Swimmers revolt as breakaway gathers steam
Aussie Olympic medallists Madeline Groves and Emily Seebohm will both fly to London next week to attend a meeting they hope will change the face of swimming forever by loosening the iron grip that FINA has on the sport.
Furious at the world governing body's refusal to sanction a proposed professional league, a who's-who of swimmers from around the world have agreed to meet with organisers of the breakaway competition at a two-day summit in the English capital.
"This meeting is a huge opportunity for the sport of swimming," Groves said.
"The sport's really been crying out for a facelift for a long time now, and we're starting to see the demand for it and now it's starting to happen."
Groves and Seebohm are the only Aussies planning to make the long trip to London but plenty of others are also backing the International Swimming League, which is offering increased prizemoney to swimmers but threatens FINA's monopoly on the sport.
At least 11 Olympic and 18 world champions from around the globe, including Adam Peaty, Katinka Hosszu, Sarah Sjostrom, Federica Pellegrini and Chad le Clos are expected to attend the conference at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium, hosted by Ukrainian energy billionaire Konstantin Grigorishin.
"The attendance at the meeting and all the support the ISL has so far is an example of how desperate the stakeholders in the sport are for a change like this," Groves said.
"The discontent around this issue certainly does transcend language and cultural barriers."
The meeting is just the latest dramatic challenge in the last week from international swimmers exasperated at FINA's threat to ban any competitors who participated in ISL from competing at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Two separate lawsuits were filed against FINA last week while swimmers from all over the world have expressed their frustration at the way FINA spends its fortune following reports it demanded a $70 million fee from ISL to sanction the proposed new league.
FINA raked in $164 million in gross revenues between 2016 and 2017 but spent less than $29 million on prizemoney, while splashing out $25 million on maintenance at its new 43,000-square-foot headquarters in Switzerland and millions more on travel, accommodation and per diems for members.
"I understand that the public might see this as swimmer just wanting more money, but the reality is there's certainly a lot of money in swimming and within FINA but the overwhelming of athletes don't see enough funding or support," Groves said.
"I think there has been growing discontent with the way FINA has been dealing with certain issues over the years and at this meeting we'll certainly be addressing a lot more than just hosting our own swim meet but also how we work with FINA in the future as well.
"The big picture is this could be the future of our sport, things like the Olympic Games are never going to go away, that's always going to be the absolute pinnacle of swimming, but now there's a real chance here to reinvigorate the sport and to give it total new life and to ensure a better future for the athletes that are going to come after us."