ISL’s record prizemoney offer set to escalate rivalry with FINA

ISL’s record prizemoney offer set to escalate rivalry with FINA

December 19, 2018

Australian swimmers will be able to compete for European and American clubs for a reported prize pool of $US5.3 million ($7.7 million) per year from 2019 in a new competition run by the International Swimming League.

The ISL, backed by Ukrainian energy billionaire Konstantin Grigorishin, unveiled its plans to a summit of 30 swimming champions, including Australian olympians Emily Seebohm and Madeline Groves, in London on Wednesday Australian time.

On board: Cate Campbell and Madeline Groves have been enthusiastic supporters of the ISL.Credit:AAP

It is a new blow in the conflict between the ISL and swimming's governing body FINA, which threatened to bar athletes who compete in ISL events from participating in the Olympics.

Earlier this month FINA attempted to pre-empt the ISL competition by committing to a Champions Swim Series with $US3.9 million ($5.5 million) in prizes, its most lucrative ever.

That move has been financially bested by Wednesday's revelation of the ISL's proposed prizemoney pool which was reported by online publication SwimSwam after it obtained slides from the event. It comes amidst two anti-trust lawsuits launched against FINA by the ISL and its allies in the United States in early December.

And the ISL says that the prizemoney from its series could rise even higher if the league is able to attract new streams of revenue, including sponsorship.

Olympic champion James Magnussen said additional prizemoney could make a big difference to swimmers faced with a declining Australian sponsorship market.

"Sponsorship has sharply decreased in swimming within Australia. There's just not the interest at the moment," Magnussen said. "It's easier to pay someone to post something on Instagram than to sponsor a swimmer throughout a four year Olympic campaign."

Gold medal-winning Australian swimmers receive an annual grant of just $26,000, leaving them largely dependant on prizemoney and sponsorships.

Once, swimmers like Ian Thorpe were among Australia's best remunerated athletes.

Swimming great James Magnussen is pleased that the ISL controversy is drawing more attention to swimmers’ pay.Credit:AAP

That is no longer the case, with Rio gold medallist Kyle Chalmers declaring that he would like to play AFL after the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games because the money is better.

"Swimming was once the golden sport, certainly when I was growing up," Magnussen said.

"If the ISL plays out, who knows, maybe it can make it back to that sort of status."

"It could be the start of a new professional era for swimming."

Whatever the result of the conflict between the ISL and FINA is, Magnussen said, "the fact that it [FINA and the issue of swimmers' pay has] been raised to the public attention is a good thing."

A new model of competition

Unlike existing international swimming competitions which are typically one-off events in which swimmers compete for their countries, the ISL will cut to a final series at the end of a season, much as most professional team sports do.

SwimSwam reported that the dates for the competition, set for late 2019, were described by ISL organisers as "tentative" but "likely to happen".

The planned European clubs will be based in Stuttgart, Rome, Marseille, Budapest and London.

In addition, Mr Grigorishin's company Energy Standard will have its own club.

And in the United States, the ISL plans to have Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, Austin, Washington D.C. and Phoenix host clubs.

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