The FINA presidential election is set to take place on July 22nd in Budapest, where long-time incumbent Julio Maglione will face challenger Paolo Barelli. Current LEN and Italian Swimming Federation President Barelli is the only opponent to Maglione, who, at 81 years of age, has the ability to remain in FINA only due to congressional rule changes implemented in 2016 eradicating age limits of elected Bureau members.
As the election looms, Barelli is having no qualms expressing his thoughts concerning prolific flaws within swimming’s worldwide governing body. According to Inside the Games, Barelli wrote a 3-page letter distributed among European Federations detailing claims of FINA ‘totally disregarding’ Europe and enabling ‘outrageous conflicts of interest.’
Barelli’s letter refers to an alleged conflict of interest stemming from a FINA Bureau member ‘playing the double role as a member of the FINA Executive’ as well as that of ‘director of a FINA commercial partner.’ This, Barelli claims, is a nod to FINA directing more care to ‘power and money’ of the organization over the ‘well-being of the athletes and national federations.’
Additionally, the Italian believes more representation from Europe is needed within FINA. “Considering the results of our athletes (50% of medals in Kazan 2015) and Olympic Games, Europe must be represented and have a much more prominent role [within FINA] and not an ever decreasing one,’ wrote Barelli in the letter. Yugoslavia’s Ante Lambasa, whose term ended in 1984, was the last European to lead FINA.
In a summary of why Barelli wants to lead leadership change, the letter obtained by Inside the Games reportedly states, “As you well know all our long-standing complaints with regard to FINA and its unethical behaviour have been completely ignored.
“It is precisely for this that I have decided to present my candidacy to the position of President at the upcoming FINA Congress in Budapest.
“I am aware that is not an easy task. Nonetheless, I feel it is the only way to make the world aware of the current untenable situation we are facing. We cannot continue to silently accept things that are clearly wrong or be bullied any further.”