Energy Standard GM Resigns, Puts Grigorishin On Blast In Open Letter

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.

Mr GRIGORISHIN,

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.

-Jean-François SALESSY

Ex General Manager

Energy Standard Paris

In This Story

129
Leave a Reply

Subscribe
Notify of
129 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Steve Nolan
13 days ago

Before someone tries to claim this is just one Fronch guy writing a letter, who knows what’s really going on?? this is pretty damning: “<i>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.</i>”

That, combined w/ the reports that a number of contractors weren’t paid for their work done last season…sounds kinda likely this whole thing is gonna implode.

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Steve Nolan
13 days ago

Well, with viewership on CBS less than that of a regional dog show, maybe this is a last minute attempt to add some drama for the finale. No doubt he’s going to lose interest with losing money.

Anonymous
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
13 days ago

Well, when you can hardly find the matches on CBS, it would seem viewership is down.

Dan
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
13 days ago

Look at it from a bigger perspective, I think most viewers are outside the US at this point. Several countries use their own commentators instead of having people listen to the American commentators. I think CBS ratings don’t matter other then to people in the US.

BobbyJones
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
12 days ago

The TV scheduling and deals seem ridiculous…

Troyy
Reply to  BobbyJones
12 days ago

What’s wrong with the scheduling?

BobbyJones
Reply to  Troyy
12 days ago

Sorry not match scheduling.. I meant scheduling as in finding the right times, channels, ways to watch etc etc

FSt
Reply to  BobbyJones
12 days ago

I don’t understand what’s so hard for TV stations to just make their sites user friendly. It’s 2020 for f’s sake.
And the ISL could just post the links to the actual stream of every station on their website as well, as a one stop access point. Makes it easier to watch for everyone, increases viewership.

Troyy
Reply to  FSt
12 days ago

7plus in Australia is quite easy but a few times I watched a replay at CBC.ca and that website is an illogical mess.

Troyy
Reply to  BobbyJones
12 days ago

If you mean that some matches are scheduled during US night time then I can’t agree that is bad scheduling.

Lesjones
Reply to  Troyy
12 days ago

Not match scheduling…I meant tv station scheduling as in their broadcast / hard to find / sometimes missing / etc

Irish Ringer
Reply to  Steve Nolan
12 days ago

The French guy may have something here.

Swim fan 44
13 days ago

I hate to see all articles about the isl not meeting payments and causing trouble. It has so much potential and I just want to see it succeed

Dan
Reply to  Swim fan 44
13 days ago

I hope to see it succeed as well, but if payments are not made it will not make it.

Anonymous
Reply to  Dan
13 days ago

Also, the idea of the “Swimmer’s Alliance” is something many other professional sports leagues have. Sure, the ISL base salary for all athletes is the same per league rules. Sure, the NFL and NBA in America have more means to recruit and pay athletes what they want as they are independently owned teams, but why doesn’t the ISL have such a more developed union to combat these types of issues Salessy describes and communicate between all athletes, GMs, and executives. It’s quite troubling to see that this hasn’t fully developed.

Susan
Reply to  Anonymous
12 days ago

If swimming does not find an audience, any league will fail..
I have been watching on CBS sport, when it was on, and the coverage was great..maybe because of empty stands yeah COVID, the excitement isn’t there..thank God for Rowdy!!! The league must be in a world of hurt money wise this year..see if things change after the Olympics..(if we have the games) and people are used to seeing swimming primetime!

Moddiddle
Reply to  Swim fan 44
12 days ago

After watching ISL, I cannot go back watching FINA/USA Swimming style meets with endless heats.
That’s like growing up poor, getting rich, and having to be poor again. No I will not subject myself to that feeling.

BobbyJones
Reply to  Moddiddle
12 days ago

That’s the basic swimming way! This show is just a cool side distraction pre-big events….
It is the way!
I have spoken!

Ghost
Reply to  Moddiddle
12 days ago

I don’t like the endless quad meets then semis when you can figure out who will make finals after their first meet. Why be there for 5 weeks when you could have done it in one week?

Admin
Reply to  Ghost
12 days ago

To me this is the biggest existential issue for the ISL.

They’ve got the athletes on board, they’re ‘all in’ so long as they get paid, so that’s a huge hurdle cleared.

But, I agree that the predictability has become rather dull. We’re told to focus on the team race, but when the team race gets so boring, what do we have left to do? Focus on the individual races…back where we started…

Free Thinker
Reply to  Braden Keith
12 days ago

therein lies the issue with swimming as a spectator sport. there is no “any given sunday” element to the sport. A team with faster swimmers should win 100 times out of 100. There aren’t usually upsets, and even if there is a single race that ends up in an unexpected finish, the team with more faster swimmers will win. The predictability over enough races removes the excitement.

Tomek
Reply to  Free Thinker
12 days ago

Agreed, start with team managers “drafting” swimmers from the overall pool. Draw the draft order, this would go a long way to make ISL more competitive. As it is now early rounds are somewhat predictable and boring

FSt
Reply to  Tomek
12 days ago

And the skins, while more exciting than last year, have become too predictable, too. I suggested it last year and I’m doubling down… the stroke should be drawn just before the race. Just send your two best overall sprinters and if you’ve selected Dressel and it’s a backstroke skins… tough luck!

Aaron
Reply to  Braden Keith
8 days ago

keep in mind teams got decimated by COVID. So perhaps the matches would have a little more drama if rosters had been more equal?

Khachaturian
13 days ago

What he says I believe is credible and true. There is no reason for why he would lie about anything here. Since this is the truth, it creates a dark sky for the future of the ISL. I just hope things can work out in the end.

Dan
Reply to  Khachaturian
13 days ago

Agree, and after all he is the owner of the League and of Energy Standard so I hope that this does work out for all involved in the long run and that it does not end after this year.

Swimreason
Reply to  Khachaturian
12 days ago

I struggle to comprehend how any professional athlete can participate in an event like this unless he/she is paid on the day of the event. Every sport has the same system: after you have lost or won you walk to the room where you receive your check.

If they’re not getting paid it’s such a scandal I don’t know where to begin. Kindergarten.

FSt
Reply to  Swimreason
12 days ago

FINA doesn’t do that either. Takes months for them to send a check when you’ve won something (World Cup etc)

Swimreason
Reply to  FSt
11 days ago

FINA is not a league for professional swimming. ISL is.

If FINA launched a professional league I’m rather confident that every organiser of an event would have to arrange for prize money to be paid on the day. Just like in Tennis, Golf, Show Jumping, Snooker or any other sports with an organised league.

You get paid on the day of the event. Simple as that.

Last edited 11 days ago by Swimreason
Aaron
Reply to  FSt
8 days ago

And when you set a world record FINA takes forever to certify. It is just so frustrating. (yeah, I am lying about knowing anything about this)

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

Read More »