Interview with Stan Perkins, candidate for WMA president

Posted June 3, 2005, with biography

By Ken Stone Why are you running for WMA president? What are your goals as president?

Stan Perkins

Perkins: I believe our organization lacks leadership direction and has done so for many years. Our past two presidents have adopted a style of leadership that has centralized power around them and negated to a considerable degree the importance, role and effectiveness of the various committees that our constitution provides. I see it as most important that the WMA Council is restored to a position of trust, and this can only be achieved by the Council working together as a cooperative unit and the restoration of effective management of our sport through our committees.

My goals are to achieve positive outcomes in the following areas:

* Management control of our World Championships.

* A more appropriate drugs policy for masters athletes.

* Increasing participation levels, particularly in regard to women.

* More effective communication with all affiliates.

* Establishing development strategies for each of the WMA regions.

* Ensuring support to enable each WMA region to host our championships.

* Strengthening our relationship with the IAAF.

* Ensuring a totally open policy on all WMA Council policy and financial matters, including all financial grants and sponsorships.

How would your administration differ from that of Torsten Carlius?

Torsten Carlius and his predecessor, Cesare Beccalli, both centralized all decision-making and processes of the Council around themselves. The result of this has been an erosion of the effectiveness of the committee system and a Council that has at times been stymied in its ability to effectively plan for the future of the organization. Decision- making has at times been done without appropriate reference to Council and in fact outside of the Council process.

In addition, the involvement of Torsten in every facet of Council activity has at times given the impression that he is the only person on Council with the ability to make decisions and at times the Council members who have the delegated authority and/or chair WMA Committees have been overruled or ignored in their roles.

Having said that, I must also state that Torsten Carlius has been a more effective president than Beccalli, particularly in his first term of office, as he did work at involving his Council in the running of the organization. Unfortunately his impatience to achieve outcomes has overshadowed this at times, certainly in his second term.

I see my role as president as being the figurehead of the organization, not being THE organization. I am a strong supporter of democracy and believe that to achieve effective team management you must (and I will) work hard at utilizing the skills and knowledge of those persons elected and appointed to serve on the WMA Council. I believe it is extremely important to restore and ensure the effective operation of our committee system and to encourage a greater involvement in the formation of policy from the membership through open committee meetings and a widened reference policy to our affiliates.

I also believe the regional representation system needs to be made more effective in its outcomes and ensure that the affiliates have a reliable and constant line of communication with the Council.

The IAAF is extremely important to our organization and I would work closely in ensuring the continuation and the strengthening of our relationship. I do not subscribe to the theory that one needs to be a ‘person of note’ with the IAAF as has been circularized by the past two presidents. I know that the IAAF respects WMA and believe that whoever is president of WMA will be accorded appropriate status and that the IAAF will work co-operatively with our president, whoever it may be.

I also wish to see more effort made in the implementation of the WMA Development plan. The clear defining of our future objectives and the adoption of a feasible and achievable timeline to do this is essential. I feel it is a lack of future planning that is contributing to many of our organization’s current problems.

According to the WMA Interim Financial Statement 2003-2004, WMA had a budget deficit of $60,000 on June 30, 2004. What would you do to increase revenues or cut expenses?

I suggest you have to look beyond the black and white figures to see what contributed to the bottom line result before you can make a judgment about financial management. It would be easy to simply say ‘cut expenses, increase revenues’ but that is unrealistic in simplistic terms.

The past several Stadia championships have not returned the revenues expected but have caused increased costs over the budgeted figures. In 2001, the championships in Brisbane were successful; however, the numbers of participants did not meet the budget figures and hence there was a shortfall in revenue. The problems with the failed bid by Kuala Lumpur and the transfer of the championships to Puerto Rico caused considerable additional costs, and we all know that the numbers in Puerto Rico were well below budget forecast. In addition, the Non-Stadia championships have not realized the incomes expected and in fact the impact of the Auckland championships will be rather severe.

