How Do You Launch An International Pro Swimming League (Video Report)

Launching an international pro swimming league is an enormous undertaking.  While the concept has been around since the 1980s, since the Matt Biondi vs Tom Jager era of television dash-for-cash events, all attempts have fizzled outside of institutionalized, governing body control; i.e., the FINA World Cup and USA Swimming’s Pro Swim Series.  Granted, there are lone prize money meets and short series like Mare Nostrum, but nothing that matches the scale of the NBA or NFL. That may be changing, and swim fans will get a front row seat to witness the formation and launch of this ambitious venture.

SwimSwam attended the 2018 ASCA World Clinic in Anaheim, California, the biggest annual gathering of american swimming coaches on U.S. soil. The World Clinic is often used as a platform to engage swimming coaches on new ideas.  This year the International Swimming League, ISL, presented their concept of a pro swimming league with pro teams competing frequently in competitions allover the globe. ISL presented near and longterm goals seeking valuable feedback from the american swimming coaching community.

ISL Leadership At ASCA:

SwimSwam spoke with ISL leadership in Anaheim at-length off-camera, striving to gain insight into the scale of this endeavor, their challenges, and their early successes.  Reporting on ISL will be ongoing, detailing pro team formations, the competition format, and the event calendar.  At this point, ISL is in the business and development phase, however, one early success is clear.  ISL has engaged   Wasserman, a gaint in the sports and entertainment industry, for services and support.

WASSERMAN (aka Wasserman Media Group)

Wasserman is closely tied to the Olympic market. They represent some of swimming’s biggest names,  Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel. Moreover, Casey Wasserman, CEO/Founder of Wasserman, successfully led the LA bid for the 2028 Olympic Games, and he is heading the city’s Olympic organizing committee.  If you’re launching a pro league in an Olympic sport, Wassermann is the most knowledgable in this niche.

This big question is how ISL will fit into the current swimming culture, one controlled by FINA?  According to ISL, they are not in conflict with FINA or the Olympics. ISL even makes the argument that World Championships and the Olympic Games will be more successful because participants will have greater name recognition if swimming stars compete in a global series produced for television to entertain and service swimming fans.

SwimSwam reached out to FINA for comment. FINA did not respond. When they do, SwimSwam will update this report.

About ISL

Formed in 2017 with the prime goal to launch a new and exciting Club based swimming league on an international scale; The International Swimming League will deliver an inaugural event in 2018 and full multi-location series in 2019.

See the 2017 Energy Standard Competition produced in Rome, Italy, the genesis of the pro swimming league concept:

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Bout Time!
5 years ago

Yes! I say “It’s about time!” With concussions and injuries plaguing the Professional Football league & other Pro sports, more & more Parents are turning to swimming as a valuable activity for their children to participate in. Plus, swimming in the last 15 years or so has gone to a whole other level! More money and value being put into it but for the Athlete that puts his or her entire life into the sport, there really isn’t much for them after College. For the very select few, they squeak out a living but barely. There’s only a handful that make serious cash. Swimmers are some of the finest & fittest Athletes in the World! A new millennial type of… Read more »

5 years ago

My main question involves what I see as a direct conflict between the sport and its training and the viability of a competitive league. With such rigid training schedules and demands, it seems near impossible to create a league that has lasting, consistent, and frequent competition. How can you convince swimmers to potentially abandon the practice schedules to race so many meets?

Swimmer Brent
Reply to  asd
5 years ago

Is swimming so different to track, triathlon or open water swimming in regards to training demands?

The Diamond League, World Triathlon Series, and Open Water Marathon Series all have semi frequent competition and attract the absolute best. Swimming can make it work.

5 years ago

Most swimmers (including me) I bet have fantasized about this concept for years, and now it has the potential to come true. Really excited to see how this develops.

5 years ago

Sounds like a wonderful concept but that’s a long way from converting the conceptual into a viable and SUSTAINABLE reality.

Issues that I see as being pivotal:
1. The presence/availability of “peak talent” for this series when a large percentage (esp American) are locked into the NCAA system. Outside the NCAA issue, what of those with existing corporate deals and/or contracts with national federations ?
2. Is there a naming rights sponsor for such a series and how secure is such a deal ?
3. This is stated as being “club based”. For such a series to last, like any franchise based team sport, “brand loyalty needs to be developed with the public. Also a question of… Read more »

5 years ago

I hope this is a monster success! Pros racing pros with people paying to watch! They could partner with local swimmers for so many things. Teams sponsored by suit companies. Draft squads each year. I wanna see swimmers with careers like all the other big individual sports… Track, tennis, golf

Reply to  Gold Medal Mel Stewart
5 years ago

If they want to really be successful they need to get top tier Americans racing

Old Man Chalmers
Reply to  Dylab
5 years ago

And other people like Peaty, who are only interested in major medals and not prize money.

Rick Paine
Reply to  Gold Medal Mel Stewart
5 years ago

Great idea. Let me know what American College Connection can do to help.

About Gold Medal Mel Stewart

Gold Medal Mel Stewart

MEL STEWART Jr., aka Gold Medal Mel, won three Olympic medals at the 1992 Olympic Games. Mel's best event was the 200 butterfly. He is a former World, American, and NCAA Record holder in the 200 butterfly. As a writer/producer and sports columnist, Mel has contributed to Yahoo Sports, Universal Sports, …

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