Swimmers’ Alliance Critical of FINA, ISL For Lack of Involvement In Scheduling

Professional swimmers have let their displeasure with FINA and the ISL known in the wake of numerous scheduling changes that have reshaped the international swimming calendar in 2022 and beyond in recent months.

The International Swimmers’ Alliance (ISA) issued a formal letter to FINA and the International Swimming League (ISL) on Wednesday, telling the organizations that athletes aren’t happy with their lack of involvement and notice in the recent schedule changes.

The ISA, officially formed in June 2021, is an independent organization established by athletes, for athletes that aims to fight for swimmers’ rights and provide them with an independent global voice.

The letter, signed by ISCA elected Board Members Tom ShieldsKatinka HosszuRanomi Kromowidjojo and Brent Hayden, outlines four principles it would like to see implemented in the future as “minimum standards important to all athletes.”

“On behalf of the International Swimmers’ Alliance, the undersigned elected board members write to express our collective views on recent high-profile competitions announced recently, and specifically express our disappointment in having not been consulted or given any advance notice of these recent changes that now materially impact our livelihoods,” the letter says.

“The Alliance exists to, among other things, facilitate meaningful discussions between event organizers and the elite swimmers who are essential to the success of those events. The competition schedule is of critical importance to all swimmers. Recent announcements by ISL and FINA have unnecessarily created urgent stress and reorganization for swimmers across the world.”

The four principles outlined by the ISA are as follows:

1. More Competition is a Good Thing

The ISA recognizes that more competition opportunities to compete is a positive thing for the sport and helps all swimmers.

“The Alliance specifically commends ISL and FINA for working to create additional opportunities.”

2. Current Scheduling Is Unsustainable

The ISCA believes that the way scheduling has gone recently is unsustainable. They say the current schedule forces swimmers into “many different problematic situations” and creates tension between swimmers and their federation (see: the Netherlands).

They say it also creates tension between national federations and FINA.

“To fully realize the opportunities presented and to put forth the best competitions available, swimmers, coaches and governing federation must not be pitted against one another. Our sport cannot succeed in the long term under such circumstances.”

3. Athlete Voice Must Be Heard In Scheduling Decisions

The ISA says that no meaningful athlete participation has occurred thus far, and that their participation and views “are one of the most critical considerations.”

“At minimum, athlete concerns generally must be heard.”

4. Competition Calendars Must Be More Predictable

The Alliance recognizes the need for FINA, the ISL and other organizations to be flexible over the last two years, and appreciate their efforts in creating competition opportunities. But the athletes are now calling for a much more predictable schedule to give the sport the best chance of being successful.

“Going forward, however, as competition opportunities expand and as we hopefully emerge from the shadow of the pandemic, we believe our sport will be most successful when competition schedules are predictable. The Alliance looks forward to participating in discussions to create such a schedule.”

Alliance Calls For Meeting With FINA, ISL

Ultimately, the ISA concludes the letter by requesting a meeting with FINA and the ISL to discuss the current scheduling challenges and to establish more meaningful athlete participation in determining the schedule.

Shields, Hosszu, Kromowidjojo and Hayden are currently working with the over 130 professional swimmers who are members of the ISA to come up with more specific recommendations, but note that those four principles are the pillars of what they want to see get done in the future.

“The Alliance respectfully requests an audience with the ISL and with FINA to discuss current scheduling challenges and to establish more meaningful athlete participation in future scheduling. We believe the mutual goals of making our sport better and more sustainable require at least this minimum measure.”

The congested competition calendar has come to light over the last month after the ISL announced its 24-match schedule in late January, and then FINA first postponed this year’s World Championships in Fukuoka to 2023 before announcing a new 2022 Worlds this summer in Budapest (June 26-July 3).

The new Worlds dates will conflict with three of the ISL’s regular season matches.

