Ahead of today’s European Deaf Sport Organisation Congress, former General Secretary shared an open letter and vlog to explain the situation about his dismissal and concerns of poor leadership.
Today, Saturday 10 July 2021, at the European Deaf Sport Organisation (EDSO) online Congress, one of its national members, UK Deaf Sport will table a motion of no confidence in the EDSO Board. The reason for this relates to the unexplained reasons for the 2019 abrupt dismissal of Philip Gerrard, a Vice President of UK Deaf Sport who, at the time was the EDSO Secretary General – In 2018, he was overwhelmingly voted in by the EDSO membership on his popular manifesto to help EDSO modernise and reform.
Gerrard has asked Two Big Ears to publish his IS vlog here for the benefit of the whole European Deaf Community as a matter of public interest. The vlog will be uncomfortable viewing for members of the EDSO Board because its is a frank account of concerns:
VIDEO FROM P. GERRARD:
During his tenure, Gerrard kept his word to support EDSO by following up on his promises, he identified the following challenges facing the EDSO Board:
Lack of strategic thinking presented and reported on to member countries at meetings and in-between.
Lack of opportunities and encouragement for women to join the EDSO Board.
Lack of robust and transparent financial processes which led to the closure of the EDSO bank account.
After Gerrard was dismissed, UK Deaf Sport and other countries were expecting to see an improvement or changes made to the organisational issues that were raised. But since nothing has happened, the motion to make a vote of no confidence has been submitted.
Considering the amount of time that has passed since his dismissal, Gerrard has written an email and a vlog for the EDSO members to read to ensure that they fully understand the reasons for the vote of no confidence. Gerrard has also asked Two Big Ears to publish both the vlog and the messages here so that the grassroots membership in deaf sports clubs as well as the Deaf community in European nations have full access to what is going on.
As we publish this post, we understand that other nations have pledged their support to vote for this. In addition to explaining the reasons for the vote of no confidence, the motion also puts forwards recommendations that:
All EDSO members deliver a vote of no confidence and ask for an independent review into the reasons for the dismissal of Philip Gerrard as EDSO Secretary General and;
That the EDSO Board engage with its members to ensure that national representatives can fully access future EDSO meetings and events.
When we were approached by Philip Gerrard, we asked him why he wanted to go public. His explanation was straight to the point: “To give members the opportunity to seek reform with EDSO.”
Ahead of todays EDSO congress, UK Deaf Sport has sent in a message of support to Gerrard’s email and expressed their concerns “We are disappointed with the expereince our UK Deaf Sport International Relations ambassador has had, and look forward to seeing steps taken by EDSO to ensure greater commitment towards gender equity and good governance which is something we strongly believe in.”
UK Deaf Sport will be represented at the Congress by Gordon Hay, from the UKDS International Relations Group and Valerie Copenhagen, UKDS Executive Director. They will also table a second motion that EDSO meetings (online and face to face) must modernise and be delivered with captions in English alongside International Signs. Readers will ask “Why English?” In line with international protocol, English is the official language of communications for official EDSO business and this is stated in the EDSO constitution.
The UK online TV programme company BSL Zone recently released a documentary explaining concerns about the future of the Deaflympic Games.
Deaflympics: Running Out of Time? is a 28 minute in-depth look at how the Deaflympics Games started and what may be in store for the future.
“Presenter Aimee Campbell-Nottage looks at the history of the Deaflympic Games, which started in 1924 and continues to pit the best Deaf sportspeople from across the world against each other. Aimee also looks at how the Deaflympics celebrates Deaf culture and brings people from across the world together in a celebration of sport. But, what about the future of the Deaflympics? Is it really Running Out Of Time? Directed and edited by Sebastian Cunliffe, this programme was produced for BSLBT by ITV SignPost.” (BSL Zone website)
It features former ICSD President Craig Crowley, current ICSD Vice President Gustavo Perazzolo and former EDSO President Isabelle Malaurie.
The Australian Federal government plans to keep its international borders closed until mid-2022, impacting on athletes participating in the postponed Deaflympic Games.
Phil Harper, GM of Deaf Sports Australia has written an open letter to all national Deaf sports organisations and members of the ICSD to share their decision about attending the forthcoming Summer Deaflympic Games that ICSD hopes will be held in Brazil next year.
After considerable deliberation with their federal government, Sports Australia and Sport Integrity Australia, Harper and his colleagues have made the decision not to send athletes to the games due to the remaining uncertainties of the Covid pandemic.
The main issue concerning Deaf athletes is that Australia plans to keep its borders closed until sometime in mid-2022 and travellers returning have to quarantine for 2 weeks at the own expense on their return.
