Paolo Barelli’s Manifesto for the Future of FINA

Paolo Barelli believes in transparency, as he has said on multiple occasions. In that spirit, he’s publicized a manifesto laying out his vision for FINA, should he win the presidential election within the international governing body for swimming.

Note: While SwimSwam remains neutral and will not endorse any candidates vying for positions of influence in governing bodies of sport — national, international, or otherwise — it’s part of our informational role to pass on Barelli’s vision for the future of FINA to swimming fans and stakeholders. We’ve reached out to his opponent, current president Julio Maglione, several times during the campaign and will publish his vision as well, if he provides it.

The manifesto is long (2,460 words), so we understand if you cannot read the entire release in-depth.  Important points to be taken from Barelli’s manifesto include:

  • Increase funding and annual support to all international federations, taken from a $5,000,000 pool that is to be distributed according to each federation’s international rank and standing following major international competitions.
  • Increase funding and annual support to developing programmes and create more clinics, school, and training camps in developing countries and regions, taken from a $5,000,000 pool.
  • Establish a discipline-specific appointed Panel of Experts to create a stronger and more engaging calendar of FINA events, with a particular aim to improve participation in the FINA World Cup.
    • “The athletes, teams, Federations and organisers must feel that these events are organised with their collective interest at heart.”
  • FINA will seek a partnership with an external independent body under the authority of WADA and the IOC that will be responsible for the management of doping control and punishing offenders.
  • Introduction of “drastic measures to the FINA Code of Ethics to ensure that any type of conflict of interest within FINA is avoided and this shall be carried out to ensure that transparency is guaranteed at all times.”


Paolo Barelli (Courtesy of LEN)

The Federation Internationale de Natation – FINA, is the lifeblood of aquatic sports in the world.  My pledge is to dedicate the resources, work and energy essential to engendering its success.

This Manifesto outlines seven drivers that will secure this objective.

FINA has undoubtedly forged ahead in recent years and has positioned itself as one of the most successful and effective of the International Federations across a range of indicators including financial standing, economic wealth and the public recognition of our athletes.  This has only been possible through the very hard work and continued investment carried out by Federations all over the world.

However, FINA is not a financial institution with the objective of setting money aside.  My vision is that FINA must give all the support possible to the Federations, including economic support, in order for them to contribute further to the growth of the aquatic disciplines worldwide.

‘FINA is not a financial institution with the objective of setting money aside.  FINA must give all the support possible to the Federations, including economic support.’

1. Support to Federations for International Activities

We must recognize that, were it not for the top Athletes, the outstanding success achieved would not have been possible. Success is accomplished by attracting viewers to the media and through spectators at FINA events being assured of watching great Athletes giving great performances.

FINA must take a more proactive approach in establishing and promoting initiatives that have the objective of delivering important benefits to the Federations. Amongst such benefits, we must ensure economic ones feature prominently.
In this regard my Programme provides a number of specific initiatives amongst which are:

  • The introduction of an annual contribution amounting to not less than $5,000,000 to be allocated amongst the Federations according to the ranking of national teams as established yearly by FINA and based on the results achieved at the most important international competitions.  These funds will be over and above those already allocated by FINA in respect of team travel and accommodation to Federations and prize money for athletes.
  • Increasing the number of sponsors’ logos on all technical equipment – tracksuits, swimwear, t-shirts etc. At present, apart from the logo of the technical supplier, we have the limit of one sponsor.  I intend to increase this significantly in terms of both the number of sponsors permitted on all technical equipment and the actual size of such logos. This will certainly provide an opportunity for Federations to generate a higher visibility and the potential for an increase in income.

2. Support to Federations for Development and for Continental/Regional Activity

When referring to Federations, we should underline that it is all the FINA Federations which promote the FINA aquatic disciplines practiced by millions of people around the world.

All Federations carry out the important role both of spreading “the culture of water” throughout the world whilst producing future athletes and champions.  I strongly believe this can only be achieved through a robust Development Programme.

Granted that FINA’s objective is not that of setting money aside, this Development Programme must ensure that whilst all Federations are invited to attend major events such as the FINA World Championships, they are also given the opportunity to participate in their continental or regional competitions and to be supported, also financially, for key Learning and Development Initiatives.

To achieve this, I believe the FINA Development Programme must be given a more defined role that can positively impact on all Federations.

‘I believe the FINA Development Programme must be given a more defined role that can positively impact on all Federations.’

In this regard, a significant yearly contribution of $5,000,000 shall be introduced and utilized to:

  • Increase and support key aquatic activities such as Clinics, FINA Schools and Training Camps in emerging and developing countries in order to improve the technical level and the performance of athletes concerned.  These funds will be over and above any others already allocated for such purposes through the FINA Development Fund.
  • Support the organisation and participation of the National Federations at continental/regional events.  The continental and regional competitions are of key strategic importance as they represent both a testing ground for high level activity as well as the foundation for the development and promotion of the aquatic disciplines.  To ensure that these events are successful, they must be organised to a level of true excellence attracting the widest participation possible.