The question of cost containment is a difficult one that I believe will be rectified to a degree by a return to proper management process and the adoption of a more realistic approach to assessment of participant numbers. I also believe that we have to look at our income streams and work to generate more opportunities. For example, we do not have a merchandising activity and this has the potential to generate considerable initial revenue and a steady ongoing source of income.

We have the opportunity to generate revenue out of our involvement in other forms of competition, e.g. World Masters Games. We are in the process of negotiating a per competitor fee with this organization in return for our participation in their competition. These are just some of the revenue opportunities that are not being accessed at present and there are certainly more to be considered.

On the expenditure side there is an obvious need to ‘live within our means’ and that would be an immediate focus that I would have when elected. This is not to say there is any wastage at present but there has always got to be a review and control process operating on an ongoing basis.

One other area for investigation is the size of the Council. We need to review if our present structure is still appropriate and consider if we could we the same job (or even better) with fewer positions.

Under WMA bye-laws, a punishable offense is “promoting, organising, conducting or advertising any international masters competition which has not been sanctioned by WMA.” Both of you – as well as outgoing president Carlius — may have run afoul of this rule. Does the rule need to be scrapped or more vigorously enforced?

It would be interesting to know why this rule was introduced and what the intent of the rule really is. However, in regard to your comment that I may have run afoul of this rule I would like to know the facts on which you have based your judgment as I totally disagree with you.

I do not know the history of our organization with respect to the inaugural World Masters Games (WMG) that were held in Toronto, Canada, in 1985, but I do know that many of our masters athletes competed in the track and field competition that was part of that event. I do know that in regard to the 1989 WMG in Denmark that the IAAF was requested by WAVA to support a boycott of that event, primarily because that event clashed with our Eugene championships.

It was not until 1992 that I became involved in World Masters Games when employed as the sports manager for the event that was to be held in Brisbane in 1994. As part of the participation of athletics in that event, permission was sought of WAVA for the Australian Veterans Athletics organization to be involved. I traveled to Myazaki, Japan, and addressed the WAVA Council and then later the Games chairman and I traveled to London where a meeting was held with Cesare Beccalli and Torsten Carlius.

Permission was granted for athletics to be included in the Brisbane World Masters Games. If anything, rather than to be accused of working against WAVA I think my efforts to ensure that athletics was appropriately sanctioned has led to our sport (and as a follow-on all participating sports in the World Masters Games) being properly conducted to the rules and with the full authority and backing of the world body for the sport.

With respect to other masters games that I have been involved in, I have always sought the support of the Australian Masters Athletics body and the Queensland Masters Athletics Association. Both Australian Masters Athletics and in particular Queensland Masters Athletics have benefited financially and from a membership aspect from their involvement.

I therefore respectfully suggest to you that I have never acted outside the rules of our sport and have always made every effort to ensure that our sport has been given the opportunity of choice in regard to participation in masters games. I am also prepared to state that the benefits to our sport have been substantial.

I cannot speak for Beccalli and Carlius, but both men have worked co-operatively with the World Masters Games organization to the potential benefit of WMA.

As for the retention or otherwise of the rule, that is something that the General Assembly would determine if such a motion were to come before it. As I said earlier, the original intent of the rule would be important to any such discussion.

One of the biggest roles of WMA is selection of meet hosts for world championships, but all the meets since 2004 and projected through 2009 will be in Europe. Why is this? What can be done to spread the meets around?

There are several aspects to this that have to be considered. Whilst WMA calls for the nominations of host cities and completes the assessment of the bidding entities, it is the decision of the General Assembly as to where the championships will be held.

Generally there is a reliance on affiliates and regions to generate interest in bidding from within their regions, but some inhibiting factors have emerged in recent years that have impacted upon the number of bids received.

Dealing firstly with the Stadia championships, Europe offers the greatest opportunity because of the large number of affiliates and the high level of recognition of our sport within that region. Oceania has hosted the event in recent times (and realistically only has two countries with the capacity to do so), South America does not generally have the financial resources to meet the requirements of the event; Africa is similar to South America with a lack of financial resources.

Asia has only hosted the event once in Japan, but the fiasco of Malaysia is recent history, whilst North America has hosted last in 2003 at Puerto Rico; Canada can’t seem to get a bid city to finally commit; and the USA is hampered by the tough security laws that followed the terrible disaster of 2001.

