|Sir Andrew Ridgway - Chairman, British Bobsleigh|
|Profile of the week|
Monday, 10 February 2014 09:28
The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games are underway and after political issues, the focus is now solely on the sports. The British Bobsleigh team is in Russia with the hope of defying the odds and returning home with silverware. Funded by UK Sport, the men’s Bobsleigh team are required to come 4th-6th whilst the women 4th-8th. However, Sir Andrew Ridgway, a passionate winter sports fan who chairs British Bobsleigh, believes the team has a real chance of coming away with a medal. iSportconnect spoke to Sir Andrew about Sochi 2014, sponsors, participation and why he thinks Team GB will be “dominating” the event in 2018.
How did you become the Chairman of British Bobsleigh?
When I was in the army I was also the chair of British Bobsleigh. We realised that we would operate more effectively with the Skeleton and Luge, so we bought them together. I became the first director of army ice sports. My regiment had been involved for a long time in British Bobsleigh and provided much of the team. There was something in the genes!
Have you always had an interest in Bobsleigh and winter sports in general?
Yes I have. Through my regimental contacts I have always been involved and followed Bobsleigh. I have always been a keen skier as well.
You became the Chairman in 2010. What was the biggest challenge for British Bobsleigh at that time?
British Bobsleigh was in a bit of a difficult position. The Vancouver Games had not gone very well and we had some problems with debt and discipline. I think the organisation had lost credibility with the key agencies such as UK Sport and the British Olympic Organisation (BOA). What we had to do was turn that around. We put together a very affective board, full of people who were motivated and the organisation is rather different now.
How did you turn it around? Was it purely by having the right people on board?
To be honest that is all you need, good people working with you who are prepared to commit themselves. Crucially you also need people who can drive the performance staff. We have just recruited a new Performance Director, Gary Anderson who has been outstanding. He gripped the performance program and imposed rigid discipline on the staff and athletes. We are now reaping the benefits of his influence.
What valuable experiences did you take from being Chair of Army Bobsleigh that have helped you now?
Quite a lot of one’s military experience reads across into chairing boards in difficult times. The armed forces have always played a major part in Bobsleigh. Significantly out of 10 athletes with this years’ Olympic team, half of them are from the armed forces. The army take Bobsleigh very seriously, because we expect and require our soldiers to be brave. You have to teach them to be brave by inviting them to do things that their brain says “I don’t want to do this,” but they do it anyway. Parachuting and abseiling are examples, but Bobsleigh is a terrific way to develop that skill, as well as team work, physical fitness and more.
Investment for 2010-2014 was just over £3.3m. Is this enough and how do you spend that funding?
When we started after Vancouver we had no UK Sport funding at all. That year we managed to get funding for our women’s team but the men were well off the pace and we could not justify funding. Over the next year their results came through and the commitment was such that we got funding for the men’s team as well.The funding provides direct support for the athletes, the performance team and crucially for the technical development of our equipment. We have a very close relationship with McLaren.
It is never enough and we will certainly be looking for more after Sochi. One thing it does not cover at all is the development side. We were determined when we took over not to focus on Sochi alone. Obviously it is very important, but I have seen too often in the past, particularly in Bobsleigh, getting to an event and then dropping off the cliff. We have had our eyes set on 2018 and beyond right from the start. We created a Futures Programme where we get young athletes coming in. We entered a team into the Winter Youth Olympics and got a silver medal. All of this is setting us up for our journey to Pyeongchang in 2018 and beyond. All of that had to be raised by sponsors and benefactors.