FINA backs down on ban threat over participation in rival ISL
FINA, aquatics' governing body, today backed down in a dispute over swimmers competing in unsanctioned events, underlining that they will not be banned from FINA World Championships or the Olympic Games, albeit all results and any records set at such events will not be recognised.
The clarification comes as FINA continues to try to fight off the advances of the rebel International Swimming League, a new club-based commercial competition that is offering lucrative contracts to swimmers, and is backed by some of the sport's biggest names.
Following a meeting of FINA’s leadership and a representative selection of national federations, present either in person in Lausanne or by video conference, today, the governing body acknowledged that "swimmers are free to participate in competitions or events staged by independent organisers, namely entities which are neither members of FINA nor related to it in any way."
It continued: "Any independent organisers which intend to have the results and records of any competitions or events duly registered with and acknowledged by FINA shall cooperate with or seek approval from FINA or from any relevant member federation, as the case may be, the approval procedure shall be set out in FINA By-laws BL 12, which will be entirely applicable.
"If an independent organiser does not obtain or does not request the above-mentioned approval, all results or records of such unapproved competition or event will be deemed null and void and ignored by FINA and shall not be taken into account for any purpose whatsoever by FINA. However, such participation shall not be characterised as unauthorised relations in application of FINA General Rules GR4, and shall not give rise to sanctions by FINA."
FINA's position, outlined by its legal counsel François Carrard, comes amid a continuing legal battle with the ISL.
The ISL, backed by Ukrainian billionaire Konstantin Grigorishin, is aiming to launch its 12-club competition in August, with the semi-finals and final planned for Las Vegas, USA in December 2019.
The ISL was due to run a test event, Energy for Swim, under the governance of FIN, the Italian swimming federation, in Turin in mid-December, but that was cancelled when FINA refused to give its approval.
FINA was alleged by FIN to have threatened sanctions against swimmers that took part in the Turin event, perhaps as severe as banning them from international competition, including the Olympic Games.
FINA will hope its clarification puts an end to the legal cases in USA, where it is being sued by three world-renowned swimmers who are seeking to challenge what they allege is the monopoly that FINA is exercising over the control of international competitions, while the ISL has separately sued FINA for its “anticompetitive conduct.”
The ruling was said to have major implications on private investors wanting to run their own events without the sanctioning of the necessary governing body.
In response to the ISL, FINA has announced plans to launch its own new ‘FINA Champions Swim Series’, a three-leg competition aimed at elite swimmers, from March that will have prize money of $3.9 million.
Presenting the initiative to national federations today, FINA said: “The reaction to this competition was very positive, with FINA members underlining the importance of having additional opportunities for the stars of swimming to compete at the highest level.”
Tim Hinchley, president and chief executive of USA Swimming, said: “Our athletes are extremely dedicated to our sport and deserve every opportunity to reap the rewards of their hard work. It’s been great to work with FINA to learn more about the new opportunities that will be provided thanks to the FINA Champions Swim Series. With around $4 million in prize money and appearance fees, the Series is a great addition and we look forward to US swimmers prospering at each of the three legs.”
The ISL has accused FINA of having “shamelessly copied” key aspects of “our vision for swimmers and swimming.”