FINA’s Gauntlet To League: 2020 S/C World Cup Dates Set But Policy ‘Open To Legal Challenge’

2017 winners - but Sarah Sjostrom and Chad Les Clos have pledged their loyalty to the League in 2019 - Photo Courtesy: FINA

FINA’s Gauntlet To League

FINA, the international swimming federation, has announced its intentions to keep its World Cup alive at the traditional time of year while knowing that the bulk of the best swimmers in the world will be racing elsewhere in International swimming League competition.

The 2020 Cup will include six meets from September to November next year and overlaps the dates already pencilled in for the League.

This inaugural League season has been layered over Cup events and been marked by a FINA decision that where a clash of dates exists, no swims or records in the League will be recognised officially.

Elite athletes have voted with their feet. They’ve raced in far greater numbers in League waters than on Cup tour in a pre-Olympic season of short-course events for the League, long-course for the Cup.

FINA’s policy on date clashes and records guarantees a split sport, say critics who believe it will only be a matter of time before a World record is set in a meet FINA does not want to approve. FINA has made clear that it believes its events should take precedence over League events even if the world’s best swimmers have made their choice in a very obvious way.

The Might Of Minna – And An Open Question


A world record of 54.89 in the 100 backstroke brought a huge smile to Minna Atherton’s face

Minna Atherton‘s World record over 100m backstroke in League waters in Budapest last Sunday will be ratified by FINA, according to Swimming Australia. Budapest’s event did not clash on the calendar with a FINA event.

In early October as the League got underway, athletes made their feelings on the FINA policy clear after Katie Ledecky fell a hand shy of the 400m freestyle world record: had she cracked the mark, the standard would not have stood because FINA had not approved the Indianapolis round of the ISL.

The Indianapolis starter for the League clashed with a poorly attended round of the FINA Cup, one that included finalists in the men’s 1500m freestyle   who swam slower than Shane Gould’s world-record swim for women in 1973, among other efforts that proved the word World in the cup title is about universality alone not the standard and quality of the competition.

The FINA policy on meet approval, the record shows, is inconsistent. On the same weekends as it intends to host its World Cup events, there are a number of domestic and international events around the world – major-event approved qualifiers at that – at which any world records would count.

As such, the move is purely aimed at the League and the competition that it brings to the competitive arena.

Experts believe FINA’s position – as both regulator and a competition organiser with a commercial benefit in the mix while setting conditions designed to block competition – is open to legal challenge.

On FINA’s position, a law professor Sue Arrowsmith, a procurement expert and a member of the World Bank International Advisory Group on Procurement when it recently overhauled its policies on procurement in developing countries, says:

“I don’t believe this approach is legal under EU competition … the same organisation [being] allowed to do both [regulate and organise competition] … can’t use its regulator side to provide a competitive advantage to its commercial side.”

FINA is pressing on, however, and in direct opposition to the League next year. In 2020, all three-day legs will take place in the short-course, 25m pool, “as they will be qualification events for the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m), scheduled for Abu Dhabi (UAE) on December 2020.”

There is no word on whether League events will count as qualification events for the FINA winter showcase.

The 2020 FINA Swimming World Cup calendar:

Cluster 1:
1. Singapore (SGP) – September 4-6
2. Jinan (CHN) – September 10-12
Cluster 2
3. Kazan (RUS) – October 2-4
4. Doha (QAT) – October 8-10
Cluster 3
5. Berlin (GER) – October 23-25
6. Budapest (HUN) – October 30 – November 1

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  1. Simon Edwards

    Sue Arrowsmith .. you got your name mentioned in this article 😀

    • Sue Arrowsmith

      Simon Edwards thanks! Not seen this one – will read now.

  2. avatar

    Well then the ISL should start ratifying the real World Record, which include both FINA and ISL records

    • avatar
      Craig Lord - Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

      Jacob: they can’t do that. FINA is the regulator… of course, ISL can have its own meet records and to highlight those would certainly highlight a vein of stupidity were any of those to be faster than the World record…

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