ISL makes waves with appointment of Peaty as ambassador
The International Swimming League, the controversial new, club-based commercial swimming competition, has taken the next step in its plans to create a series of city-based franchises with the high-profile appointment of Adam Peaty, Great Britain’s Olympic champion, to lead a proposed London franchise and become an ambassador for the new series.
Peaty has been one of the most outspoken critics of FINA, the sport’s world governing body, which is alleged to have threatened sanctions against swimmers in a planned inaugural ISL event in Turin, perhaps as severe as banning them from international competition, including the World Championships and Olympic Games.
Peaty, who has been critical of the dearth of opportunities for swimmers to earn a living from competing, said: “Twenty years ago swimmers wanted this kind of thing to happen and finally now it is happening at a time the whole world of sport is changing and athletes are realising they have leverage and potential for something like this.
“Millions of people are watching the Olympics and we need to keep that going more regularly.”
The ISL is scheduled for October to December this year, to avoid clashes with the FINA World Championships in the summer, with a London leg in November.
The league is set to comprise eight teams of 32 athletes each, who will compete in six meetings around the world, culminating in a final between the top teams from Europe and USA in Las Vegas.
The league, backed by Ukrainian billionaire Konstantin Grigorishin, is being funded to the tune of $20 million this season, with up to $7 million in prize money on offer, with the revenue to be split 50-50 between the athletes and the league.
Peaty said: “To get paid by a team who will eventually pay your pension, healthcare, flights, travel, is unheard of. You’ll get kids at school who will be saying I want to be a professional swimmer and the more talent that comes through, the world will only get faster.”
In January, FINA backed down in the dispute over swimmers competing in unsanctioned events, underlining that they will not be banned from FINA World Championships or the Olympics, albeit all results and any records set at such events will not be recognised.
Following a meeting of FINA’s leadership and a representative selection of national federations, 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.”
In response to the ISL, FINA announced plans to launch its own new ‘FINA Champions Swim Series’, a three-leg competition aimed at elite swimmers, beginning in Guangzhou, China next month, with prize money of $3.9 million.
But the ISL said of that competition: “FINA then blatantly copied the ISL model in an obvious attempt to win over the elite swimming community FINA has long been exploiting.”
Peaty described the FINA series as “too little, too late,” adding: “I haven’t heard from them. I do praise them for it but we’re not being approached and they’re still doing it without consulting us.”
Meanwhile, Peaty also criticised FINA for not doing enough to combat doping in the sport, telling PA Sport: “They [FINA] are still not putting the hammer down hard enough when it comes to anti-doping. There are still people involved who dope and cheat and it's not enough to just keep saying it’s all right because you've got your medal five years later – it’s about waking up to that idea.
“There are still a few inconsistencies and a few matters to erase. Just because we've been listened to once, it doesn’t mean there’s not going to be more issues and it’s about the opinions of the athletes being valued more.”