Paolo Barelli Pens Letter Announcing FINA Candidacy; ASCA Promotes to 17,500 Coaches

Paolo Barelli

Earlier this month, LEN and FIN President, Paolo Barelli, announced his candidacy as the next FINA President, while in France for the annual LEN Congress.

Barelli announced his candidacy for FINA president in a letter to the National Federations Presidents and FINA dated May 19th.  In the letter, he states his reason for running as being “driven by the passion I have for our sports and by the strong belief that FINA must ensure and guarantee a bright future for all its Member Federations.” In addition to discussing his reasons for running for the Presidency, Barelli acknowledges and lays out many areas that he wishes to mend.

The letter in its entirety can found below.

John Leonard, Executive Director for the American Swim Coaches Association, has thrown his support behind Barelli in Barelli’s bid to become the next FINA President.

In response to Barelli’s candidacy, Leonard informed Barelli that ASCA will promote Barelli’s candidacy letter to 17,500 coaches worldwide.


The election of the next FINA president will come to a vote in Budapest this July at the FINA World Swimming Championships.  The election is mired in controversy and legal action as written extensively on by Craig Lord

Letter by Paolo Barelli

Dear National Federations Presidents, Dear FINA Family Members, Dear Friends,

It is my pleasure to officially announce my candidacy to the Presidency of FINA and to share with you the reasons which have led me to take this important step.

My decision has been driven by the passion I have for our sports and by the strong belief that FINA must ensure and guarantee a bright future for all its Member Federations. This can only be achieved by distancing the leadership from any sort of power games and personal interests.

The work carried out by all FINA Member Federations is exceptional and it is precisely this that allows FINA to be a great organisation. We cannot allow all this good work to be ruined or lost.

All the scandals that have hit, and currently still do, the world of sport and affected the image and reputation of some of the leading international Federations must put FINA and us all on high alert.

At the beginning of this month, The Times of the 2 May 2017 and several other media agencies reported alleged bribery scandals connected to the world of sport which hit close to home, indeed related to FINA 1st Vice President Hussain Al Musallam. Of course the appointed bodies will carry out their due investigations but there is a concrete risk that FINA may end up paying some very serious consequences.

Over the last few years we have witnessed several “irrational” changes to the FINA Constitution.

Hereunder, you will find a couple of examples:

  • At the 2011 Congress in Shanghai it was decided to limit the eligibility for the Presidency of FINA to 2 mandates. The Congress also decided to set the age limit for the candidacy to FINA President at 80.
  • In 2015 the Congress changed all this again. It removed the 80-year age limit and introduced the maximum number of mandates for the President to three (!).

These are only a couple of examples indicating how the amendments of such important Constitutional rules have been tailored and introduced according to personal interests. This is something that had never been experienced before in FINA history, i.e., adding two new rules and later removing them just as quickly within only a few years.

I have always been a good friend of President Julio Maglione. I supported his candidacy to the FINA President in 2009 when, as candidate, he was telling the world he would stay for only one 4-year mandate. This, he claimed at the time, was done in order for him to improve the governance of FINA.

Today, at the commendable age of 82, he is putting forward his candidacy to the FINA Presidency for a third mandate, seeking to remain at the helm of FINA for a total of 12 years and up to the age of 86. Considering that the IOC has also decided that 80 is the age limit to hold an effective role, I am certain that there must be a logical rationale behind it. I believe that this same rule should also apply within International Federations and, therefore, also within FINA.

Over more than two decades Julio Maglione has done a great deal for FINA, as Treasurer first and as President later and, everyone, including myself, fully recognizes his many merits. Nonetheless, at present, he appears to be unable or unwilling to solve the emerging problems and handle the clashes. I feel it would now be appropriate for Julio Maglione to take on an Honorary role, enabling FINA to successfully overcome the challenges that lie ahead of us.

My program intends to tackle and solve a number of important and critical issues that currently limit the development of FINA to its fullest potential.

More in detail, the areas I have identified and wish to immediately address are linked to the:

  • Lack of a support plan, including economic support, in favor of the small emerging Federations and for the development of our aquatic disciplines. The support in favour of the small emerging Federations is currently totally insufficient. FINA can, and must, do a lot more.
  • Lack of a support plan, including economic support, in favour of the National Federations which, thanks to the success and achievements of their athletes and teams, are the main drivers and contributors towards the global success of FINA. The current FINA contribution plan for the National teams participating at the FINA World Championships cannot be considered sufficient.
  • Lack of a support plan, including economic support, in favour of the FINA Continental Organizations which have the key and crucial role of coordinating and promoting local activities, as they are the closest contacts with the National Federations.
  • Lack of a clear plan to introduce, enforce and maintain good governance and transparency within FINA at all times, and across all positions. This will ensure that FINA stays away from any type of scandals and disagreements.
  • Lack of a clear plan to address the widely known issue of conflict of interest and political interference. These must be fought in a determined way, through concrete actions. I am sure you are all aware of some very questionable and conflicting positions facing both FINA 1st Vice President Hussain Al Musallam and FINA Vice President Dale Neuburger.

– The political interference of Mr. Al Musallam during the 2016 European LEN Elections in favour of one of the LEN Presidential candidate has been formally declared by the Presidents of several European National Federations.

– Mr. Neuburger also played an active role as Director of TSE Consulting, a commercial partner of FINA, which made an agreement with a European LEN Presidential candidate “to orchestrate his campaign” during the LEN Elections.

  • Lack of separation of the political power from the judicial power, which must be autonomous and remain independent at all times and in every instance.
  • Lack of a clear plan to aggressively fight against any form of change to the principles of fair and correct behaviour. Undoubtedly, the war against doping remains the foremost priority. In addition, a culture based on honesty and integrity must be fueled and promoted without hesitation at all times.
  • The number of mandates for the President and Bureau members, as well as the age limit to be a FINA candidate, must be agreed upon once and for all and enshrined within the Constitution without allowing these be changed according to one’s personal agenda.

These are only some of the key issues which require urgent and immediate attention. I know these matters are of great concern for the whole FINA Family and must therefore be addressed without any further delay.

I want to also firmly reiterate the urgent need to promote investments in favour of the National Federations.

The very solid financial resources of FINA are the result of the hard work of all National Federations and of the commitment and professionalism of the FINA Office.

However, FINA is not a Financial Institution with the objective of setting money aside. This is not the vision I have for FINA. FINA needs to raise its position and ensure the brightest future and introduce good Governance for all its Member Federations.

The heart and the true essence of FINA are the National Federations. They are the irreplaceable engine which ensures our sport is invincible and universal. For these reasons, but not only, I will never get tired of saying that it is to them that FINA needs to look at and look after, investing accordingly to fuel and foster their growth and wealth!

I will soon share with you a more detailed program in relation to my candidacy. I truly count on the invaluable input I hope you will provide me with. I consider this of immense value and I am certain it will be the basis to continue developing such fertile ideas.

I am absolutely certain that by working together towards a common vision we can achieve exceptional results and ensure a brighter future which FINA truly deserves.

For the time being, please allow me to send my best regards.

Paolo Barelli, President

LEN (Ligue Européenne de Natation)

FIN (Italian Swimming Federation)

For the official signed version of the letter, click here.