he FINA Executive, after consulting the FINA Technical Water Polo Committee and the Chairpersons of the FINA Disciplinary Panel and FINA Ethics Panel, decided that no action should be taken on the allegations concerning the match France-Canada, held on April 7, 2016 at the FINA Men’s Water Polo Olympic Games Qualification Tournament in Trieste (ITA) and declares the case closed, without any further consequences.
The decision comes after accusations that France intentionally lost a match versus Canada in order to draw a more favorable matchup in the first round of the knockout stages of the teams’ final chances to qualify for Rio. By losing to Canada 13-5, in what the Canadian goalie described as a comical attempt, the French drew a first-round matchup against the Netherlands, whereas Canada wound up playing Spain.
The Olympic Qualifying Tournament, rather than being setup to determine the four best teams to earn the four final spots in the Olympics, simply awards the positions to each team that advances to the semi-finals, regardless of what happens from there.
The disparity in quality between the Netherlands and Spain is huge – the Netherlands were just 12th at the most recent European Championships, while a rising Spanish team placed 5th.
Canadian goalie Robin Randall described the scene as this:
“Remember the old movie Major League, before they give Charlie Sheen glasses? ‘Just a little bit outside.’ So, wildly inaccurate. If it wasn’t so tragic, it would be comic. That’s how poor the shots were. The first one whizzed by and I’m like, ‘OK, that’s a little whatever.’
“Then I was like, ‘OK, this is a mockery. What’s going on?’ ”
France wound up defeating the Netherlands by one goal, while Canada wound up losing to Spain by one goal.
Even if FINA were to decide to follow its own rules of preserving “the spirit of the sport,” it wouldn’t be Canada’s spot – the Netherlands, the team that lost to France, would instead be advanced to Rio.
FINA’s own water polo guide includes a reference to the importance of the “spirit of the rules.”
“The referees shall conduct the game in such a way as to assist the teams to develop the play in accordance with the spirit of the rules.”
FINA, however, has long been reluctant to make major corrective actions in violations of rules, as highlighted by their laissez faire attitude toward the majority of the Mexican swim team being entered with fabricated times for last year’s World Championships, allowing a largely-ineligible team to compete anyway.
As it sits, with FINA declining to act, France will join Hungary, Italy, and Spain as the official qualifiers from the Olympic Games. Brazil, Serbia, the United States, Croatia, Greece, Australia, Japan, and Montenegro make up the rest of the 12-team tournament.
Read more about the format and pool-draw for the Olympic tournament here.