Tom’s blog: A look at archery’s international growth on World Archery’s 89th birthday
The header picture is the participants of the 1931 World Archery Championships.
On this day 89 years ago, the Fédération Internationale de Tir à l'Arc or FITA was founded in Lwow, then part of Poland and now known as Lviv in Ukraine, by delegates representing seven countries: France, Czech Republic, Sweden, Poland, USA, Hungary and Italy.
Its mission was to standardise and grow archery internationally, regulating competition with a view to returning the sport to the Olympic programme.
The organisation has grown to a membership of 166 countries as of today.
(It also underwent a name change in 2011, to World Archery, and uttering the old acronym of FITA around the office results in dire penalties.)
To celebrate this birthday for the international federation, we’ve digitised the minutes of all World Archery‘s congresses and bulletins issued since 1931 – and made them available online.
We’ve also taken a look at how the membership has evolved over the years. Each of World Archery’s members is a national federation, with a responsibility to promote and regulate the sport in their own countries.
Without national members, archery simply wouldn’t grow. So, at an international level, it’s our job to build and develop these national organisations.
World Archery was founded in 1931 by the seven countries named at the top of this article. By the end of that year, Great Britain and Belgium had also joined, bringing the total membership to nine. (Blue dot in the above graph.)
Not many more countries joined during the period of the Second World War. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the membership topped 20.
When the new format of archery, with its standard rules and regulations, made its Olympic debut in 1972, represented by the green dot above, the international federation had gathered 46 countries and was growing steadily.
The first spurt in expansion, starting with the yellow dot, was caused by the breaking up of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, and subsequent founding of separate national sports governing bodies.
The second started in 1996, which is the red dot, when World Archery founded its professional office in Lausanne and paid staff began working to grow the sport.
The growth line will not continue on an upward trajectory forever. After all, there are 206 National Olympic Committees recognised by the International Olympic Committee in total and 166 of those already have national archery federations that are members of World Archery.
Now more than ever, those national federations that do represent the sport must be active, working efficiently to promote archery and provide valuable services to the archers within each country.
The five continental federations that sit under World Archery are responsible for development and support of national federations in their respective regions.
The graph above, which measures the regional spread of members at three key points in World Archery’s history – founding in 1931, Olympic return in 1972 and professionalisation in 1996 – against the current situation, paints a very linear picture of how archery has spread.
Initially, driven by a community of European-centric nations, the international federation was not represented in Africa, Asia or Oceania.
But, by the time of Munich 1972, Asia had already become a significant contributor to the international archery community. The continental memberships have grown at a pretty consistent rate ever since.
The graph does not tell the whole story, however, because there are not an equal number of countries in each continent of the world. So the following graph shows the current number of World Archery members, in blue, along with the countries that are not currently a member, in yellow, in each continent as of today.
It’s a point of pride for World Archery that there are national federations representing the sport in all 50 European countries, the number more than doubling since 1972.
But we’re more interested in where archery can grow.
When World Archery’s office was started in 1996, the federation numbered six members in Africa and four in Oceania. Those figures have increased by 21 and eight, respectively, with a further 13 national federations added in the Americas.
There is still room for improvement in these regions, both in helping to launch new federations and growing those already founded through the education of officials, the teaching of coaches and supporting talented athletes.
World Archery has dedicated development agents in Africa, the Americas and Oceania whose role is to do just that.
And by investing in the sport‘s developing countries, we hope that we won‘t need to wait until World Archery’s 189th birthday to say that we‘ve got a strong national federation growing archery in every nation of the world.
Tom Dielen is the secretary general of World Archery.