Fina counters ISL with new Champions Swim Series

Fina, the world governing body for aquatic sport, has today (Thursday) revealed plans for a new invitation-only swimming competition that it claims will develop a fresh focus on the highest-level athletes.

The Champions Swim Series is expected to debut next year and its formation by the Fina Bureau comes as the federation fights a continuing battle against organisers of the proposed International Swimming League (ISL).

Last week, Fina said it was prepared to mount a “robust defence” against class-action lawsuits filed against it by three leading swimmers and organisers of the ISL. Both suits are pending in the US District Court for the Northern District of California and were lodged amid escalating tension between Fina and swimming’s top stars over what the latter see is the federation leveraging its market dominance to extract, and largely keep for itself, significant levels of revenue.

Fina today said the Champions Swim Series will consist of a three-leg competition, between March and May, aimed at Olympic and world medallists, in an innovative format aimed at creating a world-class platform for elite swimming.

Promising innovative sports presentation and entertainment, the Series will comprise events of 50m, 100m and 200m in freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly, as well as the 400m free and 200m individual medley, in addition to four relay races.

The programme for the Champions Swim Series events will include only finals, where the best four swimmers in each event will compete in individual races. The competition will be held in 50m pools, and each leg will be contested from Friday to Sunday.

The athletes’ participation in the Series will be on an invitation-only basis, comprising the Olympic and world champion, the world record holder and the best in the world ranking in each event. The participating swimmers will be grouped in teams – on a continental or sponsored basis – with each team comprising 12 men and 12 women. The inaugural season of the Champions Series will boast prize money of $3.9m (€3.4m).

Fina president Julio Maglione said: “It will complete in the best possible way our swimming calendar throughout the year: firstly, this Champions Swim Series; then, our World Championships; and finally our Swimming World Cup circuit, as the year progresses.

“By creating this additional elite competition, Fina will generate a true swimming show, where sport presentation and stars’ promotion are key concepts for a successful meet.”

Penelope Heyns, chair of the Fina Athletes Committee, added: “We strongly support this new concept, as the stars of our sport are always happy to have additional opportunities to shine. We will present swimming under a new perspective, and I am sure that spectators onsite, TV viewers and digital users around the world will greatly appreciate this outstanding show.

“Finally, with this unprecedented level of prize money, our swimming stars will definitely be attracted by this circuit.”