It would be most unfair to blame the WMA Council for this scenario as the decisions of the General Assembly do not always agree with the Council recommendations (as was the case with Kuala Lumpur and San Sebastian).

So you can only deal with what is put before you and the host cities through to 2009 just happen to be all European. Unfortunately, things may not change much in the years beyond under our present system and that is why one of the major objectives that I have listed is to try to get the championships into every region.

That is going to require a change of process as the lack of funds is not going to change overnight in South America or Africa. I am in favor of taking our championships into these world regions in the knowledge that we will need to use some of our accumulated funds to do so. That is the tradeoff that will be needed to allow this to happen, but I believe it must happen. In addition to changes in the sanction fee structure, we would also need to look at concessions to entry fee levels for participants in these regions.

It would be counterproductive to put funds into taking the championships to these regions and then to price the entry at a level that would preclude the local region athletes from participating. Simply put, we have to think outside the box if we are going to be a genuine worldwide sport. I also believe that the IAAF can be of great assistance to us in achieving this objective with our championships.

In regards to the indoor championships, there are natural limitations related to the existence of suitable facilities. It will be interested to see what success levels are achieved next year in Austria following the Sindelfingen success that was a great German achievement.

The non stadia championships (if they continue) will also be limited in their venue appeal because the event has now been proven to be very limited outside of areas where there are large numbers of runners in relative close geographic proximity. One of the other major concerns that flows from the hosting of many consecutive championships in Europe is the voting bias that will develop. The voting representation of each affiliate at the General Assembly is based upon the number of athletes who attend the previous three championships. We already have a lopsided bias to the European region simply because of the number of affiliates. This is only going to increase over the next six years and is something that has to be considered if we are to retain equality within our voting system.

Some people argue that the $150,000 sanction fee for hosting world meets prevents many good cities from becoming candidates. Would you consider lowering the fee?

I disagree with this argument. I have worked for several years in a major event organization and have a good knowledge of the value of events across a whole range of activities including sport, the arts and exhibitions. The benefits of our event to a host city have now been well established and in Brisbane in 2001 this was documented and included in an extensive final report that was presented to WMA.

By far the majority of bidding cities are looking to promote their city as a visitor location, promote their facilities and introduce new sources of revenue into the businesses within that city. The biggest impacts are generally in the travel, accommodation and food and beverage industries but there are other sectors that benefit as well. Cities justify their building of facilities by attracting events to use them – look at Edmonton in Canada as one of the best current examples.

In reality our sanction fee is near the bottom line in current sporting events that create value for host locations and I would not propose to lower it.

However, variations to the fee would certainly need to be considered in the light of my answer to your previous question, and I believe there would be real benefit in having the capacity to vary the fee according to circumstance.

At Gateshead in 1999, the WAVA General Assembly chose Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to host the 2003 WMAC. But for reasons never detailed, the WMA Council stripped Malaysia of the meet and awarded it to the runner-up: Puerto Rico. How did this happen? What could prevent the WMA Council from doing this again?

I disagree with your statement that the reasons for the withdrawal of the right of Kuala Lumpur have never been detailed as they have been discussed widely and in detail. The decision was taken by the Council when it was apparent that the proposed organizers were either incapable or unwilling to comply with the requirements of our sport and our Council in the organization of this event. In addition many of the undertakings given at the General Assembly by the Malaysian delegates were not substantiated in later meetings and in fact were never going to materialize.

The constitution allows the Council the right to make decisions between General Assemblies and the decision taken in this matter was both appropriate and in accordance with our constitution. I daresay that faced with the same situation again the Council would probably take the same decision, however I trust that the lessons learnt from Kuala Lumpur will be heeded in future considerations. In fact the Council has changed its assessment processes considerably as a result of this matter.

During Mr. Beccalli’s 10-year term as president of WAVA (ending in 1997), he faced an impeachment attempt based on evidence that he paid the registration fees of an expanded Hungarian delegation to insure his election. For Cesare: Have you sworn off these tactics? For Stan, should this disqualify Cesare as a WMA candidate?

