John Boultbee AM, has been recognised for his services to international rowing over forty-eight years at the FISA Gala Dinner in London yesterday December 8th.
John’s remarkable post-school career in rowing started at Burn’s Bay in 1968 when he joined the Sydney Uni Boat Club and coxed the Intervarsity Men’s Lightweight Four to a win in Perth in May that year.
Current SUBC President Sarah Cook in welcoming the award said: “Sydney Uni Boat Club was delighted and proud to learn that John Boultbee was awarded the Distinguished Service Award at the World Rowing Awards on Friday in London. John’s exceptional service to sport, but particularly rowing both in Australia and internationally over several decades is extraordinary. SUBC wouldn’t be what it is today without his contribution, most recently as the Treasurer, advisor on the High-Performance Committee, and donor. SUBC congratulates John on this well-deserved honour, and thanks him for his incredible and ongoing contribution to our club. “
John continued coxing SUBC crews as the club’s lead cox till 1971 and served as our club secretary in the early 1970’s. He was awarded a Sydney University Blue in 1969.
SUBC also launched John into sports administration when he was appointed as manager of the 1971 University Tour of New Zealand.
Following this early step, John joined the board of The New South Wales Rowing Association and served as Secretary among other positions.During this time John was completing his law degree at Sydney University. In the same year was John Coates and the two started what has been a lifelong friendship and a lifelong collaboration in sports administration in the Olympic Movement and in Olympic Sports.
John moved to London in 1975 to do a two year Master of Laws degree taking his coxing skills to the University of London, wearing his gaudy purple gear as he coxed their Grand eight at Henley in 1976.With two solid law degrees under his belt John returned to Sydney in 1976 and worked as a solicitor for a major law firm before moving to the bar and working as a barrister until 1989 at Wentworth Chambers.
During this period Boultbee and Coates were wielding a lot of influence at what is now Rowing Australia. The two of them showed extraordinary vision in bringing Reinhold Batschi to Australia as Head Coach of Rowing in 1979. With Reinhold’s appointment and the work of Boultbee and Coates the old state-based team selection was broken down as we moved to a national system that would greatly improve Australia’s rowing performances from the early eighties through to 2004.
From 1980 John served prominently on the Olympic Team firstly as Rowing Team Manager (1980 Moscow) and then as a member of the Australian Olympic Team headquarters team in 1984 and 1988.
During the eighties, John served on the Rowing Australia Board and coached the third and fourth Fours for Shore School. His record as a school coach was remarkable – coaching crews over ten years John’s crews recorded ten Head of River victories.
After the Seoul Olympics FISA was looking to set up a professional full-time office and John was appointed by Thomi Keller to head up the new FISA administration as its first full-time Secretary General.
John accepted the role, sold his chambers and moved to Switzerland. His transition to professional sports administrator was complete.
In 1995 with Sydney having won the 2000 Olympics John was drafted to become Director of the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. At a time when many sports had their main programs at the AIS John was able to lead and harness the personnel and facilities of the AIS to the degree that Australia was able to win 16 gold 28 silver and 17 bronze at the Sydney Olympics finishing 4th on the medal table – our best ever Olympic performance.
John finished at the AIS in 2001 and after a period of running his own consultancy in sport was appointed in 2004 by the Football Federation of Australia to establish and lead the High-Performance Unit. In this new role John was responsible for the performance of up to 11 national soccer teams from the Socceroos and Matildas down to the U17’s national teams.
During this period under John’s leadership of high performance the Socceroos broke the “Curse of Johnnie Warren” qualifying for the 2006 World Cup in Germany (after last qualifying in 1974) and making it through to the round of 16, and again they qualified for South Africa 2010 and for Brazil 2014, and the Matildas qualified for 2 World Cups during this period and won the Asian Cup.
John left the FFA in 2013 to run for the position of President of FISA, having served on the FISA Council and Executive for 15 years. He was not voted into that role and the subsequent changes to the Olympic competition under alternate leadership has left many in rowing with a sense of regret regarding changes to the competition structure.
In 2014 John took up the role of High-Performance Director for Volleyball Australia – a position he still holds.
In addition, John was a Board member and Deputy Chair for Rowing Australia for a period of 12 years to 2015. John serves on the International Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing many cases since 1996 and contributing much to the CAS policy development.
He has been only the second Australian to become a Steward of the world’s most famous regatta, Henley. John has been a steward for over 25 years.
Boultbee has also served as a Director of Australia for UNHCR since 2000.
Finally, John has been a major supporter of his club, (Sydney University) through donations to the Boat Foundation and more recently a major donation to the fund for the just completed Sydney University Boathouse.
John has also assisted his club by serving as the Treasurer over the past two years.
Not all of John’s achievements have been listed here but his career in sport has seen him make incredibly important contributions to rowing in Australia and through FISA around the world. Similarly he has made very important contributions to Australian rowing through his involvement with Rowing Australia (of which he is an Honorary Life member) and to Australian sport more widely through the AIS, the Olympic teams and his involvement with football (soccer) and volleyball, and several other sports along the way.
John’s award reflects his incredible commitment to FISA and world rowing – originally through his work as the first Secretary-General and in the following twenty two years through his consistent work on various FISA Commissions. Many new initiatives have happened during this time, including the introduction of the World Cup, the Under 23 World Championships, Para rowing and many more.
Congratulations John Boultbee on this well- deserved award.
Top: John Boultbee - circa 2012 Bottom:John Boultbee circa 1978