IHF Payments to President and Council Members – outrageous or not?

A few days ago, THN offered a translation of an internet article in the German magazine Der Spiegel. http://teamhandballnews.com/news.php?item.964 We also offered some brief clarifications of the concepts involved. The key numbers according to Der Spiegel were that the President’s remuneration had been changed from an honorarium of 30,000 Sw.Frs. to a salary of 500,000 per year, and that, in aggregate, the remaining 16 Council members had had their honorariums increased from 174,000 Sw.Frs. per year to 825,000. This suggests an average increase from around 10,000 per year to more than 50,000 per year. (Around that average, I suspect there is a wide range, from Executive Committee members through Commission Presidents to the second-tier continental representatives).

Not surprisingly, the revelations in Der Spiegel have caused people to react. I have received feedback essentially of two types: “this is really outrageous; how can it be allowed to happen!?” and “I am not sure how to react; is this out of line or not?” I can fully understand both reactions, but perhaps the latter one is more to the point: while it is easy to react spontaneously, it is more difficult to have a clear opinion unless one has a frame of reference. In other words: to sense whether something is ‘out of line’, one must ask: “[u]in relation to what[/u]”?

The way I see it, there are really at least [u]five[/u] separate questions one could ask: 1. do other international sports federations pay such compensation and of the same magnitude? 2. how does one justify a sudden, huge increase? 3. how do the compensation figures compare with other IHF expenditure? 4. do the positions and the incumbents in the case of the IHF deserve what they get? and then 5. the [u]fundamental[/u] question: is the [u]decision-making process[/u] for these payments and arrangements transparent and appropriate?

On the first question, some federations provide numbers for a few key employees and elected official, while the majority are not transparent and either keep their numbers secret (also internally) or make it very hard to obtain firm and reliable figures. But the main problem is the relevance of the comparisons. Differences in organization size, financial circumstances, and management structure make it impossible or inappropriate to compare directly. Suffice it to say that most federations provide some kind of honorariums or allowances, varying from enormous amounts for a very large number of people (FIFA) to quite modest amounts in some smaller and less wealthy federations. The IHF’s [u]pre[/u]-increase figures, having gradually moved up during Moustafa’s regime from 0 to the 10,000 average for Council members mentioned above, seem to be more in line with most numbers I have heard.

In a sense, this also answers my second question: the [u]new[/u] IHF figures do seem very high by most comparisons. And there is really nothing in the IHF’s situation that suggests a basis for a brand new compensation philosophy. There is no drastic expansion of activities and duties, no newly found wealth has been announced, and no achievements worthy of major rewards can be pointed to. It is doubtful that IHF member nations would find any arguments either.

The IHF budget has tended to be rather static in terms of size, main income sources and major lines of expenditure. There have been no entirely new forms of revenue. The budget document is dutifully presented on an annual basis, but there is no real debate within the IHF or with the member federations. While some budget items are not easy to define in practice, at least it is clear that the share spent on operations as compared with administration is not impressive. And the 1.325.000 Sw.Frs. amount now reportedly being paid out to the President and the Council members is roughly of the same magnitude as the [u]entire[/u] budget line for development aid!

It is a delicate matter to evaluate jobs and performance, but IHF insiders are well aware that some of those who now will receive average annual amounts in the order of 50,000 Sw.Frs. do [u]not[/u] have the competence or inclination to accomplish very much for the IHF. As I discussed some months ago, in a commentary on necessary By-Law changes and current IHF management practices, http://teamhandballnews.com/news.php?item.857 it is also clear that most continental representatives in the IHF focus almost exclusively on the narrow and selfish interests of [u]their own[/u] constituencies, and spend very little time as true managers of the [u]IHF[/u]. Moreover, the current regime simply does not allow the IHF Council and most of its individual members to play an important role and carry out demanding tasks, and the attention to matters involving strategies and objectives is any case lacking.

If the President is so autocratic, and the Council is largely impotent in the overall decision-making process, then this could in a sense be used as an argument for the President’s conversion from a volunteer elected official to the position of full-time employed chief executive. The arrangement is certainly not without precedent in the world of sports, and a suitable high-level executive will demand a commensurate compensation. The questions are, however, [u]whether the IHF is really best served[/u] by an arrangement where an autocratic president’s role is intensified, whether Moustafa is the best one for such a job, and whether it is money well spent from the IHF’s limited resources. We know the President’s own answers to these questions, but what does the rest of the handball world think, including the poor developing handball countries who depend on the IHF for support? As someone asked: “what are all the miracles that the President now will perform in return for his salary, that he was not able to perform in the past?”

Many would have looked differently at the whole issue and the specific factors just discussed, if the compensation decisions had gone through the careful scrutiny of the member federations in the form of a Congress, and the Congress had given its blessing, not just for the compensation increases but for the notion of a president as a highly-paid full-time employee. Yes, there are parliaments and politicians who are in a position to decide on their own remuneration (although they do it openly), but is that the example to follow for an international sports federation? In 2004, when I became President of the IHF Rules & Referees Commission for 2004-08, I innocently raised this question, when I was surprised to find that the Council was being asked to vote on what was at that time a small increase in a more modest amount. I can assure you that this intervention from a newcomer was ‘not popular’. But for me it remains a matter of concern, on grounds of principle.

Finally, to echo some comments I have received: there is another real danger involved in the new, high level of remuneration of the IHF Council members: if we already have a situation where the President wishes to be autocratic, as he feels he knows best and therefore simply wants the Council to go along with his decisions, what are then the likely implications of his insistence on paying the Council members such large amounts? The President demands loyalty, and for many it would not be easy to walk away from such money. So has it not suddenly become [u]much more difficult to expect true independence and a real debate[/u] where serious questions or objections are raised???