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Birth of The World Swimming Association?

Sep 3, 2010  - Craig Lord

The umbrella body for World coaches will today vote on whether they should create a World Swimming Association capable of replacing FINA as the governing body for aquatic sports should the international federation's executive maintain an "undemocratic" stance on changes planned for the FINA Constitution.

John Leonard, executive director of the American Swimming Coaches Association, board member of the World Swimming Coaches Association and consultant to the FINA Coaches Commission, woke international coaches up at a breakfast briefing in Indianapolis this morning with a rallying cry to arms.

"There will be a revolution in FINA in the next 12 months," said Leonard, the man in charge of the ASCA World Clinic here this week, unless the international federation's executive committee of three men do a U-turn on a decision to reject any proposals for planned changes to the FINA Constitution, to be voted on at an extraordinary Congress in Shanghai next year.

"We have a very serious situation," Leonard told assembled coaches. "Federations, for many years, have been able to put rule-change proposals to the vote at Congress. Traditionally, 95% of the time if the proposals did not come from the Bureau then the Bureau said 'no'. An in 100% of cases, no-one has beaten the Bureau at Congress."

Until that is, Rome 2009: the death knell on shiny suits was sounded with a crushing 186-6 vote against the wishes of the president of FINA at the time, Mustapha Larfaoui, and the FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu, representing the Bureau but not backed by all members of the Bureau. 

The FINA executive had lost a big vote for the first time in its 101-year history. "The revenge that FINA has then taken is for the upcoming constitutional Congress to eliminate the opportunity for federations to propose changes," said Leonard.

Asia, Europe and the Americas, in collaboration with FINA's legal commission, put forward about 140 proposals for constitutional change, 10 of which SwimNews highlighted yesterday. But those proposals were sent back stamped "ineligible for submission or consideration" by the FINA Office in Lausanne, said Leonard.

"So effectively, the executive director and the honorary secretary of FINA are deciding what goes to Congress to be voted on," said Leonard, who also described the links between officials in a position to vote and suit makers who serve as sponsors was "absolutely unacceptable".

Leonard added: "We have no more democracy or opportunity to make changes in our sport and have our voices heard," added Leonard. "We have no option but to ask world swimming 'is that what you want?'" or would a new model of governance carry popular support through the ranks of the worldwide aquatic sports community.

"There will be a large battle over the coming months," Leonard predicted. "We are talking about having a new organisation [the world swimming association] being in charge of world swimming." 

Coaches discuss those plans and vote on the issue late in the day today in Indianapolis.