Representatives of 41 national federations took part in the Congress.
At the beginning the President of the World Federation Assen Khadzhitodorov took the floor. He spoke about the last year successes of the Federation, about the meetings with the leaders of the Paralympic Committee and about the prospects of including arm wrestling in the program of the Paralympic Games. The World Armwrestling Federation made the necessary changes to the package of documents required for the inclusion of our sports discipline in the Paralympic family and these changes were presented to the participants of the Congress.
The President also proposed to vote on the establishment of the International Day of Arm Wrestling on April 20. Congress participants voted unanimously for the annual celebration of this date.
After that, topics such as the WAF budget for 2018, the approval of Azerbaijan as a host country for the World Armwrestling Championship in 2021, the admission of two new members (Mali, Palestine) to the world federation were considered and put to the vote.
The participants of the Congress supported all the proposals of the Directorate and proceeded to consider the proposals of national and continental federations.
The Asian Federation made the largest number of proposals and they all were about refereeing. The main discussion unfolded around these proposals, and it is not over yet. It is worth to dwell on these proposals in more detail.
The main motive that unites the proposed changes was a large number of referee mistakes, which are fraught with serious consequences for athletes and, at the same time, do not entail any consequences for the referee who made the mistake.
The Asian Federation offered to introduce video fixation of matches as a tool to confirm or challenge a referee call. In the second place, to assess the correctness of the referee decision, it was proposed to introduce a jury consisting of 7-9 people, which will decide on the contested situation. Previously, this was the exclusive competence of the Head Referee.
It was also proposed to introduce a system of punishment of the referees who committed more than 2 errors during the tournament day, which includes the lowering of the referee's rank by one step and the suspension from refereeing at the tournament. Ahmed Aliyev, President of the Kazakhstan Federation and the main lobbyist of these changes, explained that the protest won by the athlete would be considered a “referee mistake”.
All these proposals were met by the extremely negative reaction of Leonard Harkless, the WAF Head Referee. Unfortunately, the timeframe of the Congress did not allow the Head Referee to bring up their arguments for discussion and the proposed changes were adopted by the Congress with a different number of votes.
But the blows to the WAF judging system did not end there.
At the end of the Congress, after accepting proposals from other federations on various issues, the President of the Asian Federation unexpectedly introduced another proposal, which came as a surprise even to Ahmet Aliyev. He suggested re-electing the Head Referee every 4 years. Almost all federations agreed with this, with the exception of the federation of Poland and several others. But the most interesting thing is that this change was adopted in the wording, which provides for the re-election of the Chief Referee every 4 years by the WAF Directorate. Thus, according to experts, the Congress transferred to the Directorate the right to re-elect the Chief Referee, which in fact replaces the democratic procedure with a simple appointment.
The WAF Congress ended, but the decisions made at it were the subject of very heated discussion. Armpower.net and Armbets News are already collecting the opinions and explanations of key actors of these critical changes, which many have called the crisis situation in the WAF refereeing. We will feel the consequences of the last Congress decisions at the next World Championship.
The development of the discussion and the conflict situation - read and watch in our further reports.