Report from Congress: reported by Rachel Quarrell, including some discussion arising from the press conference held after the Congress. The FISA Congress 1996 took place at Strathclyde World Rowing Championships 1996 on the fourth day of racing. At the meeting were discussed various items which are to be raised at the 1997 Extraordinary FISA Congress in Sydney in December. (1) Re-structure of FISA. Various committees are to be merged to allow more efficient use of the personnel available. One press point was that if the publicity /marketing branches of FISA are to be merged, it should be ensured that facilities for the press were still up to standard (as they have often not been this year). (2) Equipment Proposals. Many ideas have been discussed with boatbuilders, with the International Federation for Yachting, and by the Council. One which seems to be worth proposing is that the minimum weight of boats should be increased by about 10 percent. This would reduce the costs of materials and therefore equipment, and increase durability. There is also the possibility of introducing different minimum weights for lwt and hwt boats. Suggestions which seem to be impracticable include the introduction of a standardised boat design, and use of standardised boats provided at regattas (wrong weights for nearly every crew). Many other suggestions are simply impractical to administer with the FISA staff available, or would cause extra expense to host national federations. (3) World Champs programme changes. The aims are to reduce the cost for host federations, reduce the cost for teams, reduce cost for organising committees, ensure that all events have a large and representative size of entry, and make the programme of events simpler to understand and shorter to cover, to attract more media and TV coverage. The latter would increase sponsorship opportunities. Intentions to be proposed to the Extraordinary congress would leave these events: Men's 1x, 2x, 4x, 2-, 4-, 8+. Women's 1x, 2x, 4x, 2- and 8+. Men's Lwt's 1x, 2x, 4x, 2- and 4-. Women's Lwt's 1x, 2x and 4x. Denis Oswald stressed that there had been a great deal of discussion within the Council before settling on these proposals. Points to take into account include how easily coaches can organise programmes (eg women's lwts all sculling is easier than having a token sweep event), classes must be competitive (so single sculls are a good idea), and popularity at the last few Worlds (eg lwt men's eights could go). He wants the Worlds programme to move closer to the Olympics (marketing reasons again, and standardisation of crews across events). THESE ARE PROPOSALS WHICH, IF PASSED BY THE DECEMBER CONGRESS, WOULD TAKE EFFECT IMMEDIATELY IN 1997. National Federations have until 5th December 1996 to send in their own proposals and individuals can write to FISA (snail only) by October 15th, 1996. (4) Rules of Racing: a) Lightweight averaging. The Sport Medicine Commission of FISA has proposed the elimination of an average weight for lwt crews. A maximum individual weight instead should make each rower responsible for managing their own weight, and reduce the need for rowers to reduce suddenly to help out others in their crew or due to a substitution. Denny Oswald himself is pretty neutral about this. Rules of Racing: b) Opposite sex coxing. There have been several requests from National Federations to remove the rule prohibiting female coxswains from coxing male crews and vice-versa. This will be proposed/discussed in Sydney. Oswald is quite in favour. (5) Allocation of World Championships. The Council will institute (and publish details of) a much more thorough and exacting procedure for choosing WC venues. The proposal is that the Council itself should allocate all venues in future, to improve the overall standard of facilities and to include the marketing opportunities in the reasons for choosing a venue (ie it should be publicised around the host country more). Basic permanent facilities are needed except where the host country has pretty unlimited resources, to avoid the hosts having to spend half their budget building changing facilities etc. Examples - Tampere did not have acceptable media facilities and other countries have had very limited local interest. There will be more FISA involvement in those regattas which include the World Cup, which may improve venue standard. Since national delegates do not always take all these factors into account, hence the decision to take over this function in Council. (6) Advertising Rules. After discussion with top sports marketing firms and some National Federations, it is proposed that the rules on advertising should be relaxed to allow a better and more professional marketing package to be presented to potential sponsors. FISA is in favour of this and it should be possible to encourage more sponsorship of regattas. Miscellaneous: Various points were made at the press conference following this Congress. Denis Oswald is in favour of the qualification regatta system for the Olympics since he feels that it allows the top crews from various continents to get to the Games even if they are not the fastest in the world. More countries were interested in competing in the Olympics as a result of the introduction of Lwt events: 63 in Atlanta as opposed to 46 in Banyoles (Barcelona 1992). FISA feels that the lwt events in Atlanta were excellent and showed good racing: introduction of them was a positive step. There are no known positive rowing drugs tests from Atlanta: Oswald says that this can be taken as final: the results were slow to come through.If you have points to make to FISA you should put them in writing. However, brief enquiries about factual matters (as opposed to discussion) can be addressed to the FISA email account: firstname.lastname@example.org.