Mr. Jörn Verleger was introduced as new voluntary Secretary General at the IFA Congress in Argentina back in November 2015. The 44-year old sport enthusiast from Bavaria aims high when it comes to the future of fistball. He talks to us about the progress of the IOC Recognition and new IFA structures.
IFA: Hello Jörn, you are in office for 100 days now. What were your main tasks during this time as Secretary General?
Jörn Verleger: The main focus was on the organizing duties, like the preparation of the first Board meeting on 15th of January. Due to the new elections and restructuring of the commissions we had to hold several ballots. Furthermore, we received information from the IOC about the ongoing recognition process. The work for the required documents is already in progress for several months, but the questionnaire from the IOC was extended and the requirements specified. I think there is still a lot of work ahead for us.
IFA: How could we present our sport more attractive for spectators and sponsors in the future?
Jörn: Fistball is a fascinating sport with impressive dynamic within the game. We have to convey these dynamic to the fans and therefore grow the worldwide excitement for fistball. Every person who witnesses a fistball game on court should be thrilled by the amazing performance. We have benefit from the two big events, the IFA 2016 Men’s European Championship in Austria and the IFA 2016 Women’s World Championship to acquire new sponsors and fans.
But fistball isn’t just a great sport on world-class level, it is a sport for people of all ages. The voluntary work in the clubs is the requirement for the introduction of top teams and the dedication of all those members of the fistball family is in every department an important contribution to the mass sport. So we also have to point out this mixture in our sponsorial negotiations.
IFA: What are your expectations for upcoming international fistball events?
Jörn: I would like to see a very good event presentation coming along with great side-events and also an organizing committee focusing on the needs of the players, that’s not a conflict for me and could be done at once. The IFA is supporting the local host with a Competition Manager and specialists for broadcasting, social media and marketing to ensure the best possible competition. Every future IFA event should be recognized by using the same corporate identity. We are still in a learning process – but in the end it should be a win-win situation for athletes, host and the world wide fistball community.
IFA: As Secretary General you are also responsible for doping testing. Why do we need these tests in a sport that is mainly played by amateurs at the moment?
Jörn: Fair play and clean sport should not be a question of amateur or professional athletes. We do it for the protection of the clean athletes. I’m deeply convinced that we don’t have a doping problem in fistball. As we can see in actual doping cases in world-class sport, this is not obvious for all sports. To protect the clean athletes from general suspicion, we should agree with those random tests. We are facing comparatively rare training and competition testing. For me it’s a reasonable effort, which is furthermore essential for the recognition as international sport partner. Without doping testing there is no way of achieving the IOC Recognition and no participation of fistball at the World Games.
IFA: In Cordoba the first IFA Athletes’ Commission was introduced and elected. Who is in and what are the tasks for this commission?
Jörn: We wanted to get the top fistball players involved in the process of decision-making in the IFA board, so we incorporated the IFA Athletes’ Commission, in analogy to the IOC, in our statues. The members are directly elected by the participating players at the Men’s and Women’s World Championships. The male members elected in Argentina 2015 are Rolf Petersen (AUS), Eric Kindler (USA), Klemens Kronsteiner (AUT), Fabian Marthy (SUI) and Nick Trinemeier (GER). The women are going to elect their members 2016 in Brazil, until then Tricia Groeber (USA) will act as head of the IFA Athletes’ Commission. With the long time sporting experience the commission is up to bring the athletes view to the board decisions.
IFA: What do you want to tell every club and individual, who is spending leisure time with the development of fistball?
Jörn: Love the game and share the enthusiasm to the people around you. Fistball is a fascinating sport but not really widespread yet. Together we can manage to double the number of active players and clubs. Keep up with your great work, that’s also a good basis for economical discussions. Together we are Fistball!