Paolo Barelli, the FINA presidential candidate opposing incumbent Julio Maglione has once more accused the Uruguayan, as well as an Africa block of nations led by the continent’s leading figure at the international federation, Sam Ramsamy of a “cash for votes” power play designed to keep the status quo alive.
In response to a July 3 letter from CANA (Confederation Africaine de Natation) to its membership, Barelli fires a broadside at FINA executives for failing to dip their hand into $90 million of FINA reserves in the last Olympic quarter yet now, under pressure from electoral challenge less that two weeks out from the crucial vote in July 22 in Budapest, feel it appropriate to make bountiful election promises.
He also accuses Ramsamy and fellow members of the African aquatics leadership of spreading “false statements’.
Where CANA’s leaders state that the Italian was invited to attend their annual congress but ‘failed’ to show, Barelli states “it appears that the invitation mentioned in the letter to the CANA Members never reached me”.
Further, Barelli accuses Maglione, Ramsamy and Co of attempting to buy votes for the July 22 election race by promising $15,000 to each member nation of CANA (and theregore FINA) so that they can “attend their Annual Congress or for participation at the African Championships”.
Barelli seizes on the move to highlight that those he opposes for the FINA leadership have simply responded (and attamepted to match) to his call for far greater amounts of money from deep FINA reserves to be spent on development. Maglione has been in power since 2009; drove a change to the constitution to restrict periods of office to two terms of service only and impose age limits in line with the International Olympic Committee but then had all of that reversed so that he could stand for a third term at 81 years of age at a time when he is no longer eligible to be an IOC member and knowing that he would be almost 86 by the time the FINA elections come round again.
Senior FINA figures gold that Maglione is part of a succession plan in which, should he win on July 22, he would step aside after a couple of years, leaving Husain Al-Musallam to take the top seat by virtue of being “FINA first vice-president”.
Those succession plans have been thrown into turmoil by events that include Al-Musallam being named by the U.S. Justice Department as a co-conspirator in a bribery case involving a guilty plea from Guam soccer official Richard Lai, an American citizen.
While Al-Musallam denies any wrongdoing, he has failed to step down from his role on the FINA executive pending inquiries. The latter do not extend to any action at FINA, where the executive has bacled Al-Musallam’s candidacy for FINA vice-president despite two critical factors: Kuwait is currently suspended by the IOC and FINA and its athletes cannot compete under their national flag but FINA says that Al-Musallam and others can continue to operate as if nothing had happened; and the interim swimming association of Kuwait that stepped up to the plate, in a legitimate process, when the old guard that backed Al-Musallam resigned from office, has informed FINA twice in the past year that it does not approve Al-Musallam’s candidacy for any position at FINA.
Against that squalid background, Barelli is running for the presidency on a ticket of greater transparency and greater spending of FINA funds.
In response to the CANA letter, he tells Africa’s swimming federations, with a nod to the sudden offer of $15,000 per country after the chance to do so had been there for more than a decade: “Some people may be led to believe that this sudden decision and the subsequent statement have a proper motive…cash for votes!”
A senior FINA figure whose nation has not yet decided where to place its vote told SwimVortex: “This is very concerning. It is hard to disagree with Barelli when he suggests that this is somewhat desperate and directly linked to the elections: it is a power play with promises of money. Maglione has been there for almost a decade and has had many opportunities to make substantial funding increases for developing nations, athletes, coaches; to start spending very large reserves that sit awkwardly with a ‘non-profit’. Why has he not done so? Why only now? The answer seems fairly clear.”
In his letter to African nations, Barelli launches an assault on the current regime at FINA for failing to address the development issue for many years:
“It was sufficient for anybody to go through the Financial Statements of FINA to realise that very substantial funds could have been made available to National Federations for Development programmes for a number of years.
“Over the 4-year period 2009-2012 FINA had already set aside approx. $ 40,000,000 in reserves! These have risen further and at the end of the 4-year period 2013-2016 have reached over $90 million, according to the figures provided by FINA.
“In my Manifesto I have already made it amply clear that FINA is not a financial institution who has the sole objective of increasing its reserves. FINA must now, and should have done so much earlier, invest these significant resources wisely. These funds are ultimately the result of the great work carried out by the National Federations, and they must now be re-invested in Development programmes, in both regional and international activities with the interest of the athletes foremost.
“Almost nothing has been done in this regard over the 4-year period 2013-2016. FINA has invested in Development programs only $ 3,500,000, just barely over $ 850,000 per year.”
“A careful analysis of the FINA financial statements clearly shows that FINA would have been for a number of years in a position to invest many more millions of dollars in Development programmes and support to the National Federations.
“As I stated in my Manifesto, $5,000,000 per year can be invested for development and especially amongst emerging federations and a further $ 5,000,000 to sustain international activities and National Federations. And, all this can be done immediately!”
Barelli says that his are not “electoral promises, but very realistic and sustainable proposals based on the current FINA financial standing. I have not promised financial support to anybody specifically, nor to everybody indiscriminately. Only thanks to my persistence has all this come to the fore.”
Barelli then poses a question to Ramsamy:
“It would be appropriate to ask Ramsamy, the CANA President, FINA Vice-Preident and IOC Member what the reasons behind his sudden change of behaviour, delayed announcement of economic contributions and his ridiculous accusations in my regard are truly based upon. Is it an escape route, a clumsy attempt to distract the attention form the fact that he has done very little or nothing at all in favour of the CANA Federations, which have never benefitted from any adequate Development program or solid guarantees that their needs would be considered and addressed? As already mentioned, all this would have been feasible since long time.”
Barelli, who this week launched his campaign website, wants greater transparency at FINA, including an inquiry into conflicts of interests and the nature of those; would place two athletes, one man and one woman, and a coach on the FINA Bureau if he wins the race for the top seat; and would introduce a system of financial rewards that extends beyond the winning athletes to their coaches.