Skateboard England - Skateboarding, the Olympics and more.
You may have already heard about the not-for-profit organisation Skateboard England if you happened to read Lucy Adam's recent Sidewalk interview, or if you're in any way connected to the UK events scene.
Equally, it's just as possible that you haven't heard of them, so we sat down with three of the founding members, Paul Regan (Director), Lucy Adams (Chair person) and the current CEO James Hope-Gill to try and give you all some insight into what the organisation's aims and priorities are.
Obviously with skateboarding's inclusion in the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 on the horizon, that was one topic that we were keen to discuss but, as the conversation went on, we discovered that Olympic considerations are only one small aspect of the remit of Skateboard England and the plans that those involved have to augment possible career opportunities within skateboarding as a whole for our entire community.
So, without further ado - here is Skateboard England's vision from the mouths of those directly involved.
For more information visit: skateboardengland.org/
Can you give us a brief overview of who is involved in Skateboard England, why it was set up when it was and what its stated aims are first please?
Lucy Adams: Formed in September 2015, Skateboard England is a not-for-profit organisation with the main aim of providing support to skateboarders, skateparks and skate schools.
The current board is made up of;
Lucy Adams (Chair)
Jerome Campbell (Director)
Paul Regan (Director)
Russ Holbert (Director)
Ricardo Magee (Director)
Nic Powley (Director)
Steve ‘Wingy’ Wilkinson (Director)
James Hope Gill (CEO)
Everybody on that list is a skateboarder with years under their belts apart from James.
James has worked for over 20 years with different governing bodies of sport in England. In November 2013 he was approached to support the set-up of a governing body for skateboarding by working with experienced skateboarders.
"Skateboard England is a democratic membership organisation working towards National Governing Body status as recognised by Sport England. It has been recognised by the International Skateboarding Federation (ISF) and the World Skateboarding Federation (WSF) as the national governing body of skateboarding in England & Wales".
James Hope Gill: The principal functions of Skateboard England are to provide support and membership to individual skaters, skateparks and skate schools and to provide structure and guidelines to ensure that skating is being practiced in a safe and fun environment and for everyone to enjoy.
Skateboard England’s other key roles are to support and improve performance to enable English skaters to remain internationally competitive; to raise money; to inform and educate; and to allocate funds, as well as provide greater accessibility to the sport.
Although Skateboard England is a new organisation we are committed to supporting skateboarding’s growth in England & Wales. This will take time and many areas of key work are at a very early stage and developing as we move forward.
To achieve our aims we need and want to engage and work with all skateboarders and others involved in the sport.
How did you personally come to be involved? What was the selection process for board members?
Paul Regan: I became involved as I was setting up my own body to represent this cause. I also run Active Skateboarding, which has become very successful with running skateboarding sessions in schools and working with local authorities around Hull and East Yorkshire, so I had some good coaching/authorities knowledge to bring to the table.
I talked with Jerome and James as they were setting something similar up at the time too, long story short we decided that we should collaborate instead of working against one another, this way we became a stronger unit to represent skateboarding on the corporate stage so to speak…
LA: Well back in the day I was loosely involved with the UKSA, a similar organisation set up to support skateboarding on all levels. After that kind of disbanded things went quiet for a while, but I’ve always been coaching skateboarding, promoting female skateboarding and have always worked for Local Authorities. Jerome and James approached me about this plan to create a new skateboarding federation and I was keen.
JHG: I’ve nearly 25 years’ experience of working with governing bodies and was asked to help support the set up of Skateboard England in November 2013.
I spent about 18 months looking at the various structures of other governing bodies, including their articles and other legalities. At the same time I was trying to meet and speak with a number of people within the skate industry around the country in an effort to pull together a group who had influence and a variety of skill-sets, as in any board you need a mix of experience and expertise.
The people on the current Board agreed to become members and formed the first Board of Directors.
All these positions are for a maximum of two 4 year terms. This means that in a couple of years there will be the opportunity for other people from the skate community to be nominated and then elected onto the Board.
From what I know, everybody involved in this, barring James, are skateboarders with skateboarding’s best interests at heart. I know I shouldn’t but I need to ask really – that is the case, right?
PR: This is the case. We are all skateboarders involved with skateboarding one way or another bar James. James has been involved with governing bodies for a long time, we need people like James involved in this as he knows how to speak to the powers that be correctly.
