ISL Accused of Ongoing Financial Mismanagement: ‘Nothing’s Changed’

Note: None of the claims made by Jean-François Salessy and Hubert Montcoudiol have been independently investigated by SwimSwam. This article will be updated as SwimSwam gets more information.

Jean-François Salessy, the ex-general manager of Energy Standard, and Hubert Montcoudiol, the ex-commercial director of the International Swimming League, have accused ISL of financial mismanagement in a letter sent to SwimSwam.

The pair resigned from their positions with the league in November 2020. In an open letter at the time, Salessy heavily criticized ISL founder Konstantin Grigorishin for his approach in running the league.

In the latest letter, Salessy and Montcoudiol wrote that ISL has allegedly neglected to properly pay supporting vendors and people, like press officials, webmasters, team managers, and even some elite swimmers. Salessy and Montcoudiol did not name anyone specifically that has been victim to the alleged practices, but they wrote that what they have witnessed directly contradicts ISL’s promise to honor all obligations to suppliers ahead of season three.

One ISL athlete told SwimSwam that they were told they would receive their final season two payment on Friday.

The ISL did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“As of September 17, 2021, seven matches into ISL Season 3, the situation remains the same: bills remain unpaid!” Salessy and Montcoudiol wrote in the letter. “This latest season has been organized in spite of ongoing issues with creditors. The ISL’s unprofessional behavior towards multiple vendors, ongoing since the inaugural Season 1 in 2019, has yet to be resolved.”

Salessy and Montcoudiol also attributed their resignations at least in part to ISL’s alleged financial mismanagement.

When Salessy resigned just ahead of Energy Standard’s trip to the season finals, he also accused ISL founder Konstantin Grigorishin of only bringing him on as GM because he was team star Florent Manaudou’s agent. He went on to criticize Grigorishin’s methods of running the ISL, including the setup of the league that keeps salary structure private and that the supporting staff of the ISL, including GMs, are treated as secondary to swimmers and their coaches.

ISL commented on that open letter by highlighting its ability to operate during a pandemic, and choosing not to comment on that “interpretation of a past collaboration.”

The league also released a statement in 2020 that it has faced financial challenges, but that it wanted to move on despite said challenges. At that time, SwimSwam reported that multiple season one vendors hadn’t been paid their full amount owed, but the league vowed to pay all money owed before Season 3. The league also added that it was working for the greater good of the sport.

“The work has not been easy,” ISL said at the time. “For the first two seasons, we have been mostly focused on showcasing athlete talent and our product to the widest audience possible. We had hoped for meaningful revenues to come in but alongside the impact of the pandemic our commercial operations have also failed significantly with most projections not materialising. The way we approach the market will need to be different going forward.”

In the most recent letter, Salessy and Montcoudiol wrote that the ISL does not respect its promises, and that payments are made on an “arbitrary basis.”

“The swimming ecosystem doesn’t need to be weakened any further,” they wrote.

You can read the full letter from Salessy and Montcoudiol below. The letter was sent in English, and it is displayed in an unedited form here.

ISL : Nothing’s changed…

Last November, we resigned of our position of Head Commercial ISL and General Manager
Energy Standard, by denouncing the lightness of ISL’s practices towards its suppliers and

The International Swimming League (ISL) issued a statement on the eve of its Grand Final on
November 21st, 2020 stating:

“Our head-down approach to deliver Season 2020 may have caused friction with some
suppliers but we will honor all obligations before planning starts for Season3.”

As of September 17, 2021, seven matches into ISL Season 3, the situation remains the same:
bills remain unpaid!

This latest season has been organized in spite of ongoing issues with creditors. The ISL’s
unprofessional behavior towards multiple vendors, ongoing since the inaugural Season 1 in
2019, has yet to be resolved.

Elite swimmers, but not all, some audiovisual production partners, and other essential
vendors are paid on an arbitrary basis when others are not.

The list of victims of such behaviors includes some Hungarian vendors, a communication
agency, press officials, travel agencies, team managers, operational directors, webmasters,
digital agency specialists, and other consultants.

These entities performed professional services that helped the ISL develop through its first
two season but are they still waiting for their money which, taken together, adds up to a
seven-figure number!

Businesses, as well as sole proprietors, have been put in financial difficulties with no payment,
and they are left carrying the ISL dream on their shoulders in a way that is unacceptable.
The lack of Media coverage and broadcasters during this season 3, on top of a lack of
confidence coming from sponsors, sound obvious in such conditions.

It is clear that the ISL Founder, CEO and management team do not respect their
promises. They hide themselves by arguing that “contracts aren’t in place”, that “we
recognize there are issues” or that “we’re surprised to hear there are issues” and that
“we are actively working to resolve” issues…

The swimming ecosystem doesn’t need to be weakened any further.
Generating hopes and then disappointing them is terrible

Jean-François Salessy – Ex General Manager Energy Standard Paris
Hubert Montcoudiol – Ex Commercial Director ISL

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Mixed Words
2 years ago

Essentially the people who will continue to tune-in in the long-run are people who simply want to see the best swimmers in the world go head-to-head much more often than in past eras…that’s the eternal draw.

The honeymoon phase will soon pass, the bells & whistles will fade deeper into the background and some of the gimmicky rules will become an unwelcome distraction.

Giving the viewers a deeper and wider dive into the personal stories of each swimmer is how they should spend their energy/resources. Once the viewers feel that deeper connection, you can upsell them merchandise big time like they do in the major sports…then there’s potentially plenty of money to go around.

A few quick,… Read more »

Reply to  Mixed Words
2 years ago

Giving the viewers a deeper and wider dive into the personal stories of each swimmer is how they should spend their energy/resources. Once the viewers feel that deeper connection, you can upsell them merchandise big time like they do in the major sports…then there’s potentially plenty of money to go around.

