or AIOWF grouped together in the AIMS family to give them a voice.
Mr. Fox has been elected as President of AIMS in 2015 with the support of a unified AIMS Council, a strong relationship has been established within the Olympic Family. In 2016, AIMS gained provisional recognition by the IOC.
In January 2020, the IOC Session unanimously agreed to fully recognise AIMS, what does this mean for AIMS and its members?
In order to become a member of AIMS, you must have full recognition by GAISF and fulfil the GAISF membership criteria. AIMS is the umbrella body for all recognized sports and IFs, striving for recognition by the IOC. One of our main criteria is to protect our members from rival organizations, not because you make the goal post 10 centimetres higher or the field 10 meters shorter, but have the same rules and regulations as football, meaning you are football. This means, when you are recognized, you fulfil all the important criteria of good governance, fair play, child safeguarding, athlete protection and so on. This means no other teqball federation can be recognised and your sport and federation can develop, which then benefits the most important asset all sports have, the athletes.
What are the other key purposes of AIMS?
The aims of AIMS are to strengthen each individual sport and IF, share knowledge and most importantly, use the resources available from the International Olympic Committee, GAISF, WADA and so on. AIMS is also in close cooperation with Peace and Sport, Generations for Peace and many other organizations using sport as a powerful tool to contribute to society.
How has AIMS helped federations throughout the COVID-19 crisis?
We have been very active. First of all, we have communicated regularly with each and every Member to see how they are doing and to help and support them in any way possible. Secondly, we have also created a stronger alliance with all the Observers in the GAISF family by taking them under the umbrella of AIMS and helping them develop.
AIMS is also the founding organisation of United Through Sports, which brings many organisations together for the benefit of youth around the world, not just youth involved in sports but all the youth living in rather challenging circumstances. It also ensures that the AIMS family promotes inclusion, equality and non-discrimination. So, we created a sport festival in 2018, and now during the COVID-19 pandemic and very soon, a big announcement will be made in which teqball plays an important part.
Can you tell us more about the typical journey of a federation in the GAISF pyramid?
I think people know very well that it is not an easy journey to become recognised. There are strong criteria to become a GAISF Member because GAISF is the entry point of the Olympic Family. We understand that for many IFs they say they cannot get the recognition of the national sport authorities or NOCs if they are not recognised by GAISF. So, in 2016, GAISF opened up the opportunity to first become an Observer so that we can help IFs at this level to fulfil the criteria needed, for example as a summer sport you need 40 National Federations (NFs), to become a GAISF Member.
Therefore, we see it as our duty to make sure that we support every and any federation as much as possible to help them to get the 40 necessary NFs to promote the sport within the Olympic family and, hopefully, in time the sport and federation will become a full Member of GAISF and then join the AIMS family.
From there, we have a saying, everyone wants to get into AIMS quickly but just as quickly get out of AIMS because they want to get recognised by the IOC and then join the ARISF family. So, we support all the AIMS Members on their journey and we are very happy that, in the last four years, six AIMS Members have got IOC recognition and are now are proudly part of the ARISF family. We are fully aligned with the IOC and GAISF in the recognition process to ensure that if all criteria are fulfilled the elevator is going up.
The teqball family is only at the start of its journey. What advice would you give to those involved as they look to further develop the sport in the future?
I think FITEQ and the whole teqball family is doing fantastic work. It is a very fast-growing sport and federation. You are very fortunate that you have both professional and financial support behind you. However, at the end of the day, there is a long journey ahead but I can see and feel the vision and mission you have and you do have a very inspiring team behind you, but slow and steady wins the race.
I can speak about my own sport, Muaythai, where the IF applied to become a GAISF Member 1998 but were only recognised in 2006. The GAISF membership criteria is very high but there is an old saying, it is not the destination it is the journey and through this journey we grow and become stronger. For FITEQ, teqball is already on the Asian Beach Games programme as a medal sport so bravo to you and opportunities for your athletes.
Any final thoughts?
In general, I think that FITEQ, despite being a new sport, has already showcased that through proper sport development and policies you can move quickly towards your goals.
At the end of the day, everyone wants to be in the Olympic Movement and it is every athlete’s dream to one day compete at the Olympic Games, Summer or Winter. However, we all must also understand that there is only so much room in the Olympic Programme, and therefore, we are developing other events to ensure that athletes have the chance to compete in multisport games. For example, the World Urban Games saw a very successful launch last year in Budapest, and there is also the World Combat Games the World Mind Games and so on.
So, we at the GAISF family try our best to ensure that all our Members, in one way or another, have a chance to be part of multisport events to create opportunities for their members.