LA: Yep, you got it. With the way skateboarding is heading and has been heading for some time, it was inevitable that something like this would be created. In other sports there has been multiple groups and lots of infighting, or groups without the best intentions that have taken control. We don’t want that to be the case for skateboarding so hopefully with the variety and experience on the Board we’ll be seen as ‘good guys’.
JHG: Yes, absolutely. All the elected Board members are immersed in skateboarding and are motivated to see skateboarding thriving in England & Wales.
However, we have to meet the standards set by Sport England, UK Sport and government with regard to corporate governance. This means we need to have a number of independent non-exec directors with specific skills to help support the Board. We have recently appointed a Finance Director and a Director with responsibility for sponsorship and partnerships.
Why is it a nationally-specific organisation, as opposed to say ‘Skateboarding UK’ – is that down to the logistics involved in dealing with funding bodies and sporting organisations?
LA: Well, partly because Skateboard Scotland has been in existence for some years now and they’re formally recognised as the governing body for skateboarding by Sport Scotland. We have a good working relationship with Ali / Skateboard Scotland and are working towards the GB set-up with them for all things Olympic as that will be needed if we are to have anyone represent!
We’ve been in touch with a group of skateparks and others from the skate community in Wales for over a year. The aim was to offer support and guidance to help them set up a governing body. However, setting up a governing body takes a lot of time and expertise and so the group asked if Wales could become part of Skateboard England until they are ready to set up on their own. We therefore now include Wales within Skateboard England.
There are a few guys in Northern Ireland who are looking to formalise the setting up of a governing body. Its early days but they are working hard at getting that up and running soon.
JHG: It’s really important that each country has its own governing body so that it can make the right and best decisions for the skaters they represent.
"A GB legal entity, made up of representatives from the Home Nations, will be formed because that is what is needed for the Olympics. We are currently looking at the best way of doing that in conjunction with UK Sport and the British Olympic Association".
So clearly part of the reason behind the establishment of Skateboard England is skateboarding’s inclusion into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics: can you talk us through where you’re at with that please?
PR: No, this is not the case. Skateboard England wasn’t set up for the inclusion of skateboarding in the Olympics, this is just one thing we have been working on since the news and because of the position we’re in with getting support from Sport England.
JHG: The Olympics certainly wasn’t the motivation for setting up Skateboard England. The hard work of setting up the governing body started a couple of years before there were even rumours of Olympic inclusion for skateboarding.
We see the Olympics as being a catalyst to grow skateboarding and ensure there are better and more facilities across the country.
We have been working with UK Sport since the end of October 2016 to make sure that we meet their expectations and can create the best environment for GB skaters to complete at the Olympics.
UK Sport funding is purely based on whether they think we have medal potential. At the moment they won’t give us any funding until we can show that skaters from GB can compete really well at international level.
The funding we would hope to get from UK Sport in the future would help to pay for skaters to compete internationally, spend time skating and get better facilities at the right standard.
We would also need to start thinking about Talent Identification and a Performance Programme – things that are essential if we want to help support our skaters to be the best in the world.
The governments in other countries such as Australia, France, Germany and Italy have already decided to fund their skateboarding programmes for the Olympics.
"Skateboard England wasn’t set up for the inclusion of skateboarding in the Olympics, this is just one thing we have been working on since the news"
There have been a few meetings with the relevant Olympic authorities already, hasn’t there? From what I heard, everybody seemed pretty enthused with discussions so far.
LA: Yes, it’s pretty exciting and I’ve only really heard positive things from people when the subject comes up. We’ve met with the British Olympic Association (BOA) a couple of times. There are a few matters that need to be ironed out to ensure that our skateboarders will be represented by the right group people in the UK.
Is there a timescale for how this is going to work yet? In terms of people being able to train/enter/represent the UK etc?
LA: Who gets to go represent for GB at the Olympics?! It’s crazy isn’t it? Well, the qualification pathway hasn’t been officially confirmed yet. It is anticipated that the Malmo leg of the Park Series will be the route for park skaters and the Barcelona Street League set-up will be the route for street. That said, it looks as though existing significant events will be taken into account.
