Interest in the lawsuit against FINA filed by Tom Shields, Katinka Hosszu, and Michael Andrew is picking up steam outside of immediate swimming circles, as Shields took to local Bay Area news Tuesday night to discuss the situation.
On channel ABC7 Bay Area’s nightly news, Shields – who resides in Berkeley, CA – sat in for an interview with anchor Larry Beil.
“Ultimately, I think we just want to open up the marketplace. FINA has been pretty dominant in their control,” Shields said, explaining the premise of the suit. “I’ve been a great benefactor of that control, but ultimately, the opportunity for other people to come in an organize meets can only mean more meets for the spectators, only mean more meets for us – and that ultimately means a better product.”
Asked about his impetus to get involved, Shields cited the International Swim League’s attempt to hold Energy for Swim later this month in Italy, which was canceled after FINA threatened to suspend athletes in attendance.
“The main organizer’s son [Ivan Grigorishin] is on the Cal swim team with me, and we kind of tried to put this together, and I don’t know the exact specifics, but through procedural gaming, FINA had nixed it. And then I got involved with the lawsuit.”
Further context on the situation:
- FINA rule interpretation could outlaw Energy for Swim meet
- Athletes could face 1-to-2-year bans if Energy for Swim isn’t approved
- Law expert’s paper suggests FINA bans won’t hold up legally
- 2018 Energy for Swim meet cancelled after negotiations break down
- ISL Head: We will use all legal means available after Energy for Swim postponement
- FINA Memo: Discussions Ongoing with Energy Standard & ISL
In terms of his goals for the suit, Shields said he wants to expand the sport and increase transparency, perhaps regarding how FINA‘s money is allocated; Beil brought up a report that FINA has earned $118 million over the past two years. The 2016 gold medalist added that for what he believes is the first time, swimming has the framework to sustain athletes like a more traditional professional sport.
“I think the interest is there, the infrastructure’s definitely there. We have the athletes for the first time, enough of them, and a critical mass of people interested in making it happen.”
Shields also gave his opinion on what a true professional swimming league could look like, and issues with the current system: “I think one thing this can do is organize it like clubs, and then money can come through individual teams, which doesn’t really happen. We pay – most of us pay our coaches and we get money through grant funding, endorsements, or prize money – if you qualify for the big meets. So this is another opportunity to make more prize money or make partnerships which don’t really exist within the terms of organizations like that.”
Finally, Beil referenced FINA‘s response to the suit, which you can read about here.
“Obviously, I didn’t want it necessarily to come to this, either,” said Shields. “But we feel within the organization that this is an opportunity and that we as athletes want this opportunity specifically to move forward, and that’s really all I have to say.”