This post has been updated to include the letter sent to swimmers from the ISL, in addition to the letter publicly released.
The International Swimming League (ISL) has decided to cancel its 4th season that was set to begin on June 3rd. The athletes were informed via a formal letter on Sunday. The ISL had previously announced that the 24-match season would be hosted in both North America and Europe.
The ISL released the following message to SwimSwam on Sunday morning as teams prepared to notify athletes of the decision:
“The war in Ukraine is a tragedy, having destroyed lives, families and homes. Many of our ISL colleagues remain trapped in Kyiv, and the conflict seems poised to continue for the foreseeable future.
In light of this force majeure situation, we cannot, in good faith to our swimmers and our fans, commit to hosting any commercial matches in 2022. As such, we have made the difficult decision to postpone Season 4 to 2023.
Importantly, the ISL is not going away. The League still has plans to expand our Junior League, to collaborate with the Master’s swimming community, and to ensure continuity with our Clubs through non-match events.
We will come back stronger, and we thank all of you for your understanding, patience and continued support.”
The International Swimming League
SwimSwam has also obtained the letter ISL sent out to its athletes today. The letter is, of course, much longer and while the ISL’s public statement did not mention funding, the letter sent to the athletes did. Here is the transcript of that letter:
As you all know, the ISL faces a force majeure situation due to the war in Ukraine. The war has destroyed lives, families and homes. Many of our ISL colleagues remain trapped in Kyiv, and the conflict seems poised to continue for the foreseeable future.Facing this situation, and given that most of the IL’s financing originates from Ukraine, we cannot in good faith commit to hosting any commercial matches in 2022. As such, we have made the difficult decision to postpone Season 4 to 2023.Importantly, our first obligation remains to yourselves. This decision has been made because we recognise that we cannot ask you to travel, train and compete on a promise alone. Rather, we must settle all of the ISL’s outstanding payments to each of you before we can push forward to another Season.In the meantime, the League will use this period to reflect, and adjust our plans moving forward. We will pursue more innovative strategies for commercialisation, embrace more frequent and transparent communication, and include consultation with the swimming community concerning our rules and our schedule as a critical part of the ISL’s process.These steps forward will be overseen by an expanded leadership team who will not take compensation until all of you have been paid, because they truly believe in the ISL’s potential to transform our sport.We understand this will be difficult news for many of you. However, this is necessary to secure the League’s long-term sustainability, and to break the cycle of starting a new Season whilst still being indebted to you.The ISL is not going away. We just need some time in order to come back stronger, and we thank you for your understanding, patience and support in the meantime.We will be in touch soon, with updates on payments and other developments in the League.Yours,The International Swimming League
Energy Standard had gone as far as to suspend all agreements with Russian athletes and support staff after the country’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
To date, the league’s $20+ million annual budget has been almost entirely funded by Soviet-born Ukrainian billionaire Konstantin Grigorishin.
Grigorishin has made most of his money from businesses based in Ukraine. A league spokesperson said earlier this year that the league was funded for Season 4 and that they were confident that future seasons will not be affected by “any geopolitical situations.”
Sunday’s statement made no mention of funding, though a schedule February 28 payment to athletes for season 3 was postponed because Grigorishin was unable to transfer enough funds out of Ukraine, the league said.
The ISL has struggled with payments since its inaugural season in 2019. There have been several reports of athletes not being paid their earnings, and boycotts were set to happen during the Season 3 ISL Playoffs. The ISL had announced a $13 million prize pool for Season 4 despite not paying all the athletes for their previous seasons.