A Statement on the BISFed Ball Licensing Scheme

One of the core values of Paralympic sport is equality of opportunity. Since BISFed’s formation in 2013, we have strived to ensure that our sport is transparent and fair and allows athletes to compete on an ‘even playing field’.

Over recent years BISFed has viewed the introduction of a Ball Licensing scheme as a key element in ensuring that the ability of the athlete is the most important factor in success, and in reducing the widespread concern that equipment (especially ‘manipulation’ of boccia balls) has a material impact on success. Our purpose is to ensure a more controlled environment for boccia balls in International competition in which every athlete has access to the same type and quality of licensed boccia balls. The project team which advised the Board on this initiative included representatives from the relevant interested parties: athletes, referees and coaches.

The journey to making elite boccia fairer has to date taken over six years. Throughout that time, BISFed has charted a course through several key milestones. At each stage BISFed has taken time to reflect on the progress we have made and ultimately whether the actions we have taken have had a positive effect for our athletes.

BISFed is taking the next step on a journey of improvement and we are now in the final stages of approving licenses for up to 8 international manufacturers of boccia balls. Our intent is that licensed balls will be available to all athletes to purchase from June 2021. Licensed balls will then be officially introduced at World Cup Series competitions and the World Championships in 2022. From 2023 licensed balls will be required at World Boccia Intercontinental Challenger Series and other BISFed-sanctioned events.

Throughout the selection of licensed ball manufacturers, BISFed has taken great care to ensure that the needs of elite and emerging athletes have been put first. All 13 manufacturers who applied for a licence were required to submit their boccia balls for pre-testing to ensure compliance not only with the Boccia Rules but also for consistency of performance and quality of manufacture. Testing was carried out by an independent expert. Licensed manufacturers will be required to ensure that their products are consistent with those tested and that they are globally accessible and available to all athletes irrespective of their home region.

BISFed is firmly of the opinion that the creation of a licensed competitive global market for balls will help to ensure that boccia, in terms of cost to the athlete, remains one of the most affordable of all elite Paralympic sports. The licensing project will also allow BISFed to build a relationship with manufacturers which will enhance our knowledge of the process of making boccia balls. This will allow BISFed to take a more active role in implementing future innovation in balls instead of having to react to unwanted situations.

One of our primary goals is to enable boccia to grow and thrive, providing fair, world-class competition at which our elite athletes can excel. Although we are still a relatively young International Federation, BISFed is proud of how our sport is maturing, and we are now regarded as the fastest growing Paralympic sport. Despite these positive advances we know there will always be more that needs to be done. In most sports there are key moments of change and BISFed appreciates that any period of transition is potentially challenging, particularly for our athletes. Despite these challenges our movement has been bold and has always embraced change. Over the last 8 years, together with our many stakeholders, we have taken huge strides to take our sport forward.

Fair competition must be at the heart of everything we do. BISFed is introducing the Ball Licencing scheme to further this aim, providing a fair opportunity for every athlete to compete based on their skill, rather than by any advantage they may gain from their equipment.

We will announce the successful licensed manufacturers very shortly on our World Boccia website and via direct communication with our members.

David Hadfield
25th March 2021

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