JHG: As with all sports, the skaters will have to qualify. It is likely that there will be a set number of skaters from Europe and a maximum of two or three skaters from any one country in each discipline/gender. At the moment we are waiting for clarification from the ISF.
We know that for skaters to be eligible to enter a “European Championships" which will lead to Olympic qualification, they will need to perform and do well in National Championships. This is why we are re-introducing a National Championships for both park and street skating. The first will be held in April 2018 and we’ll give you more news as we get closer to that date.
These National Championships will be the route for GB skaters to qualify to enter the Europeans.
"UK Sport funding is purely based on whether they think we have medal potential. At the moment they won’t give us any funding until we can show that skaters from GB can compete really well at international level.
Do we know anything about formats yet? There’s no vert, right? Street League meets Vans Park Series kind of deal or?
LA: The confirmed events for Tokyo are Park and Street. There will be no vert comp. This could change if skateboarding stays in the Olympics beyond Tokyo 2020.
What about in terms of female and male skaters? Is the plan to have an even split between the two?
LA: Yep. Having an equal gender split is of paramount importance to the International Olympic Committee.
There will be 20 female park and 20 female street skaters as well as 20 male park and 20 male street skaters.
Will each country have their own colours/uniform?
LA: Hahaha. There’ll definitely be some sort of Team GB emblem on whatever it is….it’s the Olympics and representing your country is all part of it. Let’s face it, skateboarding in tracksuits and sportswear is so hot right now.
The snowboarders had a say in the design of their kit at the last Olympics so there is still hope for a Lev/McCartney collab.
JHG: That will form part of the discussions we have with the British Olympic Association and we would certainly be making sure that the actual skaters have a strong voice in those discussions.
"The snowboarders had a say in the design of their kit at the last Olympics so there is still hope for a Lev/McCartney collab."
This one is going to come up again and again as we move closer to 2020 so I might as well ask it now: do you foresee mandatory drugs testing being a problem as far as skateboarding goes? That did cause problems when snowboarding was first accepted as an Olympic sport if I remember correctly…
LA: I guess it’s only a problem for a minority really though… those who actually want to go down the route of potentially being in the Olympics are already making a big lifestyle choice, working with their Country’s National Olympic Committee etc. They’ll be having to meet standards of behaviour and taking things kind of seriously. But it’s all a choice, it won’t be for everyone!
JHG: There will need to be mandatory drug testing. This is a consequence of being in the Olympics. How that is managed and takes place we don’t know yet. That said, I know from discussions with the International Skateboarding Federation that they are already in conversation with WADA and the other agencies that deal with doping.
Do we have any idea of scoring systems? That’s always been a bug bear of the notion of including skateboarding under a ‘sports’ umbrella in that it’s difficult to take into account things like ‘style’ rather than robotic consistency if you use the Street League scoring formula, right?
LA: This is another one of those bits we’re awaiting confirmation on by September this year.
Is there going to be funding made available to fund good quality, and ideally free, skateparks? And/or are there any plans to create a UK hub/HQ (similar to the British Cycling Centre in Manchester)? Are they going to create a UK Team GB Olympic training facility?
JHG: There clearly isn’t the size of facilities or number in the UK at the moment on the same scale as other countries, especially in the USA. This is something we have been discussing with UK Sport. However, as previously mentioned, UK Sport will only fund skateboarding (including facilities) if we have medal potential. In that regard we are competing against other sports for the funding.
LA: That said however, we have been having discussions with UK Sport and Sport England to develop a facilities strategy which hopefully will include government funding for facilities. This will also provide guidance for Local Authorities so we can finally start to eradicate the building of sub-standard skateparks in this country - see #somebodycallnyjah for more examples of some British disasters that you can’t believe exist!
JHG: At this stage we don’t know if there will be a national skateboarding centre or regional centres of excellence. That is a long term decision which will probably be made after 2020 and depend on how we’ve done in Tokyo.
"We can finally start to eradicate the building of sub-standard skateparks in this country - see #somebodycallnyjah for more examples of some British disasters that you can’t believe exist!
What about funding to allow people to skate full time from funding streams outside of the skate industry? I mean surely we can’t have UK Olympians living off the meagre pickings of domestic skate sponsorship alone can we?
JHG: The main source of funding for other sports is from UK Sport. Their funding has allowed athletes in those sports to become full-time.