I attended my first General Assembly as a member of the Australian delegation in Melbourne in 1987 when Beccalli commenced his 10-year term. I will never forget the drama of seeing the South African delegates thrown out of the meeting to start proceedings. That was just one of the dramas that flowed from that meeting but I did not have personal knowledge of the allegations against Beccalli and accordingly do not pass judgment thereon.

Rather, I believe that 10 years was ample time for Beccalli to preside over this organization and to make his contribution for the future well-being of our sport.

I believe elected representatives have to be given an opportunity to implement their policies and to have an impact upon the development and progress of the sport, but that at the end of their term they should step aside and allow others to follow and to continue with the management process.

This progression system of management allows for changes in thinking and for organizations to continue to grow and strengthen. The renewal process allows for change and development and also provides the opportunity for the organization to be aligned with current thinking, including adjusting to prevailing technical and financial influences at that time.

I believe it would be a backwards and regressive step to bring Beccalli back to the presidency of this organization, not only because he has had his time and done 10 years previously, but also because he has been out of the administration of our sport since 1997 (he did not have any positive involvement in his 2 years as immediate past president) and he is out of touch with many aspects of the business of sport. My extensive experience of not only working in the world of sports management but also being in an active role within our sport provides I believe an opportunity to modernize our thinking and bring a new level of professionalism to the management of our administration.

The WMA Web site is the public face of world masters athletics. But two important features are lacking – a message board (or forum) and an up-to-date seasonal list (such as the IAAF top lists). Will you commit to adding these elements to the WMA site? If not, why not?

In some ways our Web site is nowhere near as effective as it should be as it is not vibrant and not always up to date. Nowadays the public face of an organization is as you say, its website and I agree entirely with you in this regard. There are many aspects of the Web site that need to be improved and new elements that need to be introduced. I believe we have tried to achieve a low-cost solution but it has not worked and this aspect requires budget support to a level that will allows us to have something that is functional and more importantly positively portrays the worth and values of our sport to our membership and the general public – and other sporting organizations. This is a key part of the development of our sport.

Another important function of WMA is the maintenance of world age-group records, but in recent years many elite (open) marks set in high-profile meets have not been ratified. Many official WMA records in the W35 and M40 age groups are not true world bests. What can be done to fix this?

Records have been an ongoing concern for years. Pete Mundle did a good job but had strong opinions on some issues that were in conflict with many people. I believe that Brian Oxley has done a marvelous job since he took over this responsibility on the Council for WMA.

The way to fix these problems is to get them on the agenda through your national association and get them to Brian and his committee. Make sufficient noise and people will listen to you and a decision will follow.

The future of WMA’s world championships is in jeopardy because of competition from the IMGA and its World Masters Games. Should WMA consider combining its world championships with IMGA events? If so, why? If not, why not?

I do not agree with your statement that our world championships are in jeopardy because of competition from the World Masters Games. Rather I believe poor host city selection and substandard event management issues are more to blame, but certainly the World Masters Games is something that we have to deal with.

The World Masters Games is now well-established and has credibility with the major sporting federations of the world. The organization is recognized by the IOC and GAISF as the body responsible for the organization and conduct of Masters Games in the world. It has had a chequered background, but recent successes have consolidated this organization a place in world sport. Therefore I believe it is very important that we become a key member of the organization and attain a position of influence within the organization.

The World Masters Games is a gigantic event that features around 25 different sports and attracts over 25,000 participants. The sheer size of this event rules out any consideration of our combining our world championship into the Games. We would lose our identity and also we would not have a say in the venue for the Games, something that is held in high regard by our affiliates. In addition our stadia championship needs multiple tracks and two weeks in which to complete the competition.

We also require accommodation close to the venues for our athletes and our officials and as part of such a large event as the WMG we would not be able to guarantee these requirements. However, those factors aside, I believe we have to see this event as a great opportunity for our sport to be made available to a wider audience and to provide our existing members another opportunity for international competition. WMG generates great publicity and has enormous financial resources to promote their event and this is an excellent opportunity that we must access to promote our activities. We would never have the money to do this, so this is something vitally important.

