Antonio Espinós has claimed the World Combat Games have no value for International Federations ©WKF

Former SportAccord vice-president Antonio Espinós believes the organisation should steer clear of trying to organise multi-sport events, criticising the World Combat Games as a “nightmare” which serves no real purpose for the International Federations (IFs).

Espinós, who also heads the World Karate Federation (WKF), chaired the inaugural event in 2010, held in Beijing, which involved six Olympic and 10 non-Olympic sports.

St Petersburg in Russia played host to the second edition, before boxing, taekwondo and wrestling led a withdrawal from the 2017 event following the fallout from former SportAccord President Marius Vizer’s strongly-worded attack on the International Olympic Committee and its President Thomas Bach in April.

Peruvian capital Lima consequently withdrew its hosting rights, with the whole future of the Games left in limbo. 

A far more limited SportAccord has been proposed following Vizer's resignation in May, with organising the Convention and IF Forum the primary goals outlined in new draft statutes proposed to members ahead of further deliberations next year.

One other aim related to "facilitating the organisation of multi-sport events where requested and appropriate for the IFs in consultation and agreement with the IOC”.

A meeting was duly held between the initial 16 combat sport federations during this month's IF Forum in Lausanne to discuss resurecting the event.

This was viewed as a preliminary discussion by most in attendence, although International Federation of Muaythai Amateur (IFMA) secretary general Stephen Fox, who chaired the meeting, claimed afterwards how the talks had been "positive" and that Kazakhstan had already shown interest in hosting the event in 2018.

Espinós, who was replaced on the SportAccord Council by World Baseball Softball Confederation President Riccardo Fraccari in April, feels this isn’t the direction the organisation should be going in.

The future of the World Combat Games has been in doubt following former Sport Accord President Marius Vizer's stinging attack on the IOC in April ©SportAccord
The future of the World Combat Games has been in doubt following former Sport Accord President Marius Vizer's stinging attack on the IOC in April ©SportAccord

“Has the Combat Games been giving us something extra? I would say no,” Espinós told insidethegames here.

“We have been participating to show solidarity with other federations but we and the Olympic federations have enough competitions and we have an overloaded programme as it is.

“The last Games were a nightmare for us as they were done by the IFs and not National Olympic Committees.

“We had 80 competitors in 60 countries and we had to contact all of them and to book tickets and travel was a nightmare and a lot of work for not too much added value.

“I don’t think the future of SportAccord is multi-sport Games - the future is to provide these services that some smaller federations need such as anti-doping programmes.”

Espinos, who has led the WKF for 17 years and has overseen a golden period for the sport, culminating in the Tokyo 2020 Additional Events Programme Panel recommending karate be included at the Olympic Games in five years’ time, also called for an end to what he called the “duplicity” of federations.

Karate itself has been a victim of this particular problem, with rival organisations within the same sport having been set up in the past, and the Spaniard feels it is the job of SportAccord to protect the smaller federations from facing a similar issue.

Antonio Espinós (left) was speaking during the Karate1 Premier League finale in Okinawa ©Xavier Servolle/WKF
Antonio Espinós (left) was speaking during the Karate1 Premier League finale in Okinawa ©Xavier Servolle/WKF

“SportAccord must protect us against rival groups and this is the main task - if it is not able to protect us against rival groups and manage anti-doping programmes then I don’t think it has any role at all,” Espinós added.

“We need to be sure that the procedure for AIMS (Alliance of Independent Recognised Members of SportAccord) taking new members is reliable enough not to make problems within ARIFS (Association of IOC Recognised Federations) or ASOIF (Association of Summer Olympic International Federations).

“The situation in martial arts is that there are so many small groups, there are satellites that are going round and round and imagine one day a small karate group wants to become a member of AIMS - who is there to stop them?

“With the new SportAccord, this is not clear and nobody seems to be taking adequate care.

“We have some concern about this but hopefully this will be solved.”

Related stories
November 2015: 
Exclusive: World Combat Games and World Mind Games could be resurrected
November 2015: Exclusive: Opposition growing against dominance of IOC in proposed four-member SportAccord
May 2015: Lima withdraws as host for 2017 SportAccord World Combat Games
May 2015: Taekwondo and wrestling "unanimously" supported World Combat Games last month, claims SportAccord
May 2015: Boxing withdraws from World Combat Games and suspends SportAccord membership in latest blow for Vizer