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How FINA Spends and Earns-Revisited

Apr 8, 2015  - Nikki Dryden

This article was first published in SwimNews Magazine in 2011 and later republished in 2012 with the query, "Will 2012 be the Year of the Swimming Protest?"

In support of Bill Sweetenham's work to bring transparency to FINA, we re-print this important piece and again asking the swimming community to demand more transparency, accountability and democracy at FINA. 

2012, the Olympic Year; the one time every four years that swimming takes center stage, if only for eight days. This summer all eyes will turn to our sport. The big stories will be the rise of Lochte and the defense by Phelps of his title as World’s Greatest Swimmer. Franklin will attempt to challenge that dominance on the women’s side. But what else will our sport be noted for in 2012?

2011, the year of the Activist; from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street it has been a banner year for the world’s people, waking up from decades of apathy on issues like political freedom and economic justice. But swimmers and more generally sportspeople have continued with business as usual when it comes to global sports governance.

Why are sportspeople, the athletes, the fans, and the coaches still asleep when it comes to global sports leadership?

Although the signs have been there for decades, European football fans woke up last fall to realize they'd been bamboozled, whitewashed, and just plain fooled when it came to soccer's global leadership. From bribery scandals around the World Cup vote to FIFA leader’s ignorant comments around racism on the pitch, these recent gaffs by Sepp Blatter, not unlike his disturbing comments around gays and women, shed light into the type of man that leads one of the world's biggest sports. 

Right now, in pubs across England and newspapers around the world, FIFA is finally coming under fire. After decades uncovering their dirty tricks, Andrew Jenning's investigatory journalism has hit the main stream sports media who is starting to question soccer's sports leadership. Jennings, you will recall, is the man behind the IOC books that exposed that organization’s corruption. 

Will swimming follow?
Think about these questions and your knowledge of FINA: Do you know who leads your sport? Who makes the decisions on how and where to spend the money athletes bring in and who receives the bulk of it? Do you know who your representatives are? Do you know how to reach out to them? When it comes to swimming, FINA is the ultimate arbitrator of how our sport operates, yet around the world hundreds of thousands of swimmers and their coaches have little or no say in how our sport is governed at the global level. 

FINA facts
Let these facts wash over you as you celebrate your successes for 2011 and make resolutions to change in 2012. Maybe activism will be one of them? 

From the lack of transparency to allegations of bribery, global swim leadership needs to transform in order to be accountable to those it represents. Right now, FINA is not transparent. FINA rule-making and policy decisions happen in relative private.

FINA is a non-profit organization formed in Switzerland. The 22 Bureau members are not elected by swimmers, but elected in private by the FINA Congress. 

The FINA General Congress meets every four years, usually at the World Long Course Championships. There is also a Technical Congress that decides technical issues. Each Congress has two voting members from each Member Federation, plus the following non-voting members: the 22 members of the Bureau, the Honorary Life President, and all Honorary Members. There are also dozens of commissions, including the Athlete’s Commission. 

However, for all issues that cannot wait until the once per quadrennial Congress, the smaller 22-member FINA Bureau operates independently, deciding issues such as host city selection for the World Championships. This 22- person Bureau is led by aquatic powerhouse countries such as Uruguay (the President), Nigeria, Cuba, Thailand, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Egypt, Morocco, Portugal, and Puerto Rico, from which they elect the Executive Officers.

The General Congress elects the Bureau, from which seven members are elected from the world at large, and fifteen on the basis of geographical representation (Africa 3, Americas 4, Asia 3, Europe 4, Oceania 1). The Honorary Life President, the Immediate Past President, the Immediate Past Honorary Secretary and the Immediate Past Honorary Treasurer are also members of the Bureau, but without vote. Among these 31 people, there is only one woman.

Perhaps the strangest part about global sports governance is that sport, including swimming is merit based, but somehow our leaders are not chosen this way.  

In 2008, during the massive ISL trial in Switzerland it was revealed that as yet unnamed FINA officials took bribes from ISL, the international sport marketing firm that FINA contracted with in order to secure broadcasting and marketing contracts. According to investigative sports reporters Jens Weinreich and Andrew Jennings, ISL bought television and marketing rights from the international sports federations as well as the IOC and re-sold them to media companies and private sponsors. 