Additionally the World Masters Games may offer us an opportunity to undertake some events that do not fit within our existing competition calendar, particularly in regard to the nonstadia that is currently in doubt in future years.

Finally, I see World Masters Games as an important partner for our organization in furthering our sport and providing future income and marketing sources to help our sport to grow.

The General Assembly several years ago voted to change the name of the group from WAVA to WMA to boost its chances of gaining corporate and other sponsorship. Has WMA seen any evidence that the change is paying off?

I still think it is too early to make that judgment. It must be remembered that shortly after the Brisbane decision to change the name there was the 9/11 terrorism attack in New York and that caused enormous impacts across the business world. This affected not only sponsorships but also the negative flow on impacted matters such as insurance and led to dramatic changes in the way the corporate sector viewed its involvement with sport.

Personally, I totally supported the change and still do and believe that we now have a better chance of success than under the Veterans banner. After all, how many years did we go under that name without achieving any sponsorship success?

There are other factors that will impact upon our success in this area, including a strong business plan and setting targets that are achievable.

A continuing concern in world sports is doping, but among the older age groups some medications are essential for an adequate quality of life. Many of these medications are banned by IAAF and WADA. WMA provides for a therapeutic-use exemption but makes it difficult to gain approval. And even a TUE is no guarantee that an athlete won’t be suspended after a positive drug test. Should WMA revisit its drug rules to take older-age issues into consideration?

Our organization is in a very difficult position with respect to drug testing and doping policies. Because we are funded by the IAAF, we are required to comply with the IAAF and WADA drug policies and processes. The difficulty here is the fact that their policies have been developed primarily for youth and open-level athletes that make allowance for medical conditions that do not include aging and other factors related thereto.

I have been chairman of the WMA Medical and Doping Committee since 1997 and together with my committee we have worked to try and make it fair for athletes on medications to participate without fear of the drug testing. Part of this has been to promote and encourage athletes to submit exemption applications, but this in itself is starting to become an overwhelming task just in assessing the applications.

Therefore I am certainly keen to look at what can be done to cater more effectively for the athletes of masters age, whilst at the same time attempting to maintain a level playing field for everyone free from the few cheats who will try to abuse the rules and provide themselves with an unfair advantage. There is no simple answer, but I am keen to explore the options.

It’s becoming well-known that masters drug testing is never done in the United States and in many countries – and that drug-testing at world meets is minimal. Is it fair for the U.S. not to test? Is it fair that only a relative handful of athletes are tested at WMA world meets?

Drug testing within an affiliate country is the decision of the country concerned and I make no judgment accordingly on the U.S. It probably is not fair that only a few athletes get tested at WMA world meets, but the realities are that the costs are so prohibitive that we cannot afford to do many. In Brisbane, the cost of a drug test was $400 and that with a two-week delay on getting the results to avoid additional costs. Of concern is the fact that even with so few tests we still get positive results.

I noted recently that the IAAF has established a new anti-doping educational task force and this may provide us with the forum for discussions on what we should do with testing in WMA. It is also worth noting that the IAAF will spend $3.4 million on its campaign against doping in 2005.

In 2001, following the Brisbane world meet, American Al Sheahen wrote a column critical of the meet and of WMA, saying at one point: “The lack of fairness, openness, and free discussion is becoming more pernicious within WAVA (WMA).” He cited secret meetings that were closed to masters athletes. What efforts will you make to open up WMA and foster greater democracy?

Al’s comments re the WAVA meetings I can only assume related to the Committee meetings. I can only speak on the Medical and Doping Committee meeting that I chaired as I did not attend any others, but the majority of this meeting was open to anyone who wanted to attend and matters were addressed openly. The meeting was taken into closed session towards the end as there were sensitive issues relating to a positive test and suspension of an athlete at the 1999 Gateshead championships discussed. All meetings should be open and I think that you will find there has been a considerable change in that regard since Brisbane.