3. FINA World Cup, FINA World League and other FINA Events

The FINA World Cup, the FINA World League and other FINA events in all the disciplines must necessarily modify their format in order to truly appeal to all the stakeholders.

The athletes, teams, Federations and organisers must feel that these events are organised with their collective interest at heart.

‘The Athletes, Teams, Federations and Organisers must feel that these events are organised with
their collective interest at heart.’

Unfortunately, today, the participation in the Swimming World Cup is far too low and the event itself does not really attract the interest of either the Federations nor of the majority of the athletes.  The Swimming World Cup must ensure the number of events are programmed in order to maximize participation.

This should not be limited to attracting the number of athletes but also the level of athletes desired in order to better promote swimming worldwide.

To favor the strongest and most engaging calendar of FINA activities, I plan the establishment of a discipline specific, appointed Panel of Experts.

The members of the Panel will be chosen for their expertise and according to the ranking of the nations they represent in the different disciplines in which they excel.  Each Panel of Experts shall study the programme of activities, rules, and will propose changes or innovative measures to be considered by the Technical Committee and the FINA Bureau.  The panel would include the Chairman of the Technical Committee and the Bureau Liaison responsible for every discipline.

4. FINA Event Allocation

FINA events have become synonymous with success and attract millions of spectators through various media.  It is also a known fact that the organisation and staging of events such as the FINA World Championships or other main competitions require substantial financial support.  Furthermore, the commercial rights payable to FINA are very significant and are also an important source of income for FINA.

The risk of solely chasing the financial goals linked to the organisation of FINA events, is that they can only be allocated to a restricted number of countries.

Whilst appreciating that such allocations are also determined by the investment certain countries are prepared to undertake, it must be remembered that FINA should be focused on the promotion of aquatic sports worldwide.

‘It must also be remembered that FINA should be focused on the promotion of aquatic sports worldwide.’

I feel that it is important to ensure that a more equitable formula be adopted in order to sustain both the financial interests of FINA and the promotion of our disciplines in as many countries as possible around the world.

5. Good Governance and Transparency

I intend to tackle the issues of good governance and transparency ensuring that these are upheld in everything we do in FINA by addressing the following four key areas:

Conflict of Interest

The FINA Code of Ethics defines the situations which can potentially lead to a conflict of interest and political interference.  To ensure absolutely transparent behavior, it is simply a matter of properly applying the existing FINA rules.  Unfortunately, these rules are far too often intentionally ignored or misinterpreted, hence leading to very unclear and ambiguous instances.

Many of us are aware of conflicting situations which occur regularly within the FINA leadership.  These often arise when certain individuals place their personal interests and desires ahead of FINA’s needs.  This is simply not acceptable and must not be tolerated.

It is my firm intention to introduce drastic measures to the FINA Code of Ethics to ensure that any type of conflict of interest within FINA is avoided and this shall be carried out to ensure that transparency is guaranteed at all times.

‘It is my firm intention to introduce drastic measures to ensure that any type of conflict of interest within FINA is avoided.’

The fight against both conflict of interest and political interference must carry the same weight as the war we wage against doping.

Clear Separation of the Political and Judicial Roles

The FINA Executive presently decides whether a case should be transferred to the Disciplinary or Ethics Panel.  This is yet another clear conflict whereby the political authority is establishing the judicial process, hence impinging on its autonomy.

My programme clearly separates the political and judicial roles, thus empowering the legal bodies to inquire independently and sanction any offenders accordingly.

Adherence to the Constitution and Clear Terms of Office

The number of mandates for the President and Bureau members, as well as the age limit to be a FINA elective candidate, must be agreed upon once and for all and enshrined within the Constitution without allowing these to be changed according to one’s personal agenda.

As you will recall, at the 2011 Congress in Shanghai, it was decided to limit the eligibility for the Presidency of FINA to 2 terms of office.  The Congress also decided to set the age limit for the candidacy for FINA President at 80.  In 2015 the Congress changed all this again.  It removed the 80 year age limit and introduced the maximum number of terms for the President to three.

Such actions are bound to raise suspicions.  I plan to clearly establish within the Constitution that the President shall have a maximum of two terms at the helm of FINA.  Furthermore, the age limit at the time of election to any post shall not be over 80 years of age, as was also provided for within the International Olympic Committee, before being lowered to 70 years of age for recently elected members.

