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New International League set to transform elite swimming

New International League set to transform elite swimming
June 18, 2019

Some of the world’s best swimmers will compete for significant prize money when the new International Swimming League (ISL) commences in early October.

Due to commence with a two-day event in Indianapolis in the USA on 4th and 5th October and culminate just before Christmas in Las Vegas, the first ISL season will take place across Europe and the USA.

With a first season budget of US$20 million, of which $7 million will go to athletes and teams in prize money, the breakaway competition is funded by ISL founder, Ukrainian billionaire and swimming fan Konstantin Grigorishin.

The ISL had planned to hold its first event in Italy last December but that was cancelled after world swimming governing body FINA advised that the event was “non-approved” and threatened suspension from international competitions, including the Olympics, for any swimmer who took part.

With the ISL and some swimmers filing lawsuits against FINA for being anti-competitive, reports emerged that the governing body had asked for US$50 million to officially sanction ISL events.

After this, FINA retreated and announced in January 2019 that swimmers were permitted to compete in events staged by independent organisers but that it would not recognise records set at such events.

Linked to this, elite swimmers, many of whom have been unhappy with FINA’s handling of their sport, backed the launch in December 2018 of the Professional Swimmers Association, which aims to advocate with event organisers and regulatory bodies for the welfare and earning potential of athletes.

In what seems a direct response to the ISL, FINA subsequently introduced its Champions Swim Series, offering the most prize money in the body’s history with the inaugural series taking place in China, Hungary and the USA in April and May this year.

The ISL season involves teams of 24 (12 men and 12 women) competing in short-course sprint, relay and skins races for team points, with playoffs and finals, individual and club prize money, and appearance money for clubs.

In its first year, the league will have eight teams - four from Europe and four from the USA - with rosters made up of elite swimmers from all over the world.

Australian swimmers taking part (see full list below) include Cate Campbell, Kyle Chalmers, Bronte Campbell, Emma McKeon, Mitch Larkin and Ariarne Titmus.

The league also has a strong emphasis on gender equality and scrutiny.

Each team has equal numbers of men and women who will receive equal prize money, equal media attention while no athlete who has previously been banned for doping is allowed to swim in the ISL.

Speaking during an online press conference this week to announce the team rosters for its inaugural season, ISL Chief Executive Ali Khan has claimed the competition will change the sport for the better and present more opportunities than ever for participants.

Khan explained that the series will offer the "best entertainment possible in the world of swimming (with) over 30 Olympic champions and over 125 world champions … participating in this exciting schedule for this year.”

Grigorishin last week stated “the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and international federations … don’t respect athletes, they don’t consider them like partners”.

He says the new league is about “putting power back into the hands of athletes … championing the right of professional swimmers to make (the) living they deserve, and to have a greater say in the way their sport is run”.

Khan emphasised this, adding "I think it’s important to mention that this is all about the athletes.

"They are not just talented but extremely dedicated and skilled, and they certainly deserve a global platform more than just once every four years and so do fans of swimming.

"We’re changing the sport for the better and bringing swimmers and fans together, and presenting more opportunities than ever before."

Australians signed for ISL teams

NY Breakers - USA
Jack McLoughlin
Clyde Lewis
Madi Wilson

Team Iron - Budapest, Hungary
Maddie Groves

Cali Condors - USA
Shayna Jack
Ariarne Titmus
Mitch Larkin
Jack Cartwright

London Roar - UK
Cate Campbell
Bronte Campbell
Kyle Chalmers
Emma McKeon
Cameron McEvoy
Minna Atherton
Elijah Winnington
Holly Barratt
Alex Graham
Jess Hansen
Taylor McKeown
Matthew Wilson

DC Trident - Washington D.C., USA
Brianna Throssell
Leiston Pickett

Aqua Centurions - Rome, Italy
Kaylee McKeown

Energy Standard - Turkey/France
Emily Seebohm

Images courtesy of the International Swimming League.

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