Paolo Barelli is not happy with FINA leadership. Old news, right?
Barelli, a 63-year-old two-time Olympian from Italy, is currently serving his second four-year term as President of LEN, the European Swimming Federation, meanwhile also heading up the Italian Swimming Federation for his 17th-consecutive year.
Next month Barelli will go head-to-head with incumbent FINA President Julio Maglione of Uruguay for the FINA presidency. Maglione, who has occupied the top office at FINA for 8 years, is 81-years-old and has managed to remain in office despite a previous age limit of 80-years for FINA officials. In 2015 Maglione succeeded in abolishing the previous age limit allowing him to not only retain the presidency, but also run for the office for a third-consecutive term.
Maglione, however, is only part of a larger problem embroiling FINA, according to Barelli: conflict-of-interest.
As reported by insidethegames.biz, Barelli will square off with FINA Vice President and African representative Sam Ramsamy of South Africa. In a letter written by Barelli and directed at the African Swimming Federation (CANA) and its President, who also happens to be Sam Ramsamy, Barelli accused Ramsamy of inadequate leadership and political manipulation. Claiming that Africa and Asia were attempting to expand their influence in FINA “not only of political power…but even more importantly, over the economic one also,” said Barelli.
Echoing claims made in his interview with SwimSwam that FINA needs to redistribute its substantial financial holdings to national federations around the world in order to create better swimming opportunities and more robust national teams for developing countries, Barelli said:
“You have been a member of IOC and FINA for a long time.”
“Hence, why don’t you ask yourself if you are really doing everything possible to ensure the development of aquatics within the African Continent.”
“You are certainly aware that FINA has for some time achieved a very strong financial standing.”
“This has resulted from the attraction of strong sponsors who we thank for their support, the holding of successful events and the leading Federations who, with their exceptional athletes, guarantee the outstanding image of FINA.”
“Have you ever proposed to FINA or demanded the allocation of financial contributions for the development of aquatic activities in Africa?”
“FINA needs to define clear criteria and give economic support to the developing Federations all around the globe.”
“There are many Federations in Africa, just as there are others in the other Continental Organisations that could benefit immensely from significant economic support.”
“This should have always been a top priority commitment for both you and FINA.”
“Unfortunately, you have completely missed this opportunity.”
Understandably, Ramsamy and his colleagues were displeased by Barelli’s statements and asked that he rescind them. Instead, Barelli replied: “The only comment I passed about Africa (and Asia) is, as you know, regarding the increments which have taken place in the past and which are foreseeable in the future, to the number of the FINA Bureau members from these two continents.”
This statement again reflects Barelli’s call to action to the United States to become more active in FINA leadership. Per Barelli’s interview with SwimSwam: “I think that US Swimming must have a big role in helping to drive and lead FINA. I think the US needs to come forward more proactively and must play a leadership role within FINA involving their most respected people and taking responsibility; I think it’s time to promote significant changes.”
The United States does boast one delegate within the FINA Bureau: Dale Neuburger. Neuburger, who served as President of USA Swimming from 1998 to 2002, has served as one of four FINA Vice Presidents (FINA First Vice President is Kuwait’s Husain Al-Musallam) since 2000. Neuburger, however, may also be implicated in front of CAS by Barelli, alleging conflicts-of-interest due to Neuburger’s role in TSE Consulting, a Swiss-based firm that has worked with both FINA and the Royal Dutch Swimming Federation. Though Neuburger has claimed he is not party to TSE’s work with FINA, Barelli may nonetheless challenge the American on the grounds of conflict of interest.
CAS will hear Barelli’s testimony tomorrow, June 14th. FINA will vote to either re-elect Julio Maglione or replace him with Barelli on July 22nd in Budapest, one day before the swimming begins at the 2017 FINA World Championships.