CEO of British Swimming Replies to Complaints About European Masters Meet

Cristha Thiel (L) Paolo Barelli LEN President David Sparkes LEN Flag Hand Over Diving Women 3m Springboard Final 32nd LEN European Championships Berlin, Germany 2014 Aug.13 th - Aug. 24 th Day12 - Aug. 24 Photo G. Scala/Deepbluemedia/Inside
Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala

Last week’s LEN European Masters Championships was plagued by long lines, as a reported 10,000 swimmers struggled to even make their way into the aquatic center. Warm ups were minimal, and there were dozens of heats per event.

Masters swimmer Verity Dobbie addressed the issues athletes and spectators faced in an open letter to David Sparkes, the Chief Executive of British Swimming. Dobbie acknowledged the positive experiences some athletes enjoyed, and did note that the situation improved over the course of the meet. However, she also argues that adequate plans were not made, and that the overwhelming popularity of London as a destination should have been given more consideration.

“The errors and missteps taken by LEN in delivering this event are too numerous to mention and I can only conclude that the income from the Masters had a greater priority then delivering a memorable competitive experience for them.” she writes.

Dobbie also added, “Make no mistake David, the debacle we have witnessed in London this week is firmly at your door, a fact eloquently corroborated by your absence from the event.”

The strongly worded open letter received a response from Simon Rothwell, a member of the ASFGB British Swimming Management Board.

Rothwell acknowledged the challenges of putting on the event, stating, “Without a separate warm-up pool and with the limit on numbers allowed in the pool for reasons of security it was always going to be a huge challenge and the LOC and the LEN Masters Committee had to work extremely hard to overcome these inherent difficulties.”

Sparkes, who the open letter was aimed at, avoids responding in detail, since it would “serve no purpose.” He does agree that there were challenges, but seems to take these in stride, as something that comes with running a large event. “There are of course lessons to learn as there are from every major event and both LEN and British Swimming will take these on board in due course,” he wrote.

These exchanges were posted on a blog entitled, European Masters Swimming Championships 2016. Read the full posts here.

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6 years ago

I participated in the event, and to be perfectly honest the qualifying times were too slow which allowed the event to be ridiculously oversubscribed , having said that I must commend the Organising Committee,Volunteers and Security staff for doing such a good job under tough three individual events did not involve to much queuing and because I found another pool to do my warmup in, the short warmups weren’t an issue…the event is over now and hopefully FINA and LEN will relook at the qualifying times for both World and European Champs so that this doesn’t happen again..they should consider using the 50th time from the preceding Champs as the QT for the following Champs?
What a hectic event,but wouldn’t have missed it for the world…

6 years ago

I participated in two events, that starts in the morning so I was not really involved in any rush. But I also would say the must be a relook on the standard times. There have to be a championchip-label for Masters and not a everybody-swimming-fun-days.
I have no clue why Masters have no lobby at all.

Geoff Wood
6 years ago

Unfortunately, David Sparkes does not reply to any criticism or questions that might infer his poor handling.
Mr Rothwell talks of inherent problems. These could have been forseen by anybody with common sense and for whom income was not a key driver.
Athletes suffer yet again!

6 years ago

In comparison to other masters events in Eindhoven and Khasikstan this was a joke and an embarrassment for UK swimming.
Far too many people with none qualifying times, many events had peoples qualifying times’ all exact ending with .00 which is far too suspicious
Door controllers where counting people in but were NOT counting OUT!!!!! Many people stuck outside with many empty seats

Quint charles
6 years ago

L’organisation accueil centre nautique n’était pas a la hauteur de l’événement .
Les conditions pour la compétition n’étaient pas requises.
10 000 engagés à 100 euros c’est une bonne affaire…!!
Je souhaite les prochains championnats organisés avec plus d’attention pour les masters ….

Joffroy sandra
6 years ago

Pas vraiment à la hauteur d’une compétition “internationale”, c’est en effet plus que dommageable : l’accès, les entrées “interdites”, la circulation (changeante jour après jour), le manque de considération envers les nageurs les plus âgées (1h à 2h d’attente à l’extérieur), le manque de sanitaires “décents” à proximité (tant à l’intérieur qu’à l’extérieur …), le manque de temps d’échauffement ou l’impossibilité pour la plupart de pouvoir s’échauffer sur le site…. Bref : oui pas à la hauteur!

6 years ago

What a weak and sugar coated response from Sparkes, not that we’re surprised.. Exceptionally poor basic event planning and purely driven by maximising revenue. If it wasn’t for the great day-to-day staff this could have become even more of a shambles. How can an international level meet have racing from 6.30am to 1am?!

“Lessons to learn as there are from every major event” – so given LEN have run these events before it seems baffling that they got it so wrong. Would be good for them to detail in the open what these learned lessons are so that we can see they have actually listened.

Karen Elly
6 years ago

Having swam competitevly for the majority of my life at club level, district, regional, national and International, I was expecting similar from the European Masters Championships in London. Unfortunately the experience was by far a lifetime worst. The signs were there when LEN reopened entries for this International event. The floodgates were open, prestige and nostalgia destroyed, Honour drowned. Having participated in the World Masters Swimming Championships in 2006 at Stanford, Calafornia this event felt like a Scam!

6 years ago

Quelle image! Quelle honte! Lorsque l on voit la détermination de tous à se preparer, des mois durant, s organiser se déplacer souvent au prix de nombreux sacrifices et finalement subir ce qui aurait dû être une fete, on ne peut qu espérer que “ce sera mieux la prochaine fois”, et féliciter chaleureusement chaque nageur ou supporter pour sa persévérance. Quant à moi, je ne peux que vous remercier d avoir”oublie” de valider mon engagement, 3 jours avant mon depart restant sourds aux relances répétées, avec tout ce que cela implique de frais d engagement d avion etc…pour notre club, vous m avez juste évite toutes les déconvenues citées ci gâche la fete de retrouver mes amis nageurs…