LEN president upbeat over aquatics involvement at 2022 European Championships

The 2019 LEN European Short Course Championships (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Paolo Barelli, the president of the Ligue Européenne de Natation (LEN), aquatics’ European body, has expressed his confidence in the sport’s European Championships in Rome being part of Munich’s 2022 multi-sport European Championships.

The issue of the LEN’s involvement in the second iteration of the event has been under the microscope since Munich was last month announced as the host but swimming was not named among the confirmed sports.

The LEN and the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), its worldwide broadcast rights-holder, have already aligned the dates of the LEN’s 2022 European Championships (August 11 to 21) with those of the multi-sports event as discussions continue, and Barelli sees few obstacles in the way.

Speaking to SportBusiness in Glasgow as the city hosted the European Short Course Championships, Barelli said: “I think there will be no problem for us to be one of the leading sports in this type of solution.”

Barelli was a key figure among stakeholders of the first European Championships co-hosted by Glasgow and Berlin, as one of two co-chairs of the board (alongside European Athletics president Svein Arne Hansen).

Pressed about any details still to be finalised, and if the specific marketing plan or scheduling of prime-time swimming spots were to be discussed, Barelli insisted that there are “no problems on the table”.

He continued: “I want to underline that our agreement is strong with the EBU. Before we talk with anybody else our partner is the EBU and they want a wonderful show, better [even] than Glasgow-Berlin. So if the EBU has in its hands two cities as important as Munich and Rome then they’re going to be glad.”

The Italian, in conciliatory mood, underlined his belief that the EBU members want aquatics at the combined 2022 event (the EBU also holds rights to the combined European Championships). Barelli stressed that the LEN is “in good friendship and open to discuss with everybody”.

He added: “Any decision has to be taken in the right way, we appreciate that and we’ll do it.”

Speaking at the recent Host City conference in Glasgow, Stefan Kürten, the EBU’s executive director of sport, said that the EBU expects, hopes and is pushing “very much” for the integration of swimming in 2022. The long-standing Kürten, who will leave the EBU next year, also said he hoped there would be another sport added (on top of swimming).

Upon announcing Munich as the 2022 host and revealing that athletics, cycling, golf, gymnastics, rowing and triathlon would all return for the second hosting of the new multi-sports concept, event organiser European Championships Management (ECM) left the door open for swimming’s inclusion.

Commenting on the issue before Rome was allocated the 2022 hosting rights by the LEN, ECM said: “Let’s see what host city and date is chosen by LEN for 2022. If these are compatible, and the European Championships 2022 participation requirements are fulfilled, LEN could still be considered by the EC2022 board.”

ECM also said that the swimming facilities in Munich did not fulfil the LEN’s technical requirements after the European federation discussed hosting the event in the German city.

However, Barelli insists that was not the case.

He told SportBusiness: “It was not possible for a couple of main reasons. First of all, we never received an official invite from the city [Munich] to visit and to discuss.

“We know that it’s a strong city and that the German Swimming Federation is one of the strongest. But for us the decision [was] taken because we didn’t talk anyway so we don’t know if the venues were enough for our competition. So probably, yes, we could have arranged something, but the evolution was different.”

LEN’s dual Russian award, Glasgow 2019 wraps up

Barelli was speaking shortly after the LEN Bureau met on Friday in Glasgow to discuss matters including future hosting rights of LEN events.

At the meeting, the LEN Bureau unanimously awarded the 2021 European Short Course Swimming Championships and the 2024 European Aquatics Championships to Kazan in Russia.

The dual award comes despite the World Anti-Doping Agency imposing a ban on Russia hosting sports events for four years because of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency’s non-compliance over inconsistencies in anti-doping data.

Speaking after the host city announcement, Barelli said: “We are happy to award both events to Kazan as the city has become a home of aquatics in recent years where the highest standards are guaranteed for our athletes. Kazan has hosted a series of major events in aquatics including the 2015 World Championships and our junior European Championships this summer which were outstanding by all means.

“They have world-class facilities and an experienced organising team, today a federation cannot wish for more.”

Meanwhile, Barelli declared the LEN was “very satisfied” with the “top level” standard of facilities and sport presentation at Tollcross International Swimming Centre, Glasgow’s venue for the short-course Championships, which drew to a close on Sunday.

Asked about the spectator attendances, which picked up over the weekend after a sluggish start, Barelli advocated the involvement of more swimming clubs to increase awareness of the event to ensure stronger crowds for the weekday sessions.

He concluded: “Anyway for us the TV show is very important as it’s covered by the EBU and a lot of European broadcasters. We know it can be a showcase for TV. That has worked very well and we’re satisfied.”