These relations became the driving force behind the commercialization of elite sport in the late '80s and through the '90s. Over 12 years, from 1989 to its bankruptcy in 2001, ISL handed out CAD$151 million in personal commissions to sports leaders in order to get these contracts. The payments were channeled to the private pockets or bank accounts of high ranking sports leaders through an advanced system of secret funds in Liechtenstein and the British Virgin Islands. 

Julio Cesár Maglione, IOC member from Uruguay and FINA President has said, “The International Olympic Committee fights against corruption through WADA, because the big problem that we have is doping. That is very important. Other corruption in sport is very difficult to control. Much more important for us is to control the doping problem.”

Why hasn't Maglione or Cornel Marculescu, FINA’s Executive Director, revealed the FINA officials who took bribes? Is corruption not a big problem? The Chinese systematic doping scandals of the ‘90s and the swimsuit fiasco of the aughts, both brought on by years of ineffectiveness, a desire for growth at any cost, and a lack of real knowledge of our sport, have both been relegated to footnotes at the end of each decade. What will it take to wake us from our slumber? 

FINA financials
The FINA Bureau has 22 members plus committees and honorary members of around 80. From 1998 to 2008, the FINA Bureau spent $21.2* million on themselves. The FINA Office has 22 staff at present. Between 1998 and 2008, FINA’s administration costs were $26.5 million. That is a total of $47.7 million for about 100 people. 

Compare that number, $47.7 million, to what FINA spent on athletes, about $33.4 million. As FINA is the governing body for four aquatic sports, it is unclear how money is divided across the disciplines, yet from 1998-2008 FINA spent $6.3 million on development programs (including the $2.1 million they received from the IOC through the Olympic Solidarity program and other development revenues), and $7.8 million during this decade went back to the Federations. They gave away $19.3 million in prize money to athletes from all four aquatic sports.

Those three items: development programs, federation payments, and prize money total just $33.4 million. In the 10 year period $10.7 million was spent on doping control. 

More specifically, we can look at the year 2005. Montreal, Canada hosted the Long Course World Champs that year. The total cost to host “Montreal 2005” was $67.7 million. That included a payment to FINA by Montreal of $7.4 million, almost the same amount that FINA disbursed to all Federations over a 10 year period. 

Other spending by Montreal 2005 included: Athletes' travel expenses: $1.2 million, Athletes' meals and hotel: $3 million, FINA meals and accommodation: $1.7 million.

Compare with FINA's Costs and Revenues in 2005: $17.5 million income and $2.7 million in expenses from the World Champs, $3.4 million spent on the Bureau, $2.6 million on Administration, $951,000 on doping control, $1.3 million on prize money, $329,000 on development programs.

FINA finished 2005 with $9.8 million excess of income, while only $1.3million was spent on prize money to all aquatic athletes and only $329,000 on programs for developing all four aquatic sports around the world. 

Swimmers as commodities
Today there are now four World Championships each quadrennial. Add in short and long course Europeans, World Cups for swimming and open water swimming, major Continental Games, and Youth meets, and swimmers and their coaches are tired. 

Since the 2004 SC World Champs swimmers have increasing had to wear FINA sponsorship logos, from on their tracksuits to pre-printed swim caps: one side dedicated to the athlete's name and country, while FINA's corporate sponsor gets the other side. Is this all just an opportunity for FINA officials to make more money and travel to more exotic locations? Or is it as it is positioned, an opportunity to make our sport “better”?

But what does “better” swimming mean? Is it more revenue? More tickets sold and fans who attend World Champs and World Cups? More revenue for FINA at year end? Is it more World Records or more endorsement deals? Who decides that this is actually what a “better” sport looks like?

Could it also look more equitable and diverse? Could more countries have more pools, higher quality coaches, gender equitable opportunities for swimmers, coaches, and administrators? Could a “better” swimming actually look a lot different than what we have at present?

