‘Something’s wrong’: Eliasch seeks TV rights control for FIS

SÖLDEN, Austria (AP) — If FIS President Johan Eliasch needed a reminder of the long road ahead to his desired centralization of Alpine skiing’s media rights, he got it on Friday.

Less than three hours before Eliasch was going to speak at the FIS Forum Alpinum about his organization’s marketing rights management, the Austrian Ski Federation announced a two-year TV and streaming deal with NBC.

In a deal brokered by IMG Media and starting this weekend with the season-opening races in Sölden, all Austrian World Cup events can be seen in the United States on Peacock, a streaming service of NBCUniversal, while selected events will be broadcast by NBC.

In Eliasch’s vision, however, the International Ski and Snowboard Federation should be the party selling those rights to World Cup races.

“Through improved media rights management, we can bring in much more money into FIS, so that we can bring in more prize money,” Eliasch said in the on-stage interview.

“What we want to do here is to consolidate all our media broadcast rights, so centralize these efforts.”

However, the Austrian ÖSV and several other large national ski federations are reluctant to give up their marketing rights and lose revenues from their events.

Their opposition to Eliasch’s wishful thinking became apparent last spring, when they challenged the voting rules and ultimately refused to take part in the re-election of Eliasch, who was unopposed on the FIS ballot.

Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Croatia have taken the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, where a meeting is set for Dec. 5.

Talking to the Associated Press later Friday, Eliasch said he didn’t believe the opposition was against the way he has been running FIS since taking over from the late Gian Franco Kasper in June 2021.

As chairman and owner of sports brand Head, the Swedish billionaire has brought in a more business-like leadership approach at FIS.

“I have introduced more transparency, and more frequent interactions,” Eliasch said. “There is not one decision that affects everybody that is not laid before the council or the executive committee. We are undergoing a transformation for the better of all federations.”

Apart from leading skiing and snowboarding into a more environmentally sustainable future, the centralization of the marketing rights management was Eliasch’s key promise when he became president.

“Centralization is an imperative for us in order to realize everything that we want to do,” he said.

“We have to be in a position to control our own destiny, control our rights, how they are sold, how we also make sure all the rights are used, that markets who don’t have anyone doing linear television, that we can stream there.”

It is also about FIS being able to use their own content.

“Today, I could not even take a picture in the finish area and post that on the FIS website. I think that sums it up that something is wrong and that we need to change. It has been done in all bigger sports.”

Eliasch has also drawn criticism for his ongoing involvement in Head, one of the main equipment suppliers in Alpine skiing, even though he is no longer involved in the company’s day-to-day business.

“Is there any conflict of interest? There might be, but when there is, I step aside, and I recuse myself,” Eliasch said.

As an organization with lots of volunteers, FIS has “many people” who have conflicts of interest.

“Because they are involved in the sport,” Eliasch said. “I am kind of an elected volunteer, I don’t have a salary, I don’t have any expenses. I do this for the love of the sport, and only that.”

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