Sean O’Hollaren, senior vice president, government and public affairs at Nike, was elected for a three-year term as chairman of a renewed board at the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI) at the federation’s general assembly in Munich on February 4.

O’Hollaren was previously a representative of the Americas on the WFSGI’s board, where the presidency rotates between members from Europe/Africa, the Americas and Asia/Oceania. He takes over from Frank Dassler, general counsel at the Adidas Group. Dassler remains on the WFSGI’s board as a representative for Europe/Africa.

The new chairman is preparing to “push forward the industry’s interests in favor of reduced trade barriers, and to pursue joint initiatives in areas such as physical activity and governance.”

“Efforts to increase physical activity are aligned with what governments want to reduce healthcare costs. It unifies divided parties, it has broad social benefits and supports our industry,” said O’Hollaren. “We also want to further advance governance in our industry, to make sure that the sports community has full confidence in our standards in this area, and that consumers feel good about buying our products.”

O’Hollaren started his career as legislative assistant to Mark Hatfield, a former U.S. Senator from Oregon. He went on to work at The White House as a special assistant and then deputy assistant to the president, until 2007. O’Hollaren joined Nike in his current job in November 2012, after several years at Honeywell. He studied at Willamette University and the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University.

The election of the new board was accompanied by changes in the WFSGI’s structure. The general assembly approved a proposal to adjust the federation’s business structure, changing the title of president to chairman of the board, and the title of secretary general to president and chief executive officer (CEO).

“With the changes we wish to modernize the federation and adapt it to current business structures, providing more stability and making it fit for a sustainable future management,” explained WFSGI’s Robbert de Kock. De Kock has been the WFSGI’s Secretary General since 2007 and became its first president and CEO combined at the assembly.

As part of the new 24-strong board, the three regional vice-chairmen remain unchanged – with Tom Cove, president and CEO of the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) as vice-chairman for the Americas; Motoi Oyama, president of Asics Corporation, as vice-chairman for Asia/Oceania; and Andy Rubin, chairman of Pentland Brands, as vice-chairman for Europe/Africa.

The assembly saw the election of three newcomers on the Board. Bjørn Gulden, chief executive of Puma SE, is a new representative for Europe/Africa. Masatoshi Ishimoto, president of Descente, joins the board as representative for Asia/Oceania. The same applies for Khawaja Masood Akhtar, president of Forward Sport and representative of the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industries (SCCI) in Pakistan.

Three former Asian representatives stepped down, along with three executive nominations. Klaus Uhl, Honorary Director of the WFSGI, handed over his duties as treasurer to Martin Kuenzi, chief financial officer at Intersport International Corporation, a WFSGI Board member representing Europe/Africa.

Dassler’s three-year term has been marked by far-reaching changes in the industry and sustained growth for WFSGI, which currently boasts 163 members. The federation’s resources were also expanded with the opening of an Asian office, established in Hong Kong on 1 April 2015.

“As a key player in the global sporting goods business, we have made substantial progress on a wide range of topics, such as corporate responsibility and fair play,” said Dassler. “We have also set in motion several projects that will assist the development of the industry in the years ahead.” Dassler added that the federation is ‘financially stable, with strong resources to support the growth of the industry’.

Among the federation’s achievements under Dassler’s tenure, the WFSGI’s members agreed to provide free equipment to over 600 athletes from 69 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) that did not have sponsors for the Rio Olympics.

“As an industry we have fulfilled our promise that no athlete will be left behind, by furnishing smaller NOCs through our Uniform Support Program,” said Dassler.

More broadly, the WFSGI has consistently promoted fair and clean sports, which Dassler describes as “fundamental” to the industry. “We made clear that only the commitment to the values of sport and the fight against both corruption and doping can preserve what sports stands for,” he said.

Another major topic was corporate responsibility (CR) and the launch of the Responsible Sport Initiative (RSI). The RSI is an entry level supply chain auditing solution, based on a common scope and approach and shared audits.

The WFSGI’s CR Committee has defined 14 corporate responsibility items of importance. Together with external experts, the WFSGI is drafting position papers covering these items, which may be used as a reference by sporting goods companies and their partners.

“Webinars are organized by the WFSGI to educate, encourage and showcase best practices illustrated in the position papers,” said De Kock. “Together with our new and growing RSI initiative, the position papers constitute another big step forward to make our industry more sustainable and ready for the future.”

The World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI) was founded in 1978 and is the world authoritative body for the sports industry officially recognized by the IOC as the industry representative within the Olympic Family. The WFSGI is an independent, non-profit and non-governmental association formed by sports brands, manufacturers, suppliers, retailers, national federations and other sporting goods industry related businesses.

The WFSGI plays a strategic role in the support and promotion of the sporting goods industry worldwide. The WFSGI promotes free and fair trade and provides platforms for the intergovernmental cooperation with regards to the international organizations interested or affected by sports. Its aim is also to expand the cooperation on the protection of intellectual property rights and improve human rights issues related to working conditions.

All this can be done through contacts with International Organizations such as the ILO, WTO, WHO, UN but also through International Sports Federations (FIFA, IAAF, FIVB, etc.) and the IOC, via the exchange of information and clearing house on issues and topics developed by WFSGI’s various committees.