The most tragic outcome of all this is the drowning death of Fran Crippen. At the UAE World Cup in 2010, Crippen drowned 300 metres from the finish line of the men's 10KM open water race. The water temperature was reported from 29-33 degrees Celsius (+90F), yet for the 77 swimmer race, there were only two lifeguard stations, neither of which had binoculars. There were only two jet skis, and only one rider was a lifeguard. Yet no real change has come to open water swimming.

FINA refused to participate with the USA Swimming Task Force to help with a thorough, transparent investigation into Fran’s death and even IOC member Dick Pound couldn't get assistance from FINA officials. 

Whatever FINA has done or not done with our sport, nothing should galvanize us more as a community than Fran’s death. If for no other reason than to ensure this never happens to one of us again, change must come. 

Is change possible? 
Where can swimmers, coaches, parents, fans or even national level administrators turn, being that we have no real representation at the international level? Can we ask our sports’ corporate sponsors to demand accountability? Surely they have auditors who will want to know how the money is being spent.

Does Speedo’s Board of Directors (or that of their parent companies around the world) not look at FINA and wonder why Speedo’s money is being spent on Bureau members’ travel rather than the development of swimming in the far reaches of the globe? Surely Speedo, who as a corporation has an obligation to its shareholders to make money, must only fund FINA so that their swimsuits and swim products will eventually be sold to more people in more countries as swimming becomes a truly global sport.

Perhaps the boards and auditors at Myrtha Pools, Nikon, Omega, Yakult or Midea have questions? 

What about public funding? The Canadian government provided $19 million in funding and services to Montreal 2005 for the World Champs. The Government of Quebec spent $14.5 and the City of Montreal $16.4 million for a total public sector contribution of $50.1 million.

We know FINA meals and accommodation for the World Champs cost $1.7 million. Will the public authorities step in and regulate international sports governance and ask how their money is being spent?

Maybe we need a swimmer’s union? The coaches are unionized, why aren’t we? In Europe, the European Elite Athletes Association has a guidebook for athletes on how to create social dialog and set up effective player’s association. Are we thinking about our lives after swimming? How does injury affect the course of our careers? Do we care about medical insurance, education, protections against abuse, our rights in the anti-doping fight? Do we care about how the money we generate is spent? There are so many questions, but few answers.

At this year’s Play the Game conference in Cologne, participants came together to draft and submit the Cologne Consensus that asks the world’s sporting bodies to make change to their governance structures, including adopting transparency and accountability measures, equity and non-discrimination protocols and other efforts to develop grassroots sport and the sharing of best practices in sports governance. 

FINA should agree to the Cologne Consensus. USA Swimming and Australian Swimming, as the two biggest federations, must be tasked by us to effectuate this change at the highest levels of our sport. Aaron Piersol and Gustavo Borges, our swimmer representatives on the Bureau must be tasked by us to effectuate this change. Swimmers and coaches must take our international leaders to task, for there is no one fighting this fight for us.
We must ask where the money is going. We must ask why Fran Crippen drowned. We must demand transparency, democratic reforms, and accountability of our sports' global leaders.  

Activism takes many forms. Not everyone can be camping out at Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan or Tahrir Square in Cairo, but we all must take responsibility for the future of our sport and how it is governed. Each of us can play a unique role in making positive change. Swimming writers, coaches, officials, administrators, parents and most importantly, swimmers can all take steps to ensure that swimming ends 2012 in the spotlight. Not just for the show we will put on in London, but also for the show of strength to make change to international sports governance. 

*All figures are in Canadian dollars. Some are calculated from Swiss Francs (CHF) to Canadian Dollars (CAD), using currency exchange rates on December 13, 2011 (1.00 CHF = 1.09432 CAD). On December 13, 1998 the rate was 1.00 CHF= 1.1599548363 CAD, on December 13, 2008 the rate was 1.00 CHF= 1.0580798439 CAD. Today’s rate falls in the middle of these figures. 

This comment was originally printed in SwimNews Magazine, No. 322 November - December 2011 and republished in February 2012 at Play The Game's website as a call to action.