As with other nations, the Australian government does not support it Deaflympic athletes financially as its does for Paralympians therefore Deaf athletes continue to be considered unworthy of their support and would not be able to afford the personal costs of competing in Brazil and then paying out for the 2-week quarantining on their return.
Harper shared the frustrations of many in the global Deaflympic community: “This decision is made with extreme difficulty knowing the impact on our athletes, coaches, managers and families who see this (Deaflympics) as a pinnacle international event in their sport lives, however, the risks are too great and we would not be supported by our Federal Government to attend.’
The Summer Deaflympics were originally planned for December 2021 and then ICSD took direction from the organising committee in Brazil to postpone until May 2022.
The Deaflympic Games are the second oldest global multi-sport event after the Olympics, it supersedes the Paralympics by 36 years when it held its first event the International Silent Games in Paris 1924.
The organising Committee of the 24th Summer Deaflympics decided yesterday to postpone the next Summer Deaflympics until May 2022.
The event was due to take place this coming winter, December 2021 but the local organising committee which includes the University of Caxias du Sol have suggested a new date for the event, 1st – 15th May 2022.
The committee meeting was broadcasted via the internet and the ICSD Interim President Gustavo Perazzolo and the ICSD Executive Dimitri Rebrov took part alongside other members of the organising committee.
The decision to postpone is because of the worldwide restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Around the world there are different ideas and regulations about administering vaccines and so the postponement would allow more countries to complete their immunisation programmes before the event tales place.
This will be the first time that the Deaflympics have been held in Latin America and it is expected that this postponement will be welcome news to all the National Deaflympic Committees around the world. This will allow 4,000 athletes competing in 21 sports more time to prepare.
So far, there is no mention of this on the Deaflympics website. The information is available here and on Facebook
The results of the Deaf Sports Personality of the Year have been announced by UK based DSPY.
Held every two years, this well established event has been gaining more international coverage as more and more people go on-line for information. As well as recognition and support from UK Deaf Sport, the awards are also supported by European Deaf Sports Organisation and the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf.
Members of the Deaflympic movement are fully aware that their former president Valery Rukhledev (Valery) has been under house arrest since 2018 for embezzlement of funds at VOG. What has not been told until now is how this could impact in ICSD.
We reported here on Two Big ears in December 2014 that ICSD CEO Dimity Rebrov was found guilty of audiogram fraud whilst working for the Russian Deaflympic Committee. This was not an isolated incident as we will now share information reported by a Russian news agency Interlocutor.ru
In 2011, Russian Deaflympians and their coaches complained to their Ministry of Culture that the Russian Deaflympic Committee was demanding 10% of their Deaflympic medal winnings awarded from the state. 90% of the medals winners have refused to get involved with the ‘almighty extortionist‘ but the rest ‘have had their careers mercilessly ruined’.
As far as the Ministry of Sport are concerned the 10% donations are to help the development of other Russian athletes. But Interlocutor cites another new source “Novaya Gazeta” that ‘Rukhledev and the SKR (Russian Deaflympic Committee) earned over 1.8 million Euros from medals won at the 2009 Taipei Deaflympics and the Deaflympians and their coaches were complaining that no funds were being passed down to support athletes.
But all this is not the reason for Valery being placed under house-arrest.
So, Why is Valery Rukhledev under house arrest?
In January 2018, a criminal investigation was opened against Valery and four others for the embezzlement of 320 million roubles (£3.1m, US$4.05m, 3.4m Euro) belonging to the All-Russian Society of the Deaf (VOG). Valery co-defendants are a former lawyer of VOG and the former head of Finance at VOG. A fourth person was imprisoned for 3.5 years as her trial revealed that as a close friend and assistant of the VOG lawyer ‘between 2011 and 2014, she created and sought out controlled legal entities as fictitious counterparties of VOG LLC and its subsidiaries and managed their bank accounts, took actions to cash out founds obtained as a result of theft, took measures to conceal the crimes.’
But Where did this all start for Valery?
Natalia Metlina, a journalist and TV and radio presenter, Moscow City Duma (Council) Deputy and author of the book “My Mafia” wrote that Valery became the head of VOG in 2003 with the support of Caucasian criminal groups, whose money was used to bribe the heads of VOG regional branches 500,000 roubles each to approve the election of Valery.
Once he was in power, Metlina writes, that he surrounded himself with hearing assistants and rewrote the organisation’s charter in such a way that he became de facto owner. The criminal investigation has evidence to show that Valery became ‘the sole executive body of the company… having the right to dispose of the property of VOG entrusted to him by virtue of his position and make transactions on behalf of the company without additional approval’.
