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International Swimming League has inaugural meet, secures ESPN3 streaming deal in US

The inaugural meeting of the start-up International Swimming League at the Indiana University Natatorium in Indianapolis, Indiana, over the weekend was given a warm reception by its participants.

“Today was kind of a turning point,” said American five-time Olympic champion Katie Ledecky. “The ISL is going to continue to improve, and it’s going to push [world governing body] Fina and other organizations to create the best environment to compete at the highest level and get that racing experience.”

Added South African Chad le Clos, “It was I think a great day for the world of swimming, the beginning of something special.”

According to the Indianapolis Star, attendance at the 4,700-capacity IU Natatorium on Saturday, October 5, was approximately just 500 people, however, indicating the work ahead for the global swimming property building a mainstream fanbase.

The new team-based competition for elite swimmers has been founded by Ukrainian billionaire Konstantin Grigorishin. It will initially comprise of eight mixed-gender teams – four each from the United States and Europe – who will compete against each other in a series of meetings across the two continents.

Its aim is to raise the global profile of swimming which is expected, in turn, to provide new revenue opportunities in the sport.

The inaugural meeting in Indianapolis was streamed live in the United States on ESPN3, the multi-screen digital network on the ESPN App, after a broadcast deal for the inaugural season was secured late last week.

The ISL also has a media rights deal with CBC Sports in Canada and a two-year agreement with Discovery-owned sports broadcaster Eurosport covering Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

That deal excluded Australia, where commercial broadcaster Seven has secured the rights.