FINA Urged To Hand Northern Winter To ISL & ‘Use Coronavirus’ Storm To Reinvent Swimming

Foto Fabio Ferrari/LaPresse 20 Dicembre 2019 Las Vegas - USAsport nuoto 2019 ISL - International Swimming LeagueNella foto: Trofeo Photo Fabio Ferrari/LaPresse December 20, 2019 Las Vegas - USAsport swimming 2019 ISL - International Swimming League In the picture: trophy
Making a big splash in the pool and the culture of the sport: The International Swimming League - Photo Courtesy: Fabio Ferrari/lapresse

FINA, the international federation, is under pressure from its major stakeholders, swimmers and coaches, to embrace a major overhaul of the sport of swimming.

Proposals seen by Swimming World include:

  • handing the northern winter season over to the International Swimming League (ISL) in a new Pro-Sports partnership
  • shunting the World long-course Championships to 2022 or even 2023
  • dropping universality in favour of soccer-style regionalism; and
  • using the knockout blow of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic “as an opportunity to de-clutter the international schedule, create co-branding strategies … and to re-think international swimming, rather than focus on short-term finances”.

Growing demands from many of the world’s top swimmers to drop plans to host the Fukuoka 2021 World Championships either immediately after the new July 23-August 8, 2021 dates for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games or in September-October 2021 are just one side of a pincer-movement of pressure building win the FINA leadership, Swimming World has learned.

The World Swimming Coaches Association (WSCA) has written to colleagues on the in-house FINA Coaches Commission to ask it to back the views of an organisation representing more than 14,000 coaches worldwide.

It is understood that there is now support within FINA for WSCA’s proposal after the organisation’s president George Block wrote:

“From the 14,000 WSCA members, even the thought of having a World Championships, post-Olympics, is ludicrous. It looks to most of us like [the sport is being] asked to choose between 2-weeks post-Games and 8-weeks post-Games. To most of us, that seems like a false choice.”

He urges the FINA Coaches Commission to “help FINA to see this [the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic) as an opportunity, rather than a problem” adding:

“We see this as an opportunity to de-clutter the international schedule, create co-branding strategies with FINA, and use this as the opportunity to re-think international swimming, rather than focus on short-term finances.

“This is a chance to bring the many new and traditional meet hosts to the table – under the guidance of the coaches – to rebuild a quadrennial schedule.”

In a three-point plan, the WSCA, with backing from some key figures within FINA, urges the international federation and the ISL to return to the negotiation table and set aside “ignoring coaches” and “overreaching on their schedule”. The coaches urge FINA to:

  • Bring the ISL back to the table … Give them the SC months of October through March and let FINA reclaim the LC season of April through August.
  • Get rid of universality. Instead, replace it by cobranding the regional championships (African, European, Asian, Pan-American, etc.) and allow their champions to be qualifiers for the World Championships that don’t count against national totals. Make it like FIFA, where the regional championships lead to the World Championships.
  • Return to one World Championship per quadrennium. Perhaps the first year of the quad would focus on Juniors, the second on Regional Championships, the third on the World Championships and the fourth on the Olympics. That is just one example, but one that focuses on the natural development of athletes, development of media stories, development of heroes from around the globe, and all of that develops our sport.

In his letter, Block adds:

“If FINA learns how to co-brand, they could make much more money with one championship, rather than two (ask FIFA).”

Swimming World understands that Block’s offer of support for the FINA Coaches Commission has been welcomed and that figures inside the FINA structure will put restructuring plans to the FINA leadership.

Such moves in the past have been met with complete silence. WSCA backed a request from swimming mentor and elder Bill Sweetenham in 2014-15 for FINA to engage in an independent review process with a view to reform of an organisation athletes have accused of “holding swimming back because we’ve been stuck in the same rut for more than 30 years”, in the words of Olympic champion Adam Peaty, of Britain.

To this day, neither Sweetenham nor WSCA have had a reply from FINA.

Meanwhile, Fina Vs ISL legal action is ongoing in the United States, where the ISL separately and a class action for swimmers led by Katinka Hosszu, Tom Shields and Michael Andrew are challenging what they describe as “FINA’s monopoly of swimming”.

A Time Of Great Challenge For Coaches And An Opportunity For Swimming

02 george-block-by-san-antonio-sports

George Block – Photo Courtesy: San Antonio Sports

Block confirmed that the letter was his when contacted by Swimming World. Asked what the postponement of the Games had meant to coaches and athletes at a time of great challenge, he suggested that events were much bigger than the moving of dates for one or two competitions, noting:

“This is a ‘pressure relief valve’, but coaches and athletes still have no idea how to plan. Many areas of the world are still in lockdown. China is just coming out of it. Others will soon be going in. This creates a totally UN-level playing field for training and preparation even for a 2021 Games. On the more sinister side, the announced pull-back in anti-doping testing has created a great opportunity for doping on a massive scale.”

Considering the jobs and lives of coaches, Block noted the subsidised and unsubsidised nature of the coaching profession and the uncertain future ahead:

“In the US, many of them are more concerned about their economic future than about their athletic future. I think, worldwide, most elite coaches have some sort of government or National Federation job. Those coaches, however, can only be as successful as their pipeline of club swimmers is successful and healthy. My son recently left a very secure coaching position with a government pay check to start his own club with two of his coaching friends. They are all quite worried. Young families. Young kids. No income.”

He saw this summer of competition wipeout as “a good chance” for the sport to breathe and take stock. There was an opportunity “even at the local levels [to] let teams reconvene and begin gradually retraining. Maybe let everyone build to some regional or national meets in December, then get on a more traditional rhythm.”

On the de-cluttering of the swimming calendar and shunting the World Championships to a new date, even if that means only holding the global gathering in Fukuoka while cancelling Doha 2023 altogether, Block concluded:

“This opens a bigger, philosophic question. There are already too many “championships”. The International Federations (in all sports) have created – strictly for financial reasons – additional World Championships, World Cups, World Qualifiers, etc. The profits from these events grew the corruption capacity of the IFs, but it also lessened the importance of the unique, historic and traditional regional events.

“I cannot see FINA (or any of the other IFs) giving up their revenue-generating events, but this would be a wonderful opportunity to relook at the world calendar and rebuild it around the local events.”

Swimming World has asked for comment from FINA and will publish a reply should we receive one.

Notify of

Welcome to our community. We invite you to join our discussion. Our community guidelines are simple: be respectful and constructive, keep on topic, and support your fellow commenters. Commenting signifies that you agree to our Terms of Use

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x