Energy Standard general manager Jean-Francois Salessy appears to have resigned from his post on the same day his club punched their ticket to the International Swimming League (ISL) finals.
Salessy, brought in as Energy Standard’s GM prior to the league’s launch in 2019, issued an open letter to ISL founder Konstantin Grigorishin on Sunday evening, putting him under heavy criticism for his approach in running the league.
While Salessy doesn’t explicitly declare his resignation, he does tell Grigorishin he “no longer wishes to be part of your fake movie”, referring to the league, and that he’s going back to France. He also signs the letter as the “Ex General Manager” of Energy Standard.
In the letter, Salessy discusses his realization that he was only brought in as the club’s GM because he was the agent of one of the team’s stars, Florent Manaudou.
Salessy claims that the only real agreement he and Grigorishin ever reached was to have “Paris” tied with Energy Standard’s club, to give them a fan base (they’re the only one of the league’s 10 clubs without a city in their traditional name). While working to bring in sponsorships and swimmers from France, he found that his progress was stunted by Grigorishin’s constant criticism of the Olympic Games.
“All the effort has been damaged by your poor press statements like constant criticism on Olympic Games,” said Salessy. “I still remember ‘The Olympic Games belong to the past’.”
Salessy also says his role was reduced to simply looking for sponsors because club head coach James Gibson was carrying out the GM position “fully without me”, under Grigorishins “direct authority”.
In his attempt to bring swimmers from France onto the team, he was shut down.
“At the same time, I tried to integrate French swimmers into the team to provide credibility and reality to our French franchise,” he said. “Each of my proposal did not suit your ‘in-house coach’,” he said, referring to Gibson. “‘Beryl Gastaldello is unmanageable, Mélanie Henique is not polyvalent enough, we don’t need Charlotte Bonnet’, etc.
“Energy Standard Paris has only one French swimmer to date. As emblematic as he is, am I the only one to find this situation ridiculous? At the end, I understood too late (that) I’ve been hired only because I am Florent Manaudou‘s agent.”
Multiple athletes have told SwimSwam that their first solidarity payments, due October 31, haven’t been made. No prize money has reportedly been paid at all.
Salessy goes on to say that his individual situation is secondary to the state of the league, and criticizes how the setup keeps things like salary structure private, and has a ‘rich get richer’ type of feel. Continuously comparing the league to a movie, he says that the ISL is “only taking care of the main actors” with prize money (the swimmers and their coaches), and that the “agents, GMs, service providers, technicians and support staff are just extras”.
He also mentions how the league hasn’t been able to find any sponsors, and that the match schedule, semi-final draw and team budgets aren’t publicly available simply due to the fact that Grigorishin “fully owned the league”.
“Is it fair to impose a salary cap when bonus money is only aligned on the team’s ranking? Fairness and financial transparency have to be the basics, mainly when you criticize other competition format.”
He finishes by saying that “the dices are loaded” (in Energy Standard’s favor), and that Grigorishin never responded to several emails from him.
Energy Standard will defend their ISL championship title next weekend in the league finale. They’ll face the 2019 runner-up London Roar, and the two clubs who advance out of the second semi-final that wraps up on Monday (likely to be the Cali Condors and LA Current, which would make the four finalists the exact same as last season).
Update: the International Swimming League responded to a request for commet with the following statement:
“ISL has managed to safely and successfully launch the 2020 season in Budapest despite the health crisis and by guaranteeing its athletes indispensable financial support in these difficult times.
The ISL teams are focused on the final stages of the competition. This is an isolated case and does not represent ISL: a young, dynamic and passionate organisation focused on the future of swimming.
ISL does not wish to comment on this interpretation of a past collaboration.”
Below, find the full open letter. Note that it is unedited and was sent in english.
If I choose the form of an open letter to express myself today, it is in the hope of allowing others to open their eyes to your functioning and way of thinking, so that they will avoid similar disappointments.
I met you alone face to face in March 2019 in Antalya for the first and last time under this format.
You asked me on this occasion to become the General Manager of the ” ENERGY STANDARD ” team; (your company’s name) the only team to bear the name of a company – in which Florent MANAUDOU, an athlete for whom I am the agent, had just been integrated.
The creation of a professional league in a sclerotic and dusty sport was attractive. I was convinced that you would ask me to choose between my role as swimmer’s agent and management’s role of elite swimmers, which delighted me with the human and sporting perspectives. The salary conditions that you clearly offer me that day also suited my expectation. I still believe in a sense of honour and the face of the word.
