There’s a lot going on in FINA right now. The world of aquatic sports governance is in flux as leaders from around the world prepare to descend upon Budapest for the 2017 FINA Congress where they will decide what direction FINA will take over the next four years.
Paolo Barelli, President of LEN and the Italian Swimming Federation, is challenging current FINA President Julio Maglione of Urugay for the FINA high office. If it seems like this campaign has gotten a lot of attention, it has. Unlike previous elections of this scale–remember, FINA is a non-governmental organization that exists solely to promote aquatics–individuals and organizations from all over the world have spoken up in a steadily-building cadence, voicing their opinions on Barelli and Maglione, among others, that sit on the FINA Bureau.
Yesterday SwimSwam published two letters that both endorsed Maglione for a third-consecutive term as FINA President, despite him having surpassed the previous age-limit to hold a position on the FINA Bureau. The first letter, sent by the African Swimming Association (CANA), spoke highly of Maglione while portraying Barelli as a corrupt bureaucrat. The second letter, sent by the Asian Swimming Association (AASF) did not spend as much time on Maglione and Barelli, but instead focused on FINA First Vice President Husain Al-Musallam.
Al-Musallam, who is presumably under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for his assumed role in a FIFA bribery scheme, sits on the FINA Bureau despite also being from Kuwait, a country that is suspended by both FINA and the IOC. The Kuwait Swimming Association (KSA) recently sent a letter and a list of complaints to FINA challenging the legitimacy of Al-Musallam’s office and accusing FINA of giving Al-Musallam preferential treatment. The letter also challenged the AASF for its support of Al-Musallam as FINA First Vice President.
In an interview with SwimSwam, Barelli said that he did not believe Al-Musallam should sit on the Bureau, due to Kuwait’s suspension and the pending DOJ investigation. In addition to cleansing the Bureau of conflicts-of-interest and promoting transparency, Barelli also believes FINA should set aside far more money for developing national federations around the world. More of Barelli’s strategy can be read in his manifesto.
Today, Barelli released his response to the AASF letter. The complete statement is below. (Emphases by Barelli.)
“Political Interference by FINA Officials and Officers Goes On”
I do not believe I need to once again highlight the reasons for the ineligibility of the two above mentioned individuals. The irregularity of their candidature is abundantly clear from both a political and regulatory standpoint.
It is worth reminding that Kuwait Swimming has been suspended by FINA since 2015 and that the current Kuwait Federation has not endorsed such candidatures.
Nonetheless, I must intervene regarding the fact that the representative of AASF, Mr. Virendra Nanavati, has mentioned my name twice in his letter, trying to make me part of the (wrong) decision taken by FINA allowing the candidacy of two members of the suspended Federation of Kuwait.