I will ensure this open meeting policy continues. However, it has to be remembered that the committees have very few occasions where they can meet face-to-face because of the fact that their representation is generally from across the world and it would be too costly financially to bring them together other than at our championships. Therefore our championships provide an opportunity for these committees to meet and I believe it is appropriate that they have some closed sessions to consider their business matters and to get their business agenda completed.

Sheahen also was critical of WMA’s many private VIP receptions, which he said “smacked of elitism, royalty vs. the rabble, and an ‘Us vs. Them’ mentality, exactly the opposite of what WAVA is supposed to be about.” What would you do to change this culture?

Al Sheahan was a member of the Council for 10 years and part of that alleged culture. However, I think he does have a point and I believe there needs to be a rationalization of what the Council does in this regard. However, I think the descriptive words used by Al are a little strong. In Brisbane there were several receptions by the bidding cities and these were attended by many persons other than the Council. The Council attended a mayoral reception (morning tea) and a dinner with the LOC, but apart from those they had no special arrangements.

The Council did go for dinner as a group on several occasions and that may have been mistaken for functions, but that was not the case.

Anything you’d like to add? Feel free to express yourself.

I love this sport and want to bring my administrative expertise to the boardroom and improve our management performance. I believe I offer credentials that have not been available in past presidential candidates in that I am a career sports administrator, I have a lifelong involvement in this sport and I continue to work as a volunteer on a day-to-day basis in competitions. I am married to an elite Masters athlete who keeps me well-informed of the issues that confront athletes and it is this close personal involvement that I believe gives me an insight that the other candidate does not have. I am convinced it is time we moved our sport forward and I want to be an important part of that process.

Stan Perkins biography

Stan Perkins was born at Casino in New South Wales, Australia, on 1 April 1947, the youngest of seven children.

He says “I then grew up on a dairy farm at Rosebank near Lismore, about 120 miles (200 kms) south of Brisbane where the 2001 WMA Stadia Championships were held. I was a farm boy who milked dairy cows, fed the pigs and chickens, helped grow fruit and vegetables and rode a bike 5 miles to school each day. It was a great way to grow up.

“I attended school locally with about 40 other children from the farming community. We all played sport and many of us went on to represent our region and state. Farm life taught us to be resourceful, the value of hard work and an appreciation of friendship and mateship. I attended high school in Lismore (17 miles from Rosebank) as my family had by then moved to that City. I had the capacity to be an excellent student but enjoyed my sport and that tended to take precedent.

“I played basketball, cricket, football and track and field, representing the school and the region in each of the sports. I achieved state honors in cricket, rugby and track and field. My major attributes were that I was always a big lad and had an overwhelming desire to win.

“This ‘never give up’ attitude has always been a strength, not only in sport but also in my business life. My best performances in track and field were as a 17-year-old in the long jump (22 feet 6 inchs) and shot put 16.32m (53-6 1/2). However my greatest achievement was to complete the marathon at the 1987 WAVA Championships in Melbourne with a body shape and size not meant for distance running and two knees severely affected with osteo-arthritis from the effects of my football days. I am married to Wilma, who is a very competitive masters athlete in both track and field events, and together we have four adult children.”


1965 – 1973 NSW Public Service – Justice Department. I attended Sydney University Law School part time and completed 3 years of law but did not complete my degree.

1973 – 1980 NSW Public Service – Housing Commission. I worked in Public Housing and reached a level whereby I had three offices and 3300 properties under my control. Left the public service in a lifestyle change decision.

1980 – 1983 Queensland Little Athletics Association (athletics for juniors under 15) – Chief Executive officer

1983 – 1991 Owned a range of businesses including a very successful distribution company and an entertainment services business.

1991 – 2003 Queensland Government Events Corporation. My work involved primarily the development, organization, management and presentation of major mature age sporting events.

These included:

1994 World Masters Games in Brisbane (Sports Manager)

1995 and 1996 Queensland Masters Games

1998, 2000 and 2002 Asia Pacific Masters Games

2001, 2002 and 2003 Gold Coast Marathon

2003 – 2004 Athletics Australia – National Development Manager

2004 – Present Managing my family’s property interests and major event consultation.

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June 3, 2005