Bad Debt

Serbia Suspended

3 minute read
Words Tom Ransley
Photography Benedict Tufnell
Published 23.01.24

World Rowing have suspended the Serbian Rowing Federation and launched legal proceedings against them and their official guarantors.

Photo SRB W1x
Credit Benedict Tufnell

The decision was announced on January 23, 2024, and taken by the World Rowing Executive Committee, who met on Thursday, December 14, 2023. It was made due to the “significant financial debt” owed to World Rowing by the Federation following the 2022 World Rowing Cup I and last year’s World Rowing Championships held in Belgrade, Serbia. (Serbia was also awarded the 2025 European Rowing Championships but this decision was later revised due to political elections and “the risk of a delay in the funding”.)

The World Rowing release states: “Legal proceedings against the Serbian Rowing Federation and official guarantors are also being launched.” The suspension implies athletes representing Serbia will not be able to enter any World Rowing events nor the Olympic and Paralympic Games. It will likely be a concern for the Serbian women’s single sculler Jovana Arsic, who qualified for the Olympics at the 2023 Worlds.

The Serbian Rowing Federation said that the domestic sports public were “surprised” by the news. The Federation sought to ameliorate concerns suggesting there was “no fear” that their athletes would not race at the upcoming international competitions. Their press release, published on the same day as the World Rowing announcement, states:

“We are in the process of completing the financial procedure and payment of obligations for the World Rowing Championship that was held in our capital, which was delayed due to administrative reasons, which automatically led to the temporary suspension of our association. The Ministry of Sports of the Republic of Serbia approved the payment, is working rapidly to solve the problem, and the obligations will be fulfilled in the shortest possible time.”

“So, at the moment, it is only a question of the dynamics of fulfilling the obligations, which must go through a strict legal procedure, as well as the procedure required by the World Rowing Federation. We note that these are only financial aspects, on which we are maximally engaged, and that the World Rowing Championship in Belgrade was organized at the highest possible level, with a record number of registered teams.”

The full World Rowing release follows:

The World Rowing Executive Committee, after meeting on Thursday, 14 December 2023, has decided to suspend the Serbian Rowing Federation as a member of World Rowing as of January 1st, 2024.

This decision comes over significant financial debts being owed to World Rowing and various event suppliers by the Serbian Rowing Federation and relevant Serbian authorities serving as guarantors of the 2022 World Rowing Cup I and 2023 World Rowing Championships held in Belgrade, Serbia.

As per the Bye-Laws to Article 15 of the World Rowing statutes, “Member Federations that have subscriptions in arrears or that have unresolved debts to World Rowing or to an organising committee of a World Rowing event may be suspended by the Executive Committee or expelled by Congress. In any event, no member of that federation may stand for elections, their delegates shall forfeit their voting rights, and the Executive Committee may ban or suspend the federation’s teams, officials, umpires and Commission members from competitive and other World Rowing events.”

Legal proceedings against the Serbian Rowing Federation and official guarantors are also being launched.

This suspension implies:

World Rowing has been in close communication with the Serbian Rowing Federation and various Serbian authorities for several months regarding the payment of these outstanding debts to find a possible solution.

The World Rowing Executive Committee hopes for a quick resolution of the situation. Upon settlement of the financial debts, the World Rowing Executive Committee will meet again to discuss the possible reinstatement of the Serbian Rowing Federation.