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Volume 7 No. 149

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Adam Peaty said, "Athletes should be at the heart of any decision made by our governing body."
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The world of swimming is "about to undergo a financial revolution," with swimmers such as Adam Peