The German Swimming Federation (DSV) held an extraordinary conference on December 8th in Bonn (Germany). The meeting was called by the President of the German Swimming Federation, Gabi Dörries. In addition to the normal conference documents, all German swim clubs received a letter in which Mrs. Dörries explained the financial situation of the DSV and she gave a detailed explanation for why an increase of the membership fees would be inevitable. Dörries explained that – in her mind – the approval for an increase of the membership fees couldn’t wait until the next regular meeting in May 2019.
Dörries presented facts and figures supporting an increase of 0,60 Euros (0,68 USD) per member of the DSV per year. That would have been the first increase since the 1980s – before the fall of the Berlin wall and the reunification of East Germany and West Germany. The President explained that the German Swimming Federation have had liquidity problems and she also showed with figures that the reserves of the association were consumed. She described an underfunding of about 300.000 Euros (341.600 USD). This could have been offset by the additional revenue in the amount of 360,000 euros.
Mrs. Dörries was elected President of the German Swimming Association in 2016 and the increase of the membership fees always was an essential part of her election program. Dörries and her team worked very hard to get reforms on the way and obviously, many were ratified at the association congress but the increase of the membership fees was adjourned to the next meeting in May 2019.
President Gabi Dörries and Andrea Thielenhaus, the Vice President for finance affairs, declared their withdrawals immediately at the meeting. Dörries said in her speech to the delegates: “Through today’s decisions, I see no basis for further work in the position of the President.”
The delegates had to deal with over 70 reforms at the conference but a solid financial basis was the key point for Mrs. Dörries – to get future reforms on the way and to avoid future problems with liquidity and underfunding. The DSV is organized in many regional federations and some of them fear that they can’t handle the 0,60 Euro increase, however.
The business of the association is now led by a four-person executive committee, consisting of the vice-presidents Uwe Brinkmann and Wolfgang Hein, the director of competitive sports Thomas Kurschilgen and the chairman of the German swim youth, Kai Morgenroth. Mr. Kurschilgen summarized many results of the general meeting as milestones and historic decisions. He expressed on behalf ot the German Swimming Federation their gratitude for the great work of Gabi Dörries and her team.
The DSV conference received a lot of publicity because of the President’s retirement – headlines such as: “Swimming President throws the towel because of 60 cents” or “Association chaos at the DSV – President resigns” dominated the reports. In times, where the German Swimming is on the test bench of the German Olympic Sport Federation (DOSB), a change in the leading position doesn’t send the right signs. The German swimmers returned from the last two Olympic Games with zero medals – and it is the German Olympic Sports Federation who financed many of the DSV activities and they already have shortened grants. A change after only two years in the highest DSV position won’t represent a stable and future orientated organization.
With former top German swimmer Dorothea Brandt (she retired in the beginning of 2018), a very prominent athlete stated her opinion in the social media. Brandt was the swimmer’s representative for many years. She shared her personal opinion on Gabi Dörries resignation and the future of the German swimmers on Facebook with haunting words. Dorothea Brandt thinks that the delegates “will destroy the future of the German sports of swimming” because they didn’t accept the increase of the membership fees and postponed the decision to the next general meeting.
Dorothea Brandt described her experience at the conference on Saturday with drastic words: “What I experienced today in Bonn is a slap in the face of the German swimming sport and the other sports in the DSV. The trigger was the request of the the Baden Swimming Association (note: a regional swimming association of the DSV) to remove the voting about the increase of the membership fees from the agenda and postpone the decision to the next general meeting in May 2019. As a result, all other decisions had no basis and the preparations of the national teams for the Olympic Games are in acute danger. The entire process was led to absurdity by the application from the Baden Swimming association.”
Brandt added that she visited such a general meeting for the first time. She said clearly that she would have lost any motivation to continue her training and preparation for her Olympic dream if she had experienced such impressions during her active career. She stated that she is really shocked that “necessary changes and so the sport as a whole can be boycotted in such a way … The entire German sport is in a phase of change. The DOSB pushes for changes, so do the federations. However, some national associations either do not feel responsible for it or the fear of change paralyzes them.”
She ended her Facebook post with a direct appeal to the delegates of the general meeting: “Dear voters, you have not fulfilled your mission today. You have destroyed a vision that is lived in the swimming pools of this country. Today you have laid the cornerstone for the end of competitive sports in the DSV. Today you destroyed the Olympic dreams of many athletes in the long term or at least put them another stumbling block in their way to the 2020 Olympics. … This system only works hand in hand, but you have denied the athletes your hand today. You did not think like athletes. You have only thought of a problem, not about a solution. Athletes think and act solution-oriented. You should take them as role-models. And if you have had solutions today, be ashamed that you did not get up to present them.”