What would a Mafia stand to gain from putting money into Valery’s election campaign?
In 1926, VOG was created by the state to support Deaf people, it allocated buildings and factories. Deaf people had their own houses of culture, sanatoriums, rest houses and much more. VOG owned hundreds of buildings and plots of land throughout Russia. All this could be very useful to a Mafia. As well, in the 1990s, the state provided VOG with significant benefits on the importation of goods from abroad and it appears that the mafia used this to smuggle vodka, cigarettes and petrol into the country.
The investigation has been told that Valery was involved in a worked-out scheme of real estate, the buildings belonging to VOG throughout Russia were sold at bargain prices to the ‘right people’ and the difference between the price on documents and the real sale price was paid to Valery in cash. Those premises that could be rented out earned them another income.
The scheme also scammed state benefits. False names ‘dead souls‘ were used to claim state funds to pay for the fictitious use of sign language interpreters as well as organising fake jobs and selling equipment that should have been given to disabled people. grants given to renovate buildings also went into the ‘pockets of the president’s team’.
Amongst the evidence is one example of where VOG owned 100% shares in a company. The entire share were sold to another company for 500,000 roubles and then two months later the ownership of the company building was transferred over. It turns out that the building was worth 40 million roubles ‘There are dozens of examples throughout Russia’ According to another source in the report, it is calculated that over the 15 years under Valery’s management, VOG started out with 90 enterprises and this was reduced to 6. VOG still owns 191 buildings and 1 million hectares of land.
How much is Valery Rukhledev accused of making from all this?
The investigation suggest that Valery owns assets in Switzerland and the USA. His personal estate in Russia is estimated at half a billion roubles and twice as much again is in the names of other members of his family. In 2018, the Tverskoy Court of Moscow ruled to seize property belonging to his wife, as well as accounts, land plots and nine other properties that were in shared ownership.
Valery was eventually arrested when he tried to sell the central office of VOG for 1 billion roubles.
Rukhledev is still trying to hold on to power at VOG
Then Valery was placed under house-arrest in 2018, he was immediately replaced by Stanislav Ivanov as interim president. But despite the conditions of his arrest, on 3rd January 2018, Valery was able to issue a decree which cancelled Ivanov’s appointment and he was replaced by Alexander Kachergis, who according to reports is a protégé of Valery. It has been implied that the wording on the VOG website suggests that Kachergis is acting on the orders of Valery.
This is not the only time that Valery had violated his conditions and the investigators petitioned the Tversky Court to put him in a pre-trial detention centre because under secrecy he had arranged for visitors to meet him in his apartments and he still had access to the Internet and video-relay communications. So, for that, Valery spent some time in a detention centre cell before being released back under house-arrest where he will remain until 28 November 2020 with a ban on certain actions imposed by the court.
The next Congress of VOG will be held on the 12-14 November 2020. there are concerns that if Kachergis remains in position after the congress, then VOG will continue to remain as a pocket filling trough for the usurped power and thief unless the 76 regional branches and 878 local ones can find it amongst themselves to fight against this and stop the VOG being the personal wallet of Valery and be transferred back into an organisation designed to protect the interests of hundreds and thousands of Russian deaf people.
Does the shadow of Valery Rukhledev still hand over ICSD?
Having absorbed the magnitude of this information, members of ICSD might not help but wonder at the similarities they find in the ICSD where the Board has recently tried to remove Rebrov who was appointed by Valery. Looking further back, people might also wonder if similar methods of using stuffed envelopes in Valery’s 2003 VOG election might also have been used again in 2013 when he replaced Craig Crowley for the presidency of ICSD.
As we know, the VOG investigation suggests that Valery owns property in Switzerland and the ICSD (under the direction of Valery and Rebrov) were quick to move its assets to Geneva where ICSD uses Swiss law to govern its financial operations.
This week, ICSD have announced its intentions to hold an Extraordinary Congress in 2021. If members think that by voting in a new Board, they will win the support of the IOC and have their funding reinstated, they may need to reconsider.
They should also think about protecting ICSD from any potential criminal interference from within and outside itself by removing its Secretariat away from Geneva and officially disassociate itself from Russian management.
Members of the Deaflympic movement remain in the dark about who is in charge of their organisation and what is the progress on organising an Extraordinary Congress.
This week, Hungary and the Nordic and Baltic nations have written open letters to the ICSD asking the ICSD Board to organise an Extraordinary Congress.