We would love that to happen with skateboarding. You’ll have seen in the news other sports such as badminton, archery and a few others having their funding cut because they didn’t have medal potential.
If we can get our skaters competing at international level and doing well, then the funding should be available. It’s a chicken and egg situation in that we need the money now to prove our skateboarders are good enough, but the funding only comes after they have proved they are good enough….clear as mud.
Once we set up GB Skateboarding we will look to try and secure sponsorship and other income sources with a view to generating revenue for skaters at that level.
Am I right in thinking the UCI is in charge? If so, why them and what are they like to work with?
LA: Not quite! I’ll throw this one to James to try and explain the situation as clearly as possible….
JHG: The politics of international sport is complicated, but does impact on how sport is operated. The International Olympic Committee are in charge of the Olympic Games. They recognise International Federations (IF’s) for each sport. Because the International Skateboarding Federation and the World Skateboarding Federation (the skateboarding IF’s) are so new, they aren’t recognised by the IOC. The only IF for skateboarding which is recognised by the IOC is FIRS (Federation of International Roller Sports). The IOC will only work with a recognised IF. Therefore, the IOC are using FIRS to operate skateboarding for the Olympics, with the support of the ISF.
This has caused a few problems in some countries where there is a Skateboarding Federation and a Roller Sports Federation. We are currently speaking with the British equivalent of FIRS to make sure that skateboarding is represented and operated by skateboarding.
In the last day or so, it’s been announced that the ISF will become part of FIRS as an autonomous body that deals with skateboarding.
I’ve had a number of discussions with the President of FIRS to make sure that it’s Skateboard GB that are the recognised NGB from the UK and not BRSF. There is a lot of politics involved, but I’m confident we will get the best decision for us here in the UK.
Are there any UK skaters who've already put themselves forward to compete?
LA: I think there are some people that are keen! We’ve also had quite a few emails from parents that are interested as their kid is showing some talent! Haha.
As 2020 will be the first Games to include skateboarding, what impact do you think that will have on kickstarting the next wave of skateboarders as far as that Police Academy 4/Gleaming the Cube/You Bet moment for the masses goes?
PR: I think it will make skateboarding become more accepted, like the last wave of acceptance when the Tony Hawk Pro Skateboarder game came out around 16 years ago. If it gets more kids, young people and adults alike into skateboarding and being a part of what skateboarding brings to you then I am all for it.
Skateboarding has changed my life and given me so much; if it can do that for other people coming into skateboarding then that is good thing right? I’m just down for it being a positive thing, I’m not too cool guy to say that either - I never have been and never will be. If skateboarding becoming more accepted gets more people into it, then that is surely a great thing and all the more people will benefit from it.
LA: There will obviously be some strange outcomes, like kids wanting to start skateboarding to win a Gold Medal! That notion is pretty crazy to a lot of us who started skateboarding for almost polar opposite reasons. However for the most part, I agree with what Paul says. It will be cool to have skateboarding seen as a positive thing by the masses and in turn hopefully provide opportunities for those who’ve slogged away working in skate shops and parks etc.
So what happens next and how can people find out more/get involved in what Skateboard England are doing?
PR: Just keep pushing on for the best interests of skateboarding and all that comes with it. Again everything is in early stages, but we’re doing the best we can to represent skateboarding for what it is. Hopefully people will see we’re trying to do right by it; a lot of skaters will think it is a load of crap, that is mandatory, however skateboarding has changed and is in a different era. If we want it to progress, have better parks and become legal to skate/work with local authorities like I’ve helped to do in Hull, then we need a governing body to back this up.
JHG: Our biggest issue at the moment is funding and capacity. We have loads that we want to achieve as a governing body but have very limited revenue. As a result things will take longer than we want them to.
We’ve secured a small amount of funding from Sport England to cover some of my time and this has been a massive help. However, we really need to look at ways of increasing our revenue so that we can become stronger and start supporting and growing skateboarding as we move forward.
We are looking to create various memberships for skaters, skateparks and skate schools. This will help us to engage and support skateboarding as well as raising some revenue. We’ll be launching those schemes around September this year, so keep looking at our Facebook page and on our Twitter account.
If you take a look at our website, you can see what we’re up to. http://skateboardengland.org