Athletes Consider Boycott Of International Swimming League Play-Offs Over Unpaid Bills

2021-10-23 Reading Time: 3 minutes
Emma McKeon, centre, masked, talks to her uncle Rob Woodhouse, general manager of London Roar, at the Tokyo Olympics in July, 2021 - photo by Craig Lord

The Olympic and World champions who helped get the International Swimming League off the blocks in 2019 in the face of FINA threats are contemplating a boycott of the League finals next month over a failure to pay bills owed to athletes, staff and contractors.

The International Swimming League and athlete backing for it have helped drive a reform process at FINA, even as legal action in the United States rolls on.

One of the key messages that League founder and funder Konstantin Grigorishin taught athletes in their dealings with FINA was to understanding their power and be prepared to use the ultimate threat if required: boycott and withdrawal of labour.

Now, unless the financial impasse can be brought to a satisfactory end, athletes are said to be ready to bring Season 3 to an abrupt end ahead of the final rounds of the 2021 series.

The League declined to comment when approached by SOS on the subject of payments.

The Pro-Swim League was billed as the first in swimming history to pay swimmers a regular wage. The whole thing is highly subsidised by Grigorishin, who said from the start that he would want to see a self-sustaining business model develop within five years of the start of the League. As things stand, it would take a giant leap to believe that the International Swimming League would not require heavy subsidies to make it a viable business by 2023.

The first playoff on the way to the finals is due to take place in Eindhoven on from November 11 but there are now fears that the money still owed to athletes and others will not be paid in time for athletes to be confident enough to turn up.

London Roar manager Rob Woodhouse, agent to Britain’s Adam Peaty and uncle to the biggest medal hauler at the Tokyo 2020ne Olympic Games, Emma McKeon – who is scheduled to race in Eindhoven – tells Phil Lutton in the Sydney Morning Herald today that there is deep frustration over lack of payments:

Emma McKeon embraces Cate Campbell – their domestic rivalry at the helm of Australia’s world-leading pace has driven sprint standards to new heights – by Patrick B. Kraemer

“It’s not good enough. I’m really hoping all athletes are paid in full from last season before the playoffs commence on November 11.”

Rob Woodhouse, London Roar Manager

The SMH reports sources saying that “so many people are owed so much money” by the International Swimming League, while the Herald and The Age have been told that the League “also owes substantial amounts to venues in the UK and Hungary, who won’t let them return until their accounts are settled.”

One League team has held talks to discuss a boycott of further rounds of the Pro-Swim series unless payments are made before it is time to travel to Eindhoven.

The SMH notes the kind of earnings swimmers are already due this Season 3, with McKeon on Aus$29,250 so far and others note far behind even before the lucrative playoffs and final.

The issues of non-payment caused two leading figures to resign from the League. Jean-François Salessy, the general manager of Grigorishin’s own Energy Standard team, and ISL commercial director Hubert Montcoudiol quit their roles last November and then in September this year penned an open letter claiming they were still owed monies.

They stated:

Image courtesy of the ISL

“As of September 17, 2021, seven matches into ISL Season 3, the situation remains the same: bills remain unpaid. The list of victims of such behaviours includes some Hungarian vendors, a communication agency, press officials, travel agencies, team managers, operational directors, webmasters, digital agency specialists, and other consultants.”

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