The Nordic and Baltic Deaf Sports Federation which has representatives from seven nations (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) have been waiting patiently for positive developments from ICSD. They have now written a collective letter asking the ICSD Board and Secretariat to answer four questions:
How is ICSD being managed right now and is Dimitry Rebrov still employed by the organisation ?
How is the IOCs financial contribution to the ICSD progressing?
During the last Congress of Valtellina Valchiavenna, an extraordinary congress was promised. How has ICSD progressed with the work on this ?
It was agreed at the same congress that the Deaflympics and Congress should be held separately. How does ICSD relate to this?
They still hope that the 2021 Summer Deaflympics will go ahead because the athletes ‘should not be made victims because the board of ICSD cannot figure out how to cooperate.’
DEAF SPORTS AUSTRALIA HAS RESPONDED TO THE ICSD APPOINTED ADVISORS AND THE REGIONAL CONFEDERATION CHAIRS. INSTISTING ON URGENCY TO ARRANGE A VIRTUAL EXTRAORDINARY CONGRESS.
Kate Armfield, President and Phil Harper, General Manager of Deaf Sport Australia have written an open letter to all ICSD members:
“..Deaf Sport Australia fully supports the urgent need for an Extraordinary Congress (EC) – a suggestion we have recommended previously in recent emails.
We are very disappointed that the Board and the Executive team are dysfunctional and despite attempts to fix the problems, as shared by Adam and Donalda, they can only be solved at an EC. The future of ICSD is at risk.
We do not agree with the letter sent by the ICSD Regional Presidents – they do not have a mandate to make their recommendations or represent our independent views.
For an EC to be fully transparent, it requires co-ordination and meeting management from an eminent person outside of the ICSD.
We request an urgent EC managed online and conducted by an independent chair. We recommend an IOC representative to conduct the EC and support / information provided by Donalda in her role as honorary member of ICSD.
We agree to the following agenda items:
– approval of Deaf Sport Reform,
– approval of accredited financial audits from past 5 years
– election of the new Executive Board
We ask that all member countries fully support this urgent action.”
The key issue that is concerning members is the impartiality and transparency of the ICSD leadership. Croatia issued a short statement recognising Ammons and Kosa as independent and impartial actors. Australia is calling for an external organisation, perhaps the IOC, to oversee proceedings with Ammons advising.
Chairs of the Deaflympic Regional Confederations say that they have taken control of ICSD and will delay the Extraordinary Congress until 2021.
In a letter to all national deaf sport federations today, the four chairs of the Regional Confederations appear to have taken control of the unstable leadership situation of the ICSD.
The four regional confederations of ICSD are Asia Pacific, Africa, Europe and Pan America.
In an attempt to diffuse the tensions between the two rival leadership groups, they have declared that all members of the Executive Committee, who have split into two camps, will retain their positions until the Extraordinary Congress. This means that the Vice President of World Sport, Mr Perazzolo, will not be promoted to Interim President.
Not only have they removed powers form the Executive Committee, they have also overturned the decision to remove Dimitry Rebrov from his post as CEO and keep him in office ‘to maintain ICSD affairs‘ under the management of the Regional Chairs.
The letter also conflicts the resignation email message sent by former ICSD President Ms Ammons and former legal commissioner Mr Kosa (our earlier blog today). According to the Regional Chairs, the advisors were self appointed and not given direction by the Executive Committee to act as neutrals. Instead, the Regional Chairs claim that the advisors were ‘not allowed to get involved in current issues and discussion with them were stopped.’
The timing of the Ammons/Kosa email is interesting. Their email was received by ICSD members today – two hours before the letter from the confederation chairs. This could suggest that Ammons/Kosa knew its contents would be conflicting and may have decided to get their side of the story in first because the confederation letter is dated 14th October but not released until the 15th, giving Ammons/Kosa time to receive an alert and react.
What will surprise ICSD members is that the substitute leaders have insisted that an Extraordinary Congress cannot be held because of the coronavirus and they are now planning to hold the event in 2021. Many will see this as a stalling tactic and wonder why the meeting cannot be held virtually.
Some are likely to argue that 2021 is a Summer Deaflympic year and elections to appoint a new President can wait until next December when Congress meets one week before the Summer Deaflympics in Brazil.
There is no guarantee that the 2021 Summer Deaflympics will take place as the pandemic could restrict nations from competing and prevent delegates from attending Congress. Earlier this year many ICSD member countries asked for the games to be postponed or cancelled on health and safety grounds but the ICSD chose not to respond. If 50% of the membership are not represented, the Congress will not be quorate and an election cannot be held.