FINA opens new HQ in Lausanne and adopts strategic plan
By Callum Murray in Lausanne
FINA, the world governing body for swimming, today formally opened its new headquarters building in Lausanne, a day after the FINA Bureau, its decision-making body, approved a new strategic plan for 2018 to 2022.
FINA has been working from the new headquarters, a chateau dating from 1876, and newly-built adjacent pavilion, since last year, but the opening ceremony took place today, combined with a ceremony to celebrate FINA's 110th anniversary. Together, the two buildings, the first to be owned, not rented, by the federation, cost SFr12.5 million ($12.48 million).
Guests at the ceremony, which included heads of a wide range of international federations and members of the International Olympic Committee’s executive board, were addressed by Julio Maglione, FINA’s president (pictured right), Thomas Bach, the IOC president (pictured left), and Sheikh Ahmad Fahad Al-Sabah, the president of the Association of National Olympic Committees.
The basis of the new strategic plan is “to develop all FINA disciplines in all countries of the world,” according to Cornel Marculescu, the FINA director who continued: “All disciplines are the same and all need the same kind of support.”
The plan also aims “to give more opportunity to athletes to gain exposure by creating better events,” Marculescu said at a media round table that followed the ceremony, adding: “If you have stars, you have a great sport. Without this you can do nothing.”
New events planned include a new artistic swimming event and, following in the footsteps of other federations that have launched more accessible, reduced-sides versions of their sports, such as basketball’s FIBA and volleyball’s FIVB, 4x4 water polo events, developed from the existing beach water polo discipline, but transferred to the swimming pool. A test event will be carried out at next year’s FINA World Championships in Gwangju, Korea.
Marculescu said: “This will be its first contact with the public and we will see how it can be one of the platforms to promote water polo better. It’s cheaper, it will reach more countries around the world and it’s an easy way to practice.”
Costs are reduced, Marculescu said, because the field of play is shorter, meaning that it can be played in 25-metre pools, instead of requiring much scarcer 50-metre pools.
Other initiatives will include developing an e-learning platform, Marculescu said, adding: “Sport is a business, and you need to have a product that is interesting for the sport business industry. We’re also developing mixed relay and mixed diving to make our sport better understood around the world.”
Among the goals of the strategic plan, FINA cites "Maximise revenues for sustainable growth of aquatic sports."
The plan continues: "Increasing income from FINA’s elite competitions is essential to sustain the growth of our sport. FINA’s commercial strategy will encourage investment in aquatic sports, create valuable partnerships, and generate revenues to reinvest in participation and high-performance programmes.
• "Maximise commercial value of FINA World Championships and drive record levels of revenue through all assets;
• "Protect the legitimate and commercial interests of FINA and its stakeholders;
• "Deliver ongoing sustainable investment in aquatic sports'.
A new Switzerland-headquartered swimming series, the International Swimming League, which is planning to hold its inaugural event in December, ahead of a full season of up to eight events in cities worldwide from 2019, has been facing opposition from FINA.
FINA sent an open letter to all 209 member countries on 5 June warning them against cooperating with the “so-called” international competition, which it “does not recognise.” The federation warned that the event is not part of the international calendar and that results and records achieved there “are not and will not be recognised.”
Asked to explain its opposition, Marculescu said: “It happened in many other sports that people from outside the sports structure are trying to make benefits. FINA is trying to keep the structure of national federations, continental federations, international federations and the IOC.
"Within that structure there is no problem: we need partners, but only under our governance. But we do not want to leave it to anyone who can take advantage of swimmers. We have had various meetings with these people. We will see what is the next step.”
Asked directly whether FINA would ban any swimmers taking part in the ISL from its own events, Marculescu failed to answer the question directly, saying: “We have rules. Our case is that, according to the rules everyone must keep within the structure.”
Through private investment, the ISL is armed with $2 million in prize money and for swimmer contracts, and already has strong commercial partnerships in place with Wasserman, the USA-based sports marketing and talent management agency, which is acting as global adviser, and Sportcel, the London-based sports sponsorship and events agency that is working on the details of the 2018 launch event.
Meanwhile, FINA is on course to sign up to use the new International Testing Agency as part of its anti-doping strategy, albeit Marculescu said that the ITA “don’t have the structure yet” to cope with a sport of the scale of swimming.
The ITA, an independent not-for-profit Swiss foundation, is in charge of providing anti-doping services to any international federation or event organiser willing to assign the development of its anti-doping programmes to an entity that operates independently of sports organisations and national interests.
It aims to address perceived conflicts of interest faced by international federations charged with both carrying out anti-doping testing and promoting their sports and athletes (albeit use of the ITA is not compulsory for federations).
Marculescu concluded: “For the moment we haven’t received a proposal or decision [from the ITA]. We are committed and in the meantime we conduct our own programme. When the structure comes, we are ready to join. It’s important that each athlete knows that he will be tested five or six times a year.