Paolo Barelli, a candidate for the presidency of FINA in a vote due this July in Budapest, will argue for an end to conflicts of interest, autonomy for the international federation’s Ethics Panel and political moves designed to block Europe from the helm of global governance.
The Italian has declined to comment on his decision last weekend to mount a challenge for the top seat at FINA occupied by Julio Maglione since 2009. Nor will he comment on his challenge to the FINA leadership currently being considered by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
It is that dispute that has shaped Barelli’s determination to force change at the international federation after a period in which FINA has come under fire from its major stakeholders for failing to serve swimmers and swimming on a host of issues, including clean sport and anti-doping and a failure to follow its own rules and constitution.
SwimVortex understands from sources in Lausanne that the Honorary Secretary of FINA and president of the European Swimming League (LEN) and the Italian swimming federation (FIN) will outline his reasons for challenging Maglione, the stale status quo under fire and what leading figures in FINA describe as “the Kuwaiti succession plan” during a private session with continental delegates in the coming week. One source told SwimVortex:
“Recent events have highlighted serious issues of governance in FINA and Barelli is determined to take those issues on, starting with the big two, tolerance of conflicts of interest of a FINA Bureau member who plays a double role as FINA Executive and Director of a FINA commercial partner; and the unsustainable stance of the FINA leadership when it comesto taking positions on ethical matters, and deciding at their own discretion whether or not to let the Ethics Panel consider complaints made by one FINA executive member against two others.”
SwimVortex has learned from sources in Lausanne that Carrard Consulting, currently conducting a governance review at the international federation, has recommended that the FINA executive grant complete autonomy to the Ethics Panel when it comes to deciding which complaints and cases it should hear.
Carrard is a name that carries weight in Olympic sport. Francois Carrard is the former director general of the International Olympic Committeee (IOC) and a partner at Kellerhals Carrard, whose legal team includes partner Jean-Pierre Morand, who has represented and continues to represent FINA in legal matters, including doping cases and matters that go before the CAS.
Carrard’s recommendation and a similar suggestion from the Ethics Panel itself were made before Barelli sought to have the Ethics Panel consider his complaints against Dale Neuburger (USA) and Husain Al Musallam, of Kuwait, a nation currently serving a suspension from the IOC, FINA a range of other international sports federations over alleged political interference in sports governance.
Barelli’s challenge to the FINA leadership at the CAS alleges that his fellow executives erred under their own rules when they refused to refer his complaints against two vice-presidents to the Ethics Panel for adjudication.
The Italian had sought to resolve his differences and open the debate about potential conflicts of interests within the FINA executive but hit a brick wall, Maglione key among those who refused to allow the issues to be considered by the Ethics Panel. Al Musallam insisted on the Panel hearing his case but Barelli was not invited to appear in person before the Panel and respond to the statements made by the Kuwaiti before a panel that included a fellow Kuwaiti.
Maglione, of Uruguay, replaced Mustapha Larfaoui, of Algeria, after campaigning for the FINA presidency on a ticket of “one-term only” and a change in the constitution to limit future presidents to two terms only. However, Maglione, 82 this year, has since broken those pledges, having served two terms and then pressed for a reversal of the rule change he insisted on so that he could stand for a third term in office when the FINA Congress votes in Budapest on the eve of the World Championships this July.
That Congress, the ultimate authority of FINA, includes two votes from every one of just over 200 nations, Europe accounting for 104 of the 400-plus tickets. That is another issue Barelli is expected to focus on in his campaign for the FINA presidency as the head of a continent that accounted for half of all medals at the 2015 World Championships across all aquatic disciplines.
As one source in Lausanne put it: “In the past 60 years or so, Europe, the biggest continental member of FINA, has been at the helm of FINA for just four years – and that was 33 years ago. Since 1984, we’ve had an American, then an African for 20 years and since 2009 Julio Maglione, of the Americas once more.
“Barelli is going to point out that all that time LEN member federations and officials have given dignificant service to FINA and have made big contributions to its growth.”
Europe’s position is summed up by this from a senior source who says there is a mood for change at the heart of the European league:
“Despite Europe’s role, status and contribution, the current weak FINA leadership plans to give the positions of FINA first vice-president and treasurer to Asia, second vice-president to Africa, with the Americas continuing to hold on to the presidency for a third term for a man who promised to go after one term. If this plan stands, Europe may be condemned to play second fiddle yet again. That is unacceptable.”
With a nod to the ‘Kuwait succession plan’ much discussed in swimming’s corridors of power, a Lausanne source said: “Many feel that at the heart of this strategy is the intention of ‘someone’ to soon gain control over not only the political power of FINA but, even more importantly, over the economical poisiton as well.”
FINA’s bank manager is understood to be a happy man contemplating a figure of around $300m.