In a dramatic U-turn, Julio Maglione, the president of the embattled international swimming federation, FINA, has withdrawn emergency rule proposals that he was instrumental in shaping after he was challenged for the top seat.
The move follows Europe’s refusal to cooperate with executive powers that have been described as “unconstitutional”.
The Italian opposing Maglione for the FINA presidency, Paolo Barelli, has seized on Maglione’s U-Turn as a chance to highlight what he describes as “unlawful proposals”, “irregular acts” and measures “perfectly suited in order to create turmoil ahead of the FINA General Congress”.
Barelli wants the FINA executive to disqualify FINA first vice-president Husain Al-Musallam from standing for any FINA rules at Congress in July on two grounds: his nation, Kuwait, is suspended by the IOC and FINA, and in recognition of U.S. court papers that cite Al-Musallam as a “co-conspirator” in the Richard Lai bribery case from the world of FIFA.
In welcoming Maglione’s change of heart, Barelli says that now is the time for the Uruguayan to do other U-turns on matters he has already done U-turns on in an attempt to stay in power.
In a letter sent to the worldwide swimming community of delegates and many others, Barelli effectively calls on Maglione and the FINA executive to remove Al-Musallam from all FINA nominations and roles.
Barelli calls on Maglione to:
- reject any nomination to any FINA position coming from suspended National Federations;
- return to its original approved policy of NOT allowing anyone above the age of 80 being elected;
- not put its credibility and integrity at stake by allowing any person who has been officially charged or undergoing investigation with regards to bribery or corruption, in any sport or other activity, to represent FINA in any role.
In a sting-in-the-tail last demand, Barelli calls for the world of swimming to reject Maglione and all those who have sought to orchestrate a succession plan inside the FINA executive. The Italian writes:
“FINA and the National Federation delegates shall NOT support those persons who are or were willing to influence the election process affecting other continents in return for any personal benefits or gain.”
At a time when the federation is swamped in the woe of having three members of its ruling Bureau either charged or accused of involvement in corruption, last week attempted to impose the new voting rules and conditions that would have affected the challenge for the FINA presidency.
The proposals included the establishment of an Electoral Commission that would have been largely elected by those who already run FINA, that could decide whether any candidate for FINA office was suitable or not.
Maglione, who was elected in 2009 on a ticket of “one-term only” and then “two terms only” for all future presidents, had the constitution changed in 2015 so that he could stand for a third term. Now 81, he was also instrumental in having age limits removed as a condition for golding office at FINA, despite having voted for age limits when he was elected in 2009.
Maglione now faces a challenge for the top seat from Paolo Barelli, the Italian who is FINA Hon. Sec. and president of LEN, the European Swimming League. Barelli took the FINA leadership to the Court of Arbitration for Sport after it refused to allow complaints he has against two members of the FINA executive, namely Al-Musallam and Dale Neuburger.
Al-Musallam is part of a succession plan in which the Kuwaiti was made “first vice-president” and therefore Maglione’s heir apparent in measures voted in 2015 that include the scrapping of Barelli’s role, Hon. Sec.
Complicating the picture is a U.S. Justice department court action in which Richard Lai, a Guam football official and American citizen, pleads guilty to accepting bribes of almost $1m. Lai – and then the U.S. court papers – cite Al-Musallam as a “co-conspirator” among those who paid him the money.
The latest moves by the FINA leadership have been widely criticised, coaches among those who called for the proposed emergency rules on voting be scrapped. In effect, say critics, the current executive looked determine to do anything possible to maintain the status quo of Maglione standing for a third term, during which, it is suggested, he would step aside to give way to Al-Musallam, a delegate from a country currently suspended by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), FINA and a swathe of other international sports federations and a man from a nation with no world-class swimming program.
Now, Barelli writes to “Dear FINA Family Members, Dear Friends” to welcome Maglione’s U-Turn with a call for all heading to General Congress in Budapest in July to reject the status quo.
Barelli’s letter was passed to SwimVortex by several sources. It reads:
On behalf of FINA, President Julio C. Maglione has issued another communication wherein he states that he is now withdrawing the proposals to introduce Election Regulations (Attachment 1) and the setting up of an Electoral Commission. May I remind you that the introduction of these measures were suggested by himself only a few days ago and once again he has now backtracked, supposedly, “in order to ensure cordiality and respect” (Attachment 2).
I believe that in truth my clear statements in this regard (Attachment 3) have led him to now finally understand that these changes would have been absolutely unconstitutional. The sole objective of their introduction, was intended to limit and control the necessary transparent communication between myself and the electorate with regards to my programme.
I appreciate that the FINA President has realised that his initiative was completely unwarranted and inappropriate. In saying this, I confirm my extreme disappointment as his proposal was perfectly suited in order to create turmoil ahead of the FINA General Congress.
I wish to believe that in the coming weeks no other initiatives will be taken to negatively affect the rightful decision making process expected within the FINA Family.
Furthermore, I sincerely hope that:
- FINA will reject any nomination to any FINA position coming from suspended National Federations;
- FINA returns to its original approved policy of NOT allowing anyone above the age of 80 being elected;
- FINA shall not put its credibility and integrity at stake by allowing any person who has been officially charged or undergoing investigation with regards to bribery or corruption, in any sport or other activity, to represent FINA in any role;
- FINA and the National Federation delegates shall NOT support those persons who are or were willing to influence the election process affecting other continents in return for any personal benefits or gain.
Obviously, I am pleased that Julio C. Maglione has reconsidered his own position with regards to the Election Regulations and the introduction of an Electoral Commission.
Finally, I appeal to the FINA President to refrain from supporting any further unlawful proposals and invest his time in taking all possible measures against those who may have committed irregular acts. This must be done in order to protect the excellent work carried out by the National Federations worldwide and the FINA Office. We must ensure that no further harm comes to FINA’s already tarnished reputation.
We must reintroduce clarity in our actions and ensure absolute transparency in all ongoing processes and activities. FINA has to become the pool of true friendship and absolute trust allowing our activities to develop where “Water is our World” ensuring “Our Waters are Clean Waters”.