British Swimming Issues Apology Over 2016 European Masters Championships Fiasco

Photo Courtesy: Annie Grevers

British Swimming has issued a public apology after the fiasco that was the 2016 European Masters Championships where close to 10,000 masters swimmers struggled to even make their way into the facility. Add to that limited areas for warm-up and upward of 100 timed finals heats per day resulting in a mass of angry masters swimmers and viewers.

While David Sparkes, CEO of British Swimming, did issue an apology to the masters commnity in the aftermatch of the Championships, but avoided a fully detailed response because at the time he believed that it would “serve no purpose.”

In addition to the newest apology, British Swimming has announced that they are undertaking governance reforms relating to the masters swimming and have legally committed to a budget for masters activities.

Read the full apology below: 

We would like to take this opportunity to express our profound thanks to all the officials, the staff and other volunteers at the event for their hard work and dedication under very difficult conditions, which has been much praised by many of the competitors. A post event review has now been concluded and further discussions have been held with LEN and members of the British Masters community to examine the issues that arose to see what lessons can be learnt for the future.

British Swimming and SC2016 acknowledge that the unprecedented huge demand of entries and failure to cater for this in the original plans, led to significant challenges with this event.  We accept that elements of the event were felt by many in the Masters community to be unsatisfactory and that experiences fell short of expectations, and would like to offer an apology to all those affected. LEN has already taken some of the outcomes on board and resolved at the LEN Bureau Meeting in July 2016 to restore the additional day of competition to this meet for the future.  This together with reviewing the entry standard for the European Masters Championships and a closer working relationship between the LEN Masters Committee, LEN Executives, the Masters community and the hosting Federation should ensure a better experience at future events.

We appreciate, first, the disappointment felt by those competitors whose expectations of the event were not met in two respects, by not being able to compete in the Olympic competition pool and by having to reduce the number of events they originally entered from five to three.

The reduction of event entries from five events to three events and the allocation of events to the pools were decisions taken by LEN based on entry numbers with a view to ensuring the participation of as many competitors as possible and to ensure the safe management of the Masters competition.

Further, we fully recognise that aspects of the arrangements for the event were felt not to be of a standard commensurate to an event at this level, including warm up/swim down facilities, access for coaches and spectator facilities.  We apologise for the disappointment that this caused.

In addition, we understand that certain sectors of the Masters community considered that they were unfairly prejudiced by the arrangements. This was certainly not our intention; indeed, British Swimming is committed to ensure that Equality and Diversity is at the heart of British Swimming’s operations and considers equal treatment as one of the cornerstones of its Equality and Diversity policy. The data available from the Championships will be analysed, and we will use it to continue to strive to achieve our objective of equal treatment.

British Swimming can confirm for the avoidance of any doubt that both swimming pools at the London Aquatic Centre are fully compliant with FINA Rule 2.1.1 and 2.2.1 and, further, that the venue operators provided the relevant documentation to LEN as per LEN’s event conditions to ensure the validity of any records achieved prior to the commencement of the European Championships 2016. We understand that all records have now been ratified by FINA and LEN.

Finally we would like to thank you, the swimmer, for your commitment and passion for our sport and the positive way in which you approached the challenges faced at this event in the true spirit of Masters.


David Sparkes                                                                         Maurice Watkins

Chief Executive, British Swimming Ltd           Chairman, Swimming Championships 2016 Ltd

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6 years ago

Glenys Lock Kath Baker

6 years ago

There should be qualifying times to limit the numbers. Due to the nature of Masters swimming (huge number of events/competitors due to split age groups), it may even be worth limiting entries to the top 8 (or maybe 16 for very short events) in each age group.

I heard that there were qualifying standards in place, but they were not very fast.