A Failing Future

The future of world swimming is being played out before our eyes. Sadly New Zealand is being left out. Abandoned, we have not even received an invitation to the dance. New Zealand swimming is going to be absent from the top tier of world swimming, relegated to second class status. Cotterill, Johns and Francis will eventually realise world swimming has passed us by. Of course they will blame the clubs and the coaches. But the failure will be theirs and they should never be allowed to avoid the blame.

So what is this future that will pass New Zealand by? It was described recently by Craig Lord on the Swimvortex Facebook page. The table below shows a summarised version of what’s been going on.

British swim ace Adam Peaty took his first big stroke towards becoming a swimming millionaire today by signing up as ambassador and star of “The London Team”, one of eight multi-nation professional squads taking shape for the launch of the International Swimming League (ISL) in August.

The League, Peaty told this author, would “put swimming on the world sports map in between Olympics” in a way that FINA had failed to do. The British ace could be earning $5 million a year within five years if the League goes the way he plans, says Russian billionaire backer Grigorishin.

The world’s first professional swimming league will launch elimination rounds between August and December this year, half of them in the United States and half in Europe, London set to host one of four European events on November 23-24. Peaty will race at three rounds and aims to get The London Team to the super-final set for Las Vegas on the cusp of Christmas.

Of a total budget of $20m, $5m will be handed out in prizes to individual swimmers, while each of the eight professional teams, four based in Europe and four based in the United States, will receive $150,000 each in appearance fees, for a total prize pot of just over $6 million for swimmers. Beyond that, the ISL will fund all travel, accommodation and subsistence for teams to the tune of $3 million.

So there it is; the professional future of world swimming. It is as obvious as the nose on your face. Swimming is moving steadily along the path followed by world tennis, and athletics. In tennis the Australia, French, Wimbledon and US open events have more status than the Olympic Games. In athletics the Diamond League is growing in stature every year. Just ask Tom Walsh or Rafael Nadal. I’m pretty sure they will confirm that being in the top tier of their sports means competing in the Open tennis events or in the Diamond League.

In swimming, very soon, the same standard is going to apply. Swimmers not included in the 256 swimmers (eight teams of 32 swimmers in each team) competing in the ISL competition are going to be outside the best the sport has to offer. In future years every Olympic champion is going to be one of the highly paid professionals taking part in the ISL world league. Nothing is more certain than that.

And where is New Zealand in all this? Nowhere is the answer. I doubt that Cotterill, Johns or Francis even know that the ISL is happening. And if they do, my guess is, they probably don’t approve and, like FINA, believe the ISL should be resisted with all New Zealand’s might. Athlete welfare, swimming millionaires and sporting democracy are very low on Swimming New Zealand’s order of priorities.

Their cavalier disregard for refugee, Eyad Masoud’s application to join the IOC refugee team stems from the same pig-headed ignorance and disregard for an athlete’s welfare that has led them is ignore the future of world swimming. The sport in New Zealand is about to pay a very high price for the stupidity of those who live in Antares Place. If Cotterill, Johns or Francis had any idea about the future and good health of swimming one of them would have been on an airplane this week heading to London to secure a place in the ISL’s chosen 256 for Clareburt, Hunter, Godwin or one of a handful of others.

But, oh no, there is nothing in it for Cotterill, there is nothing in it for Johns and there is nothing in it for Francis so why should they bother. Besides, the Godfather of New Zealand sport, Peter Miskimmin, might not approve. So let’s put on another training camp. Let’s make a Cotterill song and dance about paying a trivial $400 contribution to a $5,300 travel bill. Let’s include Daniel Hunter’s name on a Francis Folly list. Let’s give them a SNZ t-shirt and a cap with their name on it. That should keep the troops happy. Hunter and Clareburt never wanted to be millionaires anyway. Besides we sure as hell can’t have swimmers earning more than any of the residents of Antares Place. Who do those swimmers think they are – Tom Walsh or Rafael Nadal – ridiculous?

I have little doubt that the warning contained in this post will be ignored just like ten years of warnings about the stupidity of centralised training were ignored. When finally SNZ realised the futility of their centralised training policy – Swimwatch was right – it was all years too late. The damage was serious. Repairs will take years. My guess is the same thing is going to happen with the ISL competition. Instead of getting New Zealand involved from the beginning, the attitude of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost will be to do anything but agree with David Wright. I guess that means, in ten years,  when a couple of New Zealand’s best swimmers should be enjoying retirement in million dollar homes in Wanaka or the Bay of Islands, instead I will be writing another, “I told you so” story.

Sadly that will all be too late for this and the next generation of New Zealand’s best swimmers.

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