I was happy to be back in the position I held for 7 years – and with a certain success – within the Cercle des Nageurs de Marseille The new experience allowed me to Work again with one of my ex-coach James GIBSON under management of Romain BARNIER.
During too many months I tried to take a position that James was carrying out fully without me, under your direct authority and with a dedication that I thought was linked to British pragmatism and phlegm. My mission was therefore reduced to find sponsors, the swimmers’ cenacle, the fuel of ISL, being your reserve area.
During the last years now, the only agreement we reach, not without difficulty, was to included the word PARIS to ENERGY STANDARD franchise name and this, in order to create a real club spirit, a “fan base” as a collective competition and a team confrontation implies. The main objective was also to attract french partners.
I looked for (and found) accommodation facilities in Paris to provide Paris identity critical to attract partners, I found accommodations and facilities in Paris fully sponsored, I hired a consultant (paied on my own budget thinking I was being paid) to prepare the magic events in Trocadero-Champ de Mars or in the most prestigious stadiums in France, I financed a dedicated website for the franchise on my own budget, I triggered the rebrodcast ISL season 1 on a Free to air french channel and I leveraged all media networks by publishing press articles, organizing press conferences ant tv networking. By away, once again, I dedicated my personnel relationship with movie makers finalizing a documentary with florent partners PUMA group exclusively mainly shooted during ISL compétition and broadcasting on AMAZONG PRIME and BEIN SPORT.
All the effort has been damaged by your poor press statements like constant criticism on Olympic Games. I still remember ” The Olympic Games belong to the past “.
At the same time, I tried to integrate French swimmers into the Team to provide credibility and reality to our french franchise. Each of my proposal did not suit your “in-house coach”: “Beryl Gastaldello is unmanageable, Mélanie HENIQUE is not polyvalent enough, we don’t need Charlotte BONNET etc.”. ENERGY STANDARD PARIS has only one French swimmer to date. As emblematic as he is, am I the only one to find this situation ridiculous? At the end, I understood too late I’ve been hired only because I am Florent MANAUDOU‘s agent.
However, my personal case remains secondary. This is illustrating the fact that ISL is an icebergs with an attractive visible part and an immerge dark side.
I must admit that you put a lot of energy into building a competition format, an attractive audiovisual product, and only taking care of the main actors of the film with prize money : the swimmers and their coaches who were underpaid until then.
The swimmers’ agents, GMs, service providers, technicians and support staff are just extras in this movie, replaceable at will, therefore malleable at will. Therefore picky agents and too overly curious journalists are not welcome. You don’t pay the GMs, the administrative staff and the suppliers who can in any case be replaced in a perpetual turnover.
« Only the rich get credit »
Your Billionaire’s status prevents the candid and passionate to ask you for guarantees, for legal contracts (my case among others), and from worrying about a minimum of formalism.
In the no man’s land of international competitions, with sclerotic authorities, nobody wonders the way to define the ISL matches’ schedule (thanks to ENERGY STANDARD), how the draw is organized (thanks to ENERGY STANDARD), how the budgets of each team are determined (thanks to ENERGY STANDARD) since you fully owned the League. Is it fair to impose a salary cap, when bonus money is only aligned on the team’s ranking ?
Fairness and financial transparency have to be the basics, mainly when you criticize other competition format.
I am a sports enthusiast and I could have been volunteer to join ISL project if it had been made clear to me from the beginning. But until now I reserve my charitable actions so that the poor are less poor and not so that the rich can afford beautiful toys.
I hate manipulation and if creating a swimmers’ union (“The Alliance” (!) led by the nice and devoted Matt BIONDI) is laudable. Such initiative can be managed and organized only out of private interests to be able to discuss fairly with authorities like the IOC, FINA but also…ISL.
ISL is boat without governance but with only one shareholder and generals without powers.
You can argue that I have not found any sponsors (I have found some for others in the meantime by the way). No one has found any for you, could be in France, Europe, USA or elsewhere. It is therefore easier to incriminate sellers than the product itself. An age-old process.
Being the only GM excluded of Swimmers’ hotel, I prefer to laugh.
I no longer wish to be part of your fake movie.
I am coming back to France. For once we have a joint posture: it won’t change anything.
I love sport, I love swimmers, I admire them.
But the dice are loaded, and ultimately it’s insulting those champions.
I never got any answers to the emails I sent you.
I therefore exonerate you from answering this letter. You will be too busy talking about pré-modernity – your dada- by taking the swimmers to witness one by one in the lobby of your hotel.
Excuse me, but for me, all of this, is more like the Middle Ages.
Ex General Manager
Energy Standard Paris