Spain's backbone for sporting success

The rise of Spain as one of the best sporting nations was achieved when a federation — Association Del Deporte Espanol (ADESP) — was formed to defend the interests of all sports in the country.

Carolina Marin was a badminton gold-medallist at the Rio Olympics in 2016.   -  Getty Images

The biggest sporting extravaganza — the FIFA World Cup is just weeks away and teams are on the home strech of their preparations. The odds are heavily stacked in favour of Brazil, Germany, France, Argentina and more importanly Spain to lay their hands on the silverware. The La Roja is beckoned with the best chance to win the World Cup, putting the group stage exit at the 2014 World Cup and the Euro 2016 defeat behind it.

While the team is working hard on the pitch, there is a lot of hardwork that goes behind the scene, too — The Royal Spanish Football Association being the backbone for the game's surge.

As one of the powerhouses in sports in Europe, Spain, has grown its sporting empire through meticulous planning and execution. The country has had tremendous success in various sports over the last decade and a half, with over 45 Olympic gold medals overall and has produced world champions in tennis and badminton.

The rise of Spain as one of the best sporting nations was achieved when a federation — Association Del Deporte Espanol (ADESP) — was formed to defend all the interests of all sports in the country.

In a chat with Sportstar, José Hidalgo, President, Spanish Sports Association (ADESP) and Julián García, First Vice President, Spanish Sports Association (ADESP) got talking on the association model, what India can learn from Spain's sporting structure and more.

The dignitaries from Spain were a part of SportEx.Asia, a platform for evangelising sports in India. SportEx.Asia conducted a two-day sports conference recently and brought together several influential decision makers in the sports sector to discuss, define and refine the opportunities in the high growth sports sector in India this year in which Spain is the country partner for the 2018 edition.

Excerpts from an interview

How did the idea of having a Confederation of Sports come up?

In the previous sports model in Spain, two different confederations existed to agglutinate the interests of the different sports associations/federations. First, the one that included the Olympic sports (COFEDE) and the other included the rest (AFEDES).

The main objective with the new model was to work in a parallel way and after a consistent time of cooperation to be able to create a single confederation that would defend the interests of all the Spanish sports associations/federations and therefore of all the Spanish sport.

This happened in 2016 where both associations were able to join together and create this new association (ADESP), an organisation which is of vital importance for the future of the sports system in Spain.

How did it take shape?

This was the final goal that we had in mind for the two confederations. And after a period of time working together, we were able to integrate the two directives and with the support of the President of the Ministry of Sports of Spain we were able to reach an agreement for the creation of this new confederation (ADESP)

What was the main motive behind the idea?

We always had a very clear motive behind this idea; to have a unique voice to defend the interests of the Sports Federations and Sports organizations and as consequence to turn our association into the only valid interlocutor in front of all the sectors of the Spanish society, for the improvement of sports in Spain.

What were the challenges faced before the Confederation took shape?

In today's Spanish society there are always difficult challenges to be faced, and from our perspective, we understood that working independently we were not going to be able to successfully resolve these new challenges that the society was demanding us.

We were only able to solve individual situations and problems, but not collective problems, and the most important thing, we were not able to do at that point, was to get in deep into the really serious and important issues that were necessary to face the permanent improvement that Spanish Sports system demands. At the same time, the problem we were facing it was that working independently as two associations we were not considered as an important Sports association to be taken into consideration for the key stakeholders of the Spanish Sports System.

Does India need a Confederation of Sports? If yes, why?

We personally believe that India is demanding right now to start with a model that is capable of conducting a successful sports project for India by putting together the collaboration of the Government and the private initiative.

The creation of a confederation like the existing ADESP in Spain must be a subsequent step for India in the above process and this new organization should agglutinate the whole group of associations/sports federations existing in the country.

What can a country, like India, learn from the Spanish Confederation?

We believe India can learn from our model and that we can cooperate together in different projects. At the same time, we can learn from India also. India with its large population presents incredible possibilities and opportunities for sports development.

Known as The Beast of Mallorca, Rafael Nadal is another of the Olympic gold medal winners from Spain, a powerhouse in sports.   -  AP


We personally think that our Spanish sports organization that includes our association ADESP is a top sports model with a previous and current proven track of success in the international scenario and that this model is not difficult to be implemented in any other country and particularly in India. Having said that, it is evident and very important to have enough time to develop an entire and comprehensive successful Sports Project and also to walk the proper steps:

We personally believe that the main steps for India at this point should follow these phases: to define a clear structure of objectives, to build the accurate structures and finally to be able to embrace this entire model with the professional resources that are necessary to implement the system.

