New Era Begins At LEN As Barelli Bows Out & E4AA Group Take Reigns With Old Questions To Answer Ahead Of The Birth Of FINA Integrity Unit

2022-02-05 Reading Time: 5 minutes
Paolo Barelli LEN president at the opening of the Nyon offices - Photo courtesy of Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia
Paolo Barelli LEN president until February 2022 – Photo courtesy of Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia for LEN

The era of Paolo Barelli is over at the European Swimming League (LEN) after a vote in Frankfurt at an Extraordinary Congress today that saw the Europe For All Aquatics (E4AA) group take control after mounting a challenge to the status quo in light of allegations of financial irregularities.

An investigation by the Swiss Prosecutor is underway into a dossier of allegations that include questions over consultancy firms said to be directly linked to Barelli and related agreements signed by the then executive of LEN.

The new president is António Silva, the head of the Portuguese swimming federation who also faces questions that will have to be answered if the transparency and integrity ticket he stood for election on are to be honoured. The test to come is one for the entire E4AA group if the word reform is to be meaningful.

Our main image shows the aims of the group in its first 100 days in office starting this weekend. Here are the main officers from the E4AA candidacy group:

The E4AA candidates seeking to lead LEN through to 2024 – there are just 3 women in 19 candidates, even though equality is a key aim – much work ahead…

Several members of the new leadership are new to governance of and international federation. in the mix, the old treasurer David Sparkes, also a member of the FINA Bureau, is out. Britain’s new man at the European table is Jack Buckner.

In his resignation speech, Barelli, who drove a return to financial health in the LEN books during his presidency but was called out in late 2019 over matters yet to be resolved, presented the positives and accomplishments of his tenure. He also had a last blast when citing the SOS article highlighting issues that suggest a long road ahead on reform, particularly when it comes to the transparency promised by the E4AA group.

Barelli said that he believed the challenge to him was orchestrated by the FINA leadership and fellow FINA executives that he challenged in 2017 over allegations of conflicts of interest and interference in European elections by vice-presidents of FINA from outside the continent. Some of the specific matters were never judged by an independent authority.

Ultimately, however, it was the facts and allegations compiled by former LEN president Bartolo Consolo that underpinned the reasons why he could no longer stay.

The outgoing president questioned whether the incoming president was the right man for the job but said that if Silva was really the man they wanted, so be it: he would leave Frankfurt a happy man, he said, content with what he had achieved as head of the organisation for the second decade of the new millennium.

With that, he left, electing not to remain for dinner with many of those who had backed him until as recently as last September when the fledgling E4AA group won a vote of no confidence in Barelli and team by just one vote.

By the time of the vote today, the 20 nations backing reform last September had swelled to 40 and a new era has now begun with old questions still hanging in the air because of unfinished, separate investigative processes related to both the outgoing and incoming presidents of LEN.

Meanwhile, FINA has pledged to have an independent Aquatics Integrity Unit in place by June. If the problems that have engulfed LEN have not been satisfactorily resolved by then, the whole thing could end up being judged by the new Integrity unit, given that both Barelli and Silva were and may still be members of the FINA Bureau, the top table of global governance of aquatics led by president Husain Al-Musallam.

Barelli was on the FINA Bureau courtesy of his LEN presidency, while Silva made the 2021 FINA Bureau as one of the World-At-Large quota intake. Technically there is no provision in the General Rules for asking Barelli too step down from the FINA Bureau he was elected to in June last year.

The 2022 LEN Bureau – Photo by Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia /Insidefoto

LEN Statement in FULL

At the LEN Extraordinary Congress held in Frankfurt, Antonio da Silva was elected the new LEN President with a majority of 96%. For the first time, LEN will have a lady as its General Secretary, former artistic swimmer Andida Bouma, while Tomas Kucinskas is the new LEN Treasurer. At the end of the meeting, FINA President Husain al-Musallam joined from remote and welcomed the successful conclusion of the Congress and said it was time “to work together as one family.”

Antonio da Silva of Portugal is the new LEN President after receiving the vast majority of the votes at the LEN Extraordinary Congress in Frankfurt. His candidacy enjoyed a 96% support among the 47 federations present and three more attending the event online. The Congress voted 92 to 8 to dismiss the previous Bureau.

The Congress then elected a new Bureau – for the first time in the history European Aquatics, LEN has a female General Secretary, Andida Bouma of the Netherlands. Tomas Kucinskas of Lithuania is the new LEN Treasurer, while Kyriakos Giannopoulos (GRE), Christer Magnusson (SWE), Gilles Sezionale (FRA), Marco Troll (GER) and Josip Varvodic (CRO) are the new Vice-Presidents.

In his first speech as President, Mr Da Silva said “We had the courage to stand up and fight for a better future for all federations and all the aquatic disciplines. We stood up and fought for the principles of Unity, for openness and transparency for the sacred principles of democracy. We spoke out and demanded that LEN worked with FINA for the good of the sport worldwide. We can no longer exist in isolation, together we are stronger.”

The new LEN President underlined that the real hard work was still ahead. Among the first items on his new team’s agenda is the restructuring of the LEN Office and the Bureau and to shape and agree on a new Constitution and to review LEN’s competition structure and calendar.

“There are no fewer than 8 goals for integrity, transparency and governance, 7 regarding inclusion and access to our sport, 6 for collaboration between aquatic disciplines and 8 for sustainability so we have a lot to do” Mr Da Silva said who insisted his goal was to reach out for each National Federation as he wanted to achieve real unity in Europe.

He also added, that after the new Constitution is approved – this is anticipated in May, at a next Congress – his team plans to enlarge the LEN Bureau to include more members and there is a hope thattwo more European members can join the FINA Bureau in the near future.

Newly elected Vice-President Josip Varvodic also thanked the trust of the national federations and emphasised that there would be no division in the LEN Family any longer as everyone’s opinion shall be heard and welcomed.

FINA President Husain al-Musallam joined the event via remote connection to address the LEN Congress.

“I would like to congratulate the LEN Family for the successful conclusion of this important Congress – it is important for the future of LEN and all the aquatics around the world” the FINA President said. “I believe it’s time to work as one family. Our goal should be to support the aquatic movement and our athlete with every single step we take. Everybody may have a different opinion, but we should be united to support the development of aquatics.”

FINA President concluded: “Europe is very important for the world – and the world needs the help of Europe. With the new president and his team, FINA count on Europe in supporting the development of aquatic sports.”

The new LEN Bureau
Antonio da Silva (POR)
General Secretary: Andida Bouma (NED)
Treasurer: Tomas Kucinskas (LTU)
Vice-Presidents: Kyriakos Giannopoulos (GRE), Christer Magnusson (SWE), Gilles Sezionale (FRA), Marco Troll (GER), Josip Varvodic (CRO)
Members: Jack Buckner (GBR), Ewen A Cameron (SUI), Fernando Carpena (ESP), Rokur i Jakupsstovu (FAR), Pia Johansen (DEN), Milos Mracevic (MNE), Petr Ryska (CZE), Erkan Yalcin (TUR), Noam Zwi (ISR)

FINA Bureau Members: Kyriakos Giannopoulos (GRE), Otylia Jedzrejczak (POL), Josip Varvodic (CRO), Sami Wahlman (FIN) – to be ratified by the FINA Bureau

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