Katinka Hosszu’s recent unionization of professional swimmers from around the world speaks to the discontent felt by the top athletes in the sport, who despite gold medals, world records, and “celebrity status,” still struggle to make a living as full-time professional swimmers. Now, the Kuwait Swimming Association (KSA) is speaking up about what they view as unethical behavior committed by FINA leadership. While Hosszu, GAPS, and the KSA speak to different issues in aquatics, one common thread between them is both are fed up with the current leaders of FINA.
In a detailed 13-page complaint sent to FINA, KSA Board Interim Committee Chairman Homoud Obaid Al-Hajiri makes accusations of a litany of violations committed by FINA and the Asian Swimming Federation (AASF) that undermine the FINA constitution as well as the KSA’s ability to govern swimming within Kuwait.
In the letter, Homoud Obaid Al-Hajiri, Chairman of the KSA Board Interim Committee, requests that Kuwait’s delegate, FINA First Vice President Husain Al-Musallam, be removed from the FINA Bureau. On the first page of the 13-page letter, Al-Hajiri states:
“On 3 October 2016 the KSA formally notified the AASF and FINA that it withdrew the nomination of Mr Al Musallam as a delegate of the KSA, therefore formally revoking his standing as a legitimate, FINA Member Federation supported, candidate and nominee for positions within the AASF and FINA. The AASF and FINA have ignored the KSA.”
“It is apparent that Mr Al Musallam, a national citizen of Kuwait, (a Federation Member currently suspended by FINA), as an unrecognised and unsupported individual of the KSA, is receiving unfair and groundless preferential treatment by the AASF and FINA. The KSA is concerned and disappointed that both the AASF and FINA are willing to show such a blatant level of discrimination and disrespect towards the KSA, its members and most importantly its hard working athletes in the context of Mr Al Musallam’s continued participation within the AASF and FINA.” (Emphasis added by Al-Hajiri.)
Al-Hajiri goes on to say:
“In the interests of good governance, and to avoid future constitutional uncertainty, FINA is requested to openly clarify its position concerning Mr Al Musallam, and respond to the KSA, ahead of the General Congress.”
“In the absence of a response from FINA, of if an unsatisfactory response is received, then the KSA reserves its position to raise a motion of urgency, pursuant to the FINA Constitution Rule C 15.13, that requests the General Congress to address the issues raised in this Complaint at the FINA General Congress on 22 July 2017.”
Because Kuwait is suspended by both FINA and the IOC, members of the KSA are not to be recognized by FINA until the suspension is lifted. Besides his role as First Vice President of FINA, Al-Musallam also holds the position of Secretary General on the KSA Board of Directors. Pursuant to the FINA-imposed suspension, FINA should not recognize Al-Musallam as a legitimate official or leader in the governance of aquatic sports. However, Al-Musallam has retained his seat on the FINA Bureau and is up for re-election during the FINA Congress on July 22nd in Budapest, despite the pleas of his own colleagues in Kuwait.
Al-Musallam is also seemingly implicated in an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice alleging corruption within FIFA, the international governing body of soccer. For his part, Al-Musallam fits the description of “co-conspirator #3” in the DOJ investigation, though Al-Musallam has denied any wrongdoing.
Paolo Barelli, the only candidate challenging incumbent Julio Maglione for FINA President, has repeatedly said that if he is elected President of FINA he will clean up the Bureau and eliminate conflicts-of-interest that embroil Bureau members in scandals. In an interview with SwimSwam, Barelli, referencing Al-Musallam’s eligibility to run for a position of the FINA Bureau, said “how is it possible he can be candidate in the next FINA election in Budapest? The Constitution is very clear in this respect. This means that [members] inside FINA don’t want to interpret the constitution correctly. This is not good governance.”
Al-Hajiri supports the claim that FINA is violating its own constitution and the sovereignty of Kuwait with Article 4 (10) of the KSA Constitution, which states “The KSA is the only authority to nominate the KSA Representatives to become members of Kuwait NOC, AASF and FINA and choosing those who represent the State of Kuwait to attend the regional, continental and international meetings.” (Underlined and bold text as originally written by Al-Hajiri.)
It is important to note that the KSA did at one point nominate Al-Musallam for the position of FINA First Vice President following Kuwait’s suspension by FINA and the IOC. While the suspension alone should have nullified any attempt on part of the KSA to place a member on the FINA Bureau or within the AASF, FINA did not reply to the letter sent by the KSA with its nominees for positions of influence in FINA.
Shortly thereafter, four members of the KSA Board of Directors resigned, making the board “inquorate and incapable of managing the affairs of the KSA,” yet FINA still went forward with Al-Musallam as a legitimate candidate to continue in his role as FINA First Vice President. Through a highly-convenient though creatively-interpreted loophole, FINA linked Kuwaiti state and legislative affairs (which are linked to Kuwait’s suspension by FINA and the IOC) with the internal administration of the KSA, and therefor said that it would not recognize the resignation of any KSA Board members, “nor any decision taken by the KSA General Assembly.”
These actions, which both hinder the power of the KSA to preside over swimming in Kuwait, as well as go against the FINA constitution itself, have led the KSA to its current position as a critic of FINA. Specific rules the KSA claims FINA is violating with its “preferential treatment” of Al-Musallam include:
- “Rule C 12.4 which obliges all members to recognise and enforce sanctions.”
- “…the FINA Code of Ethics with regard to the principles of Equality (Ethics Code V.A.1), Fair Play (Ethics Code V.C.3).”
- “Rule C 7.2 (and is incompatible with Articles 4 (10), 4 (12) and 31 (3) of the KSA Constitution).”
- “Rule C8.2.6,” which “infringes the KSA’s right to manage its affairs independently, and not be influenced by third parties (which is ultimately an issue concerning the current Suspension).”
- “Mr Al Musallam has no nomination or support from the KSA. By the AASF nominating Mr Al Musallam as a FINA Vice President, and FINA accepting that nomination, Rule C 14.6.7 has been infringed (which requires a Continental Organisation to elect its bureau members with nominations emanating from the respective member federations).”
- “Mr Al Musallam’s participation, and potential voting capacity, in the General Congress, whilst a national of a suspended Member Federation engages Rule C 15.3.3. Kuwait is suspended and therefore cannot nominate delegates to attend the General Congress.”
- “By Mr Al Musallam being capable of election to the FINA Bureau membership, and nomination to the position of FINA Vice President (or even First Vice President), without Member Federation approval (and subject to the election routes listed at C 17.5), Rule C 17.5.1 or C 17.5.2 is engaged and infringed.”
- “By the AASF presenting Mr Al Musallam as a candidate for Vice President on behalf of Asia, without a valid nomination from the KSA, the provisions of Rule C 17.6.2 are contravened.”
Al-Hajiri concludes the letter by telling FINA that it has 14 days to provide a “full and substantive response” to the KSA. If FINA fails to satisfy the KSA’s demands, the KSA will make a motion of urgency before the FINA Congress when it convenes in Budapest later this month. The KSA has also threatened to escalate the case to the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) “in accordance with FINA Constitution Rule C 26.” If the KSA were to take the dispute before CAS it would mark the second time in the span of a month that FINA appeared before the court.