Audit Committee

At present there is no audit committee within the FINA structures.  The proposal of the FINA Bureau at the forthcoming Congress is to establish an Audit Committee composed of three members who shall be indicated for approval to the Congress by the FINA Bureau itself.

In order to ensure further independence and autonomy, it is my firm intention to propose that the Audit Committee should be composed of 5 members who shall each be nominated by the individual continental bodies.

Further, I also plan to have the FINA Financial Report published annually on the FINA website so that it can be viewed by whoever is interested.  This will once again clearly demonstrate my will to introduce good governance, transparency and sovereignty more deeply within FINA.

6. The Fight Against Doping

I am absolutely convinced that FINA needs to be more aggressive and innovative in its fight against doping and any form of change to the principles of fair and correct behavior.

‘FINA needs to be more aggressive and innovative in its fight against doping.’

The devastatingly negative effect of doping in sports must be the reason for its total eradication.

We must stick by our principles of Fair Play and severely punish anyone who acts against the true ideals of aquatic sports.

In other words, while I am in favor of zero tolerance against doping, we also need to protect, celebrate and promote any demonstration of honesty and integrity without hesitation and at all times.

In my programme, I am suggesting that FINA must seek to cooperate with an external independent body under the authority of WADA and the IOC.  This entity shall be responsible for the management of doping control and the eventual punishments to be imposed on offenders.

To further strengthen the war on doping I will ensure adequate funding is made available to promote:

  • The establishment of such an Independent Testing Agency in cooperation with other leading Sport Authorities.
  • The development of a programme aimed at preventing doping in aquatics and spreading a culture based on values such as correct and fair behavior, and respect of rules and competitors.

7. Capitalizing on Experience

In the FINA FAMILY we know each other! Nonetheless, I believe that, at this stage, it is necessary and relevant to provide you with some personal information.

  • I am 63 years old and was born in Rome where still I live today. I am married to Rita and have two sons, Gianpaolo and Alessandro.
  • In my sporting career, I was crowned Italian Champion 20 times and national record holder on 22 occasions. I participated at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games and was a finalist twice at the Montreal 1976 Games.  I won a bronze medal at the second edition of the FINA World Championships in Cali in 1975.
  • I studied and trained at Indiana University, USA, between 1973 and 1975.
  • In 2000 I was elected President of FIN, the Italian Swimming Federation, after having previously held the post of Vice President. I was first elected to the FIN Bureau in 1987.
  • I was Head of the FIN Delegation at five Olympic Games: Seoul 1988, Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008.
  • I was responsible for the organisation of the two editions of the FINA World Championships held in Rome, in 1994 and 2009.
  • On the international scene, I was elected Vice President of COMEN – Confédération Méditerranéenne de Natation – in 2004.
  • In 2012, at the Congress held in Cascais, Portugal, I was elected President of LEN – Ligue Européenne de Natation.  Prior to this, I served as a LEN Bureau Member between 2008 and 2012 and also as Deputy Chairman of the LEN Technical Swimming Committee.
  • I was elected FINA Honorary Secretary in 2009 and re-elected in 2013.
  • I served as a member of the Executive Board of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI). I was also honored by CONI with the Gold Star for Sport Merit.
  • Under my presidency FIN, the Italian Swimming Federation, won 21 Olympic medals, 130 FINA World Championships medals, and 386 LEN European Championships medals becoming the leading sports Federation in Italy.
  • As President of FIN, I am also responsible for the “Life Saving” organisation in Italy, recognised by the State Authorities and by the International Life Saving Federation – ILS.
  • I was appointed as Councillor responsible for Sport and Tourism for the Province of Rome in 1999 and held this post until 2001.
  • I was elected in three successive legislatures as Senator of the Italian Republic, from 2001 till 2013, and held responsibilities in Sport, Education, Surveillance Authority of Public Broadcasting, Employment and Social Solidarity.
  • In my private activity, I manage and invest in businesses in the services and financial sectors and I am a recognised expert in the non-profit area.

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3 years ago

I hate to say it but I don’t trust Paolo any more than the other corrupt guy.

3 years ago

FIG ( gymnastics) has a new Japanese head guy ( replacing an Italian ) who is humbly travelling around & visiting the actual athletes! This is such a breath of fresh air. I recall sitting outside on a bench alongside the mens World Champ ( Japan) waiting to get into the stadium for Event Finals . The Head Honchos breezed past without a glance to him & thus making him wait further in the cold .
In short a personal touch would be nice .

The other problem is the cost of staging World Championships . World Cups need reworking & I would think some tours in attractive or unusual locations be encouraged . I don’t think they have… Read more »

About Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson originally hails from Clay Center, Kansas, where he began swimming at age six.  At age 14 he began swimming club year-round and later with his high school team, making state all four years.  He was fortunate enough to draw the attention of Kalamazoo College where he went on to …

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