Play The Game: Global Sport – Reform Or Revolution, Which Will It Be For Swimming?

Editorial: The arrival of the World Cup in Tokyo at the start of the last cluster of three events on this year’s tour coincides with the Play the Game Conference and a whole wave of speeches and presentations that point to the reasons why international sports governance is failing its membership

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Editorial: The arrival of the World Cup in Tokyo at the start of the last cluster of three events on this year’s tour coincides with the Play the Game Conference and a whole wave of speeches and presentations that point to the reasons why international sports governance is failing its membership



Interesting as ever however the cynic in me, bred and trained by too many years exposure to human nature, brings me back to a saying attributed to a former Australian PM. It reads “Always put your money on self interest, you’ll know the horse is trying !!”

Cynical it may be but this is one of the prime “drivers”, sometimes the primary one, in people’s decision making. Not always the straight “What’s in it for me ?” or “What do I stand to gain ?” from this choice but the “What do I stand to lose ?” is just as prominent.

As long as the existing international sporting bodies hold the sole avenue of access to the biggest stages; be they Olympics, World Cups etc; athletes will generally be extremely reluctant to “buck the system” without major institutional support.

Lawrie Cox

Again the article outlines the problem but little is changing in the stakeholders to make the required changes. As Common has said the statement by PJK is so very true when you consider the current structures surrounding NOC and NSF. It is interesting in the program while Australia presents in a couple of areas the most amusing one for me was the Australian Sports Commission (improved governance??).
All sports at NSF have been in some way directed, intimidated or influenced to significant change of structure. Has this been beneficial to the individual sport? In swimming i hold the view that we have gone backwards a long way and the pain is really yet to come. There are those who say we have gone ahead in leaps and bounds but what has really happened our results have really returned to about a historic level rather than a huge leap forward. Guess we will see what 2016/17 brings in total performance and what is underneath to back up in the future.


The world cup was not designed to be a world championships or olympics, it was there for those athletes who wished to attend to test their skills against some of the best swimmers in the world!


Nathan Adrian originally had planned on competing at the Tokyo and Doha stops, but with the infusion of more prize money in the Arena Pro Swim Series, he decided to stay home and focus on the Minneapolis event.

Craig Lord

Yes, indeed so, Gkeho. My point was: he never took on the world cup series … very very few do. The money, at the level we’ve seen, is not changing the traditions, cultures, patterns of behaviour in the sport. The event has to be attractive and timely.

Craig Lord

And that model has failed Gheko. Failed badly: the bulk of the best in the world stay away, season after season, while some rounds are a glorified domestic event with a few visitors. Anything called ‘World Cup’ needs to be designed for more than ‘testing skills’ (in the 1980s on the way to FINA taking over the world cup designed and run by others successfully, we saw world s.c best times set at a great many meets, we saw many of the best in the world line up time and time again at the Bonn meet and elsewhere … the point was about more than testing skills… it was a show and the press bench would have 20-30 written media coming in from overseas. The press bench is empty these day, barring any small local presence or the odd reporter who travels to write a feature on a particular swimmer or circumstance). The early year world cups were a lot more thrilling than a great many are these days. Much has been lost. Beyond which: the sponsor wants to see world-class swimming that is attractive to vast audiences, not a training session of skills between four world-class swimmers and a load of development heats that last for hours because of an adherence to towing the entire world champs program with the circus every time it moves.


I agree the meets need to offer more incentive for fans and swimmers, but in my day the coca cola meet at crystal palace was the only international meet on offer and that was about it!

Craig Lord

🙂 yes, my sympathies, Gheko.

clive rushton

The Bonn meet back in the 1970’s was the best format short-course meet ever devised. It was THE showcase of the world’s best AT their best.

clive rushton

Back to the main article: The Sports Governance Observer report damns virtually every Sports Governing Body except Equestrian and, surprisingly (and worryingly) FIFA!

The indicators themselves (used to calculate each sport’s score) are pretty weakly worded in many instances, e.g. Indicator 2.9 searches for evidence that “The organisation encourages gender equity with regard to its leading officials.” How easy would it be for any organisation to provide ‘evidence’ that they ‘encouraged’ a particular trait or policy? A more robust approach would have been to ask if “The organisation DEMONSTRATES gender equity with regard to its leading officials.” There are more examples of such a timid approach along the same lines.

Even given that weak approach FINA scores 43.8% when the report itself says, “… large Federations should achieve a score higher than 76%.”

That should be a damning assessment of the situation and is highlighted by the fact that the 35 Federations involved averaged 45.4%! FINA is below average in a group of sub-standard organisations. World-wide there is a simmering powder-keg of incompetence in sports governance.

However, there are caveats, and they are big ones; FIFA scores 67.8% and is lauded for making positive changes. FINA’s efforts are highlighted as supporting “a robust ethics code.”

So, lots of evidence to support the widely-held view that FINA is in need of reform but lots of wriggle room for FINA to refute the value of the report and its methodology.

Craig Lord

Yes, Clive, quite so: supporting a ‘robust ethics code’ then behaving as FINA does is all about saying one thing doing another. The report falls shy on that measure. Little point in having sounds rules and codes if you don’t observe them and find every excuse, even those not in the book, to justify bypassing the good practices the rules were designed to ensure.Still, below average at below half right ought to have all connected to FINA and the leadership of it keen to engage in review and reform. It won’t. For those taking myriad trips a year and sticking a hand in the air when they’re told to, life is just as they’d have it.

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