By Christian Radnedge
LONDON (Reuters) – World swimming’s governing body FINA has said that it will look for new ways to improve its structure after several world and Olympic champions raised concerns at a summit in London this week.
British breastroke world record holder Adam Peaty was among 30 elite swimmers to call for more transparency and fair pay from FINA as they met to discuss setting up a global swimmers’ association.
Athletes complained that their concerns had not been listened to. FINA said that its new Athletes Committee will elect members, who are currently competing and that they would have voting rights at its General Congress.
“Supporting swimmers has been my life’s work,” FINA President Julio Maglione said in a statement.
“Fortunately, besides my personal contacts with our stars, we also have formal mechanisms for incorporating athlete feedback. And we will look for new ways to make even further improvements, because this is our way.”
The summit was organised by the International Swimming League (ISL), a separate event body backed by Ukrainian energy businessman Konstantin Grigorishin, which intends to launch its own team competition next year.
The ISL said that it would offer more opportunities for swimmers to maximise their commercial potential.
FINA, however, said that it had consistently increased prize money for athletes at its events such as the short and long course world championships and the swimming World Cup.
“FINA’s careful financial management has already seen it ensure a winning model for the future of aquatics that includes massively increased prize purses for athletes, up more than 500 percent in 10 years,” the statement said.
“FINA’s approach has demonstrated prudence, including the establishment of necessary reserves to withstand the unforeseen cancellation of a major event, thus guaranteeing sustainability.”
The governing body, founded in 1908, also said that it would increase development funds to help support promising swimmers. Athletes raised concerns at the summit that only those who won titles would be able to gain sponsorship deals to support their career.
FINA also clarified that it would not ban any athletes who would take part in any unsanctioned event.
An ISL event that was set to be held in Turin this month was cancelled. The Italian federation FIN said FINA declared the event as “non-approved” and threatened sanctions against the participating athletes.
FINA said: “As to the issue of alleged athlete bans resulting from participation in unsanctioned events, FINA merely stated that results achieved in competitions for which approval and sanction were not duly sought and obtained would not be recognised.”
(Reporting by Christian Radnedge; Editing by Toby Davis)