What are the boundaries of the Confederation? Does it involve in funding, sponsorship etc?

There are no limits. We can act and interact with everything that we understand benefits the sport, as long as the collegiate bodies on which the association depends take the decisions. Also, as we have commented before, we have no restrictions at all. We are a private association that we can carry out all the actions that we estimate positive for the association. We can search for sponsorship for ADESP and/or for any Sports Federation that belongs to the association.

What is the best way to move forward for India?

At this point, we understand that India can move forward in two directions: First one is the development and execution of sports programs/platforms aiming at its implementation in the Indian society, and with the final goal of searching the progress of the Indian people.

The second one is to implement High-performance Sports programs for the improvement of the results of the Indian athletes in international competitions. All this in collaboration and coordination with the different administrations of the Indian Government with the private initiative and in the middle term, with the support of a unique sports confederation that oversees the management of the rest of Sports Federations; this is the way Spanish model works.

To identify sports it is good at and bring those federations under the Confederation of Sports or to have an association for all sports? Which of these does Spain follow?

We believe to have all the sports federations under the umbrella of the Sports Confederation (ADESP) is very positive as it allows us to implement many projects under a unique voice. But we need to keep in mind that ADESP is not designed to replace the sports federations; each Sports Federation must have their own identity, their own programs and projects. This new association in Spain coordinates all the Spanish sports federations, and gives them support in all that they need and/or demand, both in global matters concerning the Spanish sport and in those actions that are more of a particular nature, obviously without interfering with the management of the Sports Federation.

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ADESP plays a key role as the Spanish Sports representative in front of the society, and also supporting the management of their affiliates in order to help them grow. Therefore, we might think the Indian sports system to take a look at this kind of Sports association to develop initiatives that lead to the practice of new sports in India and thus strengthen the current and future Indian sports model.

How does it help in developing the sport from the grassroots in the country?

The grassroots programs system in Spain have a well defined and organised structure; we have a very clear and transparent model in which we know exactly and at any moment which are the sports organisations responsible for the different Sports competences and who are the decision makers. Regarding ADESP participation in this grassroots program model, we can collaborate in two different ways; either on our own initiative or on the other hand, on demand of other Sports organisms, but always working together with a common objective in mind.

What are the basic guidelines an association must follow to come under the purview of the Confederation?

The Federations that want to be part of the association (ADESP) must be federations recognized the Government of the country and on top of that, there must be an approval by the management bodies of each of the interested parties that form the association. Also, the federations must comply with all the statutes and internal regulations of the association.

How many years did it take for Spain to see the desired results after the Confederation was formed?

The confederation (ADESP) runs parallel to the development of the Spanish sports system that is an example for the rest of the countries and that brings a proven track of success at the international scenario as mentioned before. This sports system has its origin in a solid structure that started when Spain opened its doors to the democracy and decided to transfer the skills in terms of promotion of the sports to the various administrations, both local and provincial and regional.

But the most decisive and important moment for the Spanish sports system was without a doubt with the concession of the organization of the Olympic Games to Barcelona; these fact made possible that many resources, both economic and human would arrive to the Spanish sports system and this contributed to a noticeable change in the image of Spain. But we need to underline, that today and after twenty-five years of that important moment, the Confederation believes that we must take a step forward and re-make changes that improve the currentSpanish sports system, which is already obsolete.

Do you foresee the same for India too?

Under our perspective, we would need to carry out an analysis of where is India nowadays in terms of sports and how its sporting system is running along with the strategy that is already implementing for the short-middle term years. But for sure, what we can foresee is that India, with the right resources, structure, people and accurate strategy, will be able to achieve extraordinary results in the medium term. And as ADESP, we can say that we would very happy and proud to be able to participate together with this incredible country in this process.

To whom is the Confederation accountable to? Is there a process to ensure the Confederation functions smooth?

The Confederation has a president who is democratically elected by all its affiliated members, through a system that is regulated in its statutes. The preparation of its organs, the operating system and its competences are also included in its statutes. Each federation has one vote, no matter the size and power of the federation.

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