Barelli Says Maglione Handout Could Be Seen As “Cash For Votes” In Fight For FINA

Paolo Barelli - by Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia

The fight for the FINA presidency took a new twist today when the challenger Paolo Barelli told the incumbent Julio Maglione that a handout of almost $1 million to federations just over a month before the crucial vote could be “interpreted as an exercise of cash for votes”.

A new battle front was created by Maglione – the 81-year-old Uruguayan who came to the presidency in 2009 on a ticket of one term only but having change the constitution to that end has it all change back and is now standing for a third term – when he came up with the idea of giving every FINA member $4,000 in “financial spoort” if they hosted a “World Aquatics Day” event in their country on the first weekend in July.

The trouble with Maglione’s largesse was two fold:

  • the only condition attached to receiving the funds was for each federation to send in a snap shot of their event thatr proved that they did indeed host a celebration day of one kind or another;
  • and no proper discussion took place at Executive nor Burea level nor was there a formal voting process to decide whether anyone but the man standing opposed for the president agreed with the scheme.

Today, federations around the world received a letter penned by Barelli to Maglione in which the Italian head of the Europpean Swimming League describes the Uruguayan’s plan as part of “astonishing and incomprehensible methods” of leadership that “once again shed doubts on whether good governance must be a key pillar on which FINA is founded.”

Before calling for Maglione “to ensure that the image and integrity of FINA are not negatively affected” Barelli sets out his understanding of the sequence of events, noting the following timeline:

  • February 23: “the FINA National Member received a letter from you, in your capacity as FINA President, which communicated FINA’s desire to celebrate FINA World Aquatic Day every year with the FINA National Federations. In such letter there was no indication whatsoever regarding any financial support by FINA, as it was never formally discussed or agreed upon”
  • June 8: “the FINA Executive received the communication which stated that you would like to provide all of the National Federations with up $ 4,000 for their participation in the celebration of the first edition of FINA World Aquatic Day. Whilst you invited opinions from the members of the Executive, I am not aware of any formal voting process concerning your proposal”.
  • June 13: after SwimVortex had made initial inquiriers about the proposal, all federations received the following letter from FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu outlining several other conditions beyond the original ‘send in a snap shot and you’ll get the cash’.

Dear Friends, We are sending you this correspondence referring to the celebration of the 1st FINA World Aquatics Day

We have the pleasure to inform you that financial support will be provided to the FINA National Federations taking part in this celebration in the year 2017. Those who wish to apply for this financial aid will have to comply with the following criteria:

Submission of a detailed budget. Submission of a celebration programme and the structure put into place to organise their respective World Aquatics Day celebrations.

All National Federations taking part and being supported by FINA will have to submit photos and video footage of their celebration in order to benefit from this grant.

FINA will reserve the right to use these visual and/or audio recordings for promotion purposes on our website and/or in our publications. Marculescu invites federations to “apply” for the money.

Divided club: l-r, Pipat Paniangvait (the treasurer from Thailand), Paolo Barelli, Julio Maglione and the executive director Cornel Marculescu in Budapest, at an earlier gathering in the place where the 2017 world championships will be held this July

The letter from Barelli – wh0 is standing for the presidency on ticket of transparency and reform and wants to enter dialogue with “all major stakeholders”. including coaches long ignored – today highlighs what he calls his “concerns and some obvious questions”, including the following issues:

“You are the President of FINA and also a candidate to the Presidency at the FINA Elective Congress which will be held on 22 July in Budapest.

“The timing of the implementation of your proposal may risk being perceived by FINA Members as convenient. In addition, it raises doubts as to whether the correct procedure in the context of the FINA Elective Congress was followed. It would result that your decision to provide such financial support of $ 4,000 to each participant, could add up to $836,000, should all 209 FINA Member Federations participate! Such a decision taken by you, only 37 days to go to Election Congress, may be interpreted as an exercise of cash for votes!”

Barelli adds: “Economic support in favour of FINA Member Federations is a very important matter and something I consider of crucial necessity for the development of aquatic activities. However, such programmes need to be clearly defined, agreed upon and introduced ensuring total respect for good governance and transparency.” He concludes:

“Unfortunately, your astonishing and incomprehensible methods, once again shed doubts on whether good governance must be a key pillar on which FINA is founded. For all of the above reasons, I expect you to take all the appropriate measures in order to ensure that the image and integrity of FINA are not negatively affected.”

A sum of $4,000 to the likes of USA Swimming and others in the league of top swim nations, while doubvtless welcome, is not going to cause a stampede. However, in some countries among the 209 members of FINA, the sum is substantial. Further, on the one hand organising a low-level and a budget could take little effort; on the other hand, FINA, for the purposes of appropriate checks and balances, may well struggle to follow the trail of money among a membership that includes leaders who:

  • accept development grants and full subsididsation for events such as the World Championships and then upgrade their economy class tickets to firtst class with their own gold cards.
  • accept per diems and other payments on behalf of delegates who actually attended events and worked but never pass that money on and then even issue threats so serious to the delegate who ended up without his due money that that delegate goes into hiding in another country (one of several worrying stories for another day and from the realm of FINA).

Thomas Bach, IOC president, with Sheikh Al-Sabah – who stepped down from FIFA roles after being cited in US Justice Department papers as a co-conspirator in a bribery case involving Richard Lai – and FINA’s Julio Maglione – courtesy of Jens Weinreich

One FINA source told SwimVortex this evening: “If Barelli raises the kind of questions that all Bureau members and heads of committees and commissions should be raising in a regular basis, there is also the issue of follow-up.

“Will we learn precisely where the money went, what it was spent on and other matters required if transparency is going to be a part of this?

“Besides that, to do this in the weeks before a major vote at Congress is going to be by a lot of people as cynical, to say the least.”

SwimVortex did NOT contact Maglione for his views: he presides over a leadership that has let more than 100 questions from SwimVortex go unanswered since late 2014.

If the FINA president would like to send us his views, including an answer to the question – is that the way FINA business is conducted under your leadership … no proper debate and discussion on issues and then no vote before federeations are informed of a decision taken by less than the full executive, let along the full Bureau of 24 members … (this website has set out examples galore in the past several years)? – we would be more than happy to publish them.

Meanwhile, Maglione is standing for a third term in the top seat that would take him to his 86th year, six years beyond the age limit that applies at the International Olympic Committee for those wishing to serve in office but which Maglione voted against at FINA.

A “Kuwaiti succession” theory within FINA circles holds that Maglione would step down mid-term if he wins the vote in Budapest next month and hand over the reins to his “first vice-president”, Husain Al Musallam.

Al-Musallam hails from a country currently suspended by the IOC and FINA and this year was cited in U.S. Justice Department papers related to a guilty plea on bribery charges by Richard Lai, a Guam football official, as “con-conspirator #3”

The fight for the FINA presidency took a new twist today when the challenger Paolo Barelli told the incumbent Julio Maglione that a handout of almost $1 million to federations just over a month before the crucial vote could be “interpreted as an exercise of cash for votes”.

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