FULL INTERNATIONAL SWIMMERS’ ALLIANCE LETTER

23-February, 2022: On behalf of the International Swimmers’ Alliance, the undersigned elected board members write to express our collective views on recent high-profile competitions announced recently, and specifically express our disappointment in having not been consulted or given any advance notice of these recent changes that now materially impact our livelihoods. The Alliance exists to, among other things, facilitate meaningful discussions between event organizers and the elite swimmers who are essential to the success of those events. The competition schedule is of critical importance to all swimmers. Recent announcements by ISL and FINA have unnecessarily created urgent stress and reorganization for swimmers across the world. The Alliance is actively working with its members to create a concrete proposal for future championships. While consensus among our diverse membership will take some additional time, the following principles have risen to the top as minimum standards important to all athletes:

  1. In general, the addition of competition opportunities is favoured by the Alliance. Swimmers compete. More opportunities to compete, if they are properly scheduled, helps all swimmers. The Alliance specifically commends ISL and FINA for working to create additional opportunities.
  2. The Alliance believes the current scheduling is unsustainable. While more opportunities are favored, the current schedule is unsustainable as it forces swimmers into many different problematic situations. In many instances, the schedule recently announced creates tension between the swimmer and their governing federation. At least one federation has already moved to ban swimmers from some of the available competitions. That dynamic can create tensions between coach and federation or coach and swimmer as well. Additionally, the current scheduling creates tension between federations (e.g., Euros) , and between federations and FINA. To fully realize the opportunities presented and to put forth the best competitions available, swimmers, coaches and governing federation must not be pitted against one another. Our sport cannot succeed in the long term under such circumstances.
  3. Athlete representation in scheduling decisions is essential. No meaningful athlete participation has occurred thus far. The Alliance members understand that there are multiple considerations that must go into scheduling decisions. However, we are quite certain that athlete views are one of the most critical considerations. To our knowledge, no meaningful athlete participation or representation has been considered in creating the current international calendar. At minimum, athlete concerns generally must be heard. And as stated below, we specifically request meetings with FINA and ISL to discuss the calendar of events.
  4. Going forward, the competition calendar must be more predictable. The Alliance understands and appreciates the effort by FINA, ISL and all organizers, federations, and administrators to create competition opportunities over the last two years. The Alliance understands and appreciates the need for flexibility during those uncertain times. Going forward, however, as competition opportunities expand and as we hopefully emerge from the shadow of the pandemic, we believe our sport will be most successful when competition schedules are predictable. The Alliance looks forward to participating in discussions to create such a schedule.

We are the first to admit that issues facing the swimming world today are nuanced. Our own Alliance is similarly nuanced, as the Alliance includes over 130 professional swimmers across the world. We are in the process of talking to our members and soliciting feedback on more specific recommendations, the four points above continually rise to the top. The Alliance respectfully requests an audience with the ISL and with FINA to discuss current scheduling challenges and to establish more meaningful athlete participation in future scheduling. We believe the mutual goals of making our sport better and more sustainable require at least this minimum measure.

Approved and issued by: Katinka Hosszu, Ranomi Kromowidjojo, Brent Hayden, Tom Shields – ISA elected Board Members

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BobbyJ
2 months ago

No swimmer should have anything to do with the ISL. They haven’t paid anyone, and no discussions should take place about participation until all payments are made in full with interest.

SigmaAlphaBetaMale
2 months ago

Listening to Toussaint on Brett Hawke’s podcast it seems many swimmers are prioritizing ISL over Worlds. Money Talks!

Admin
Reply to  SigmaAlphaBetaMale
2 months ago

It’s going to be an interesting battle when push comes to shove.

Money does talk – including the money that the Dutch federation just sent to send Kira on a training camp to the US, and the $3,000 monthly salary they give all Dutch swimmers.

I will be curious to hear her reaction if that stops.

seton
Reply to  Braden Keith
2 months ago

Yeah, that is just 1 person’s interpretation of her recent pod. I got the opposite. Kira knows that she has to do what the federation prefers.

Joel
Reply to  seton
2 months ago

I agree. I think she pretty much said they will lose funding if they didn’t obey and prioritise Worlds.

Joe
2 months ago

Does ISL ever have SCY races?

MIKE IN DALLAS
2 months ago

BRAVO!
Although ISL and FINA are probably only 1/2 listening, these 4 points are cardinal hinges to getting the doors to open to a) more high quality swimming events, and b) better swimmer outcomes @ each competition. Also, the flow of payments will hopefully become more of a “stream” than “pennies from heaven”!

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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