What is the BSSF
What is the BSSF?
The British Sleddog Sports Federation is the governing body for these activities within the UK. It was set up several years ago essentially to deal with entries for those wanting to race abroad internationally. If you wanted to race for Team GB at a sanctioned International Championship then BSSF will have to select you and deal with your entry. It also brings together Nordic and Open breeds as well as all other organisations under one federation. Historically SDAS (Sleddog Association of Scotland) held the position within IFSS, but handed this over as a good will gesture to help the new federation on its’ way.
BSSF are in turn members of the ICF (International Canicross Federation) and IFSS (International Federation of Sleddog Sports) and it’s these organisations that host World and European Champs on dryland and snow. IFSS are also now members of Sport Accord, which is the Global Association of International Sports Federations and deals with Olympics and other such events. Basically if Sport Accord doesn’t recognise your International Governing Body, then your sport doesn’t exist.
Sleddog sports encompasses all forms of dogs running in harness from canicross to teams on sleds. It may seem weird if you run with your terrier who is pretty far removed from a sleddog, but essentially the term covers all dogs that pull in harness. It is important that the BSSF is inclusive to all breeds, the many different disciplines and ways of running dogs.
How has the BSSF changed and grown?
Well it’s still a vehicle for racing internationally and now runs a British Championship Series of races which gives us National Champions and rankings. Using these rankings athletes can be selected to race abroad at International Events, but sadly that’s as far as it’s gone. There are a fair few fundamentals that have not been done and regrettably has led to a disengaged membership and falling numbers. This is all very sad as the first BSSF race still holds the accolade of being the biggest race of its’ kind in Britain.
How did it all go wrong?
Lets firstly say that all the committee are volunteers, no one is paid and are trying to fit this in around their own lives and jobs. They also aren’t experts or experienced at running a Governing Body, they don’t have a rule book, or much support from IFSS about what they should be doing and IFSS itself is still growing and learning. BSSF has had to adopt IFSS rules for races and this frequently causes issues and problems as more often than not they are rules and regulations from countries hundreds of miles away who not only run dogs differently to how we do, but culturally treat dogs differently.
That being said communication is poor, there is no promotion of the sport at any level, elite or grass roots, and lets not even mention the British Team kit debacle. Needless to say those racing for their country look like we’ve gone to the clothing ‘pick n mix section’ and thrown a bunch of random outfits together. Although we don’t look like a team that doesn’t stop us acting like one and generally there’s a great vibe and support. Sadly these good vibes do not get replicated back on home soil.
At the recent World Championships the BSSF Facebook page took a long time to post information and updates. If people were interested in following the escapades of our team, they would still be left hanging now as our Governing Body still has not published any final results or positions. We had a raft of podium placings and by now the Facebook page should be bursting over with pictures of our smiling Union Jack clad winners and their silverware. Instead the page is so quiet it’s deafening.
So what can we do?
Well here at UK9 we want to try and help and grow our governing body into something we can be proud of. We have been pushing for change and see ourselves at the forefront of sleddog sports development. We have a plan and vision for the future which we will release soon. For now we have our fingers crossed that next year our national teams can go out feeling like a cohesive unit, proud to wear their team uniform and supported by a strong following back home. It’s no easy task to regain trust and engage those that have fallen away, but we are passionate and determined enough to try.
Well if we take the time to moan and complain which we as many do, then we need to take the time and energy to make changes or at least help. If you don’t get involved then you effectively give up your right to moan.
Is it better the devil you know?
Most of us don’t like change, it’s a risk, the current committee successfully enter those that want to compete abroad, so why rock the boat? Indeed they do, but it could be so much better.
‘I go to Crufts and watch a demo of canicross and bikejor by the British Team and on the big screen in the background is a video showing the various forms of dogs running in harness………WOW, I’m hooked. The large teams of huskies look amazing, but I’m drawn to canicross with my one dog.
Fuelled by this demo I go home and look up what it’s all about. I find the BSSF website full of facts, info, etc and that’s it I join there and then and in part of my membership pack comes details of local clubs. There’s one 45 minutes from me so that’s it. I join them and we learn to run good enough for our first race. My club helps me with nutrition, hydration, etc and which are the best races for me to start with.
These races are fun and really welcoming, there’s all levels of people racing and we’re all having a blast slipping around in the mud. However I do unexpectedly well and after talking to a BSSF rep at this race, who explains about the next level and racing abroad I now know what I’m aiming for. So we train and enter the British Championship Series of which we get on the podium and into 3rd. I get a national ranking, go to a training camp and do some PR/ media work with the BSSF rep who helps raise my profile. After trying my luck with a few companies I get a great deal on dog food and a pair of running shoes for my upcoming World Championship.
I receive an information pack before the race with all the details about the team leader, journey, pet passports, mushers meal, opening ceremony, kit requirements, etc and off I set. Once on site I’m directed to the rest of the British Team. Two days later I’m on the podium with a World Championship medal around my neck……..OMG the best time of my life with my best buddy, super proud and chuffed.
4 years later I’m at my local club training and a young keen runner comes along for their first session. They are so eager to learn and enthusiastic, like a puppy wagging their tail they’re that excited. Then they shyly say they’d love to be like me and do what I have done…..and the next generation is born.’
Why shouldn’t this be the norm?
This may seem like a fairytale compared to what we have now. But we train hard, we spend a lot of money and we deserve a governing body that recognises that. If we have enjoyed our experiences and our results have been valued then we are more likely to encourage others to share and make their own adventures. Even if you didn’t want to race, but enjoy running your dog with likeminded people and in a safe way, then the BSSF should be your resource.
It doesn’t have to be a dream, it is all possible, just depends if we’re all brave enough to take the plunge and opt for change…….