This is a really good point! I sometimes watch with my brother, who knows little about swimming, and he keeps asking me who xy is, in the little interview snippets… and I sometimes don’t know either, because how should I know how someone looks without a cap and goggles on, much less with dry hair? 🤣
At least say their names!

Frustrated Fan
2 years ago

We all want and need an option for professional swimmers to fund their training and profit, but from this swim fan’s POV, the ISL should be a model in what not to do. Wave 1 & 2 trials + Olympics meant that we swim fans were treated to about 2 months of televised swimming. Anyone who knows the sport knows that the swimmers we just cheered for were cooked at the end of that! This would have been a great year to sit out, and maybe the “off year” this round would have had the added benefit of dodging this current pandemic wave and being able to generate revenue through ticket sales (and concessions and merchandise). The draft was confusing,… Read more »

Reply to  Frustrated Fan
2 years ago

I agree with a lot of what you said… but as far as exhausted swimmers go, there needs to be a shift in how they think and train for this league, for this concept to work. It needs to become a priority for the stars as well. It can’t just be the breakout event for the athletes that didn’t make the Olympic Games or the World Championships.
Right now, this is a ‘fun addition’ to everyone’s calendar. And it’s great that they’re having fun. When I was still swimming, we had a team event like this in Germany (nobody got any money from it though) and it was the BEST meet of the year. Tons of fun to swim… Read more »

Last edited 2 years ago by FST
2 years ago

Not paying bills is actually a form of financial management. As much as I want to see pro swimming succeed I suspect the league is at best going bankrupt and at worst involves fraud. Most pro sports leagues do not stand the test of time.

Reply to  Ugh
2 years ago

Sounds like one large ponzi scheme to me.

Mixed Words
2 years ago

How much of the ISL’s income stream is dependent on the wide appeal of swimming as a spectator sport and is that appeal just not potentially wide enough to make any professional swimming league realistically viable? Failed experiment?

Reply to  Mixed Words
2 years ago

As I understand it, the goal was to build an event that would be more accessible to a TV audience that doesn’t watch swimming already. Unfortunately, what they’ve come up with is overly complicated to grasp and watch. They wanted to revolutionize swimming and yet they decided to bring Rowdy in as a commentator (couldn’t have made a less ‘revolutionary’ choice) and then they decided to go with Mark Foster on deck… who is incapable of producing a whole sentence or asking an actual question.
They wanted to make it viewer friendly, but that is where this whole experiment fails miserably. Aside from personnel, the stream doesn’t work properly, the broadcasting partners don’t show the event, the schedule changes… Read more »

Mixed Words
Reply to  FST
2 years ago

Trying to get people who don’t already watch swimming sounds highly speculative. I think there are even some people who do avidly watch the big summer meet each year who do not want to watch more than just that.

Plus they are also fans of other sports & entertainment which attract their limited available viewing time/budget while living a busy/expensive life.

I have a sinking feeling about the whole concept.

Reply to  Mixed Words
2 years ago

Capturing a non-swimming audience is really their only option to make this work, with the level of investment they’re making in the league.

At least this year, for the first time, they’ve acknowledged that they do need to work for the swimming audience. One of the first conversations I ever had with an ISL executive, I was told “we don’t need to worry about your audience, they will watch no matter what we do.”

A good example of this is that at the league’s kickoff meeting in London, when I was reporting details of the league, I was asked to stop. The league got the idea that if we were reporting the details too quickly, the ‘mainstream’ media wouldn’t report… Read more »

Reply to  Braden Keith
2 years ago

Please do another podcast on this topic – really interesting stuff.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  FST
2 years ago

This is a really good comment. There is no real overarching ethos to the ISL as a whole, it’s just a bunch of random things that HEY THIS IS DIFFERENT, ISN’T THAT COOL!? that clang against each other.

(And a fantastic point about Rowdy being the announcer – no matter if you think he’s the best person to call a meet or the worst, he is without a doubt the same person that calls the other meets the ISL is supposed to be different than.)

Irish Ringer
2 years ago

They run the league like the US manages the national debt.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Irish Ringer
2 years ago

I mean, the two things are not very comparable, but this is almost the exact opposite of how that works.

Steve Nolan
2 years ago

I have cared about this ISL season even less than the previous two, and I honestly don’t know if the whole “we don’t pay anyone” thing has subconsciously contributed to how little I care.

It just gives the whole league a sense of Bad Vibes.

(And given that this is the third straight season where bills aren’t getting paid, I can only assume it’s a tactic to save money for when the league eventually folds in a year or two.)

2 years ago

I am shocked! shocked! that a Russian oligarch is behaving unethically! /s

Hate haters
Reply to  Stewie
2 years ago

Of course! Because only russian oligarchs(especially, that Gregorishin is Ukrainian) behave unethically. The western businesses and businessmen are an example of purity and honesty.

Reply to  Stewie
2 years ago

Ukrainian* and if he was an Russian Oligarch, this article probably wouldn’t exit because the money would probably be there.

Corn Pop
Reply to  Stewie
2 years ago

You are in luck .US resident & political favourite Ukrainian Oligarch Victor Pinchuk hosted a seminar in Kiev on how to get rid of Ukrainian oligarchs.

Victor’s father – in – law President Kuchma , helped him buy a former USSR state run company in the early 90s , from where he surprisingly became a billionaire.

Just give the trophy to the condors already
2 years ago

Man I just want to see fast and fun swimming why does it have to be like this?


Because working people deserve to get paid what they are owed in a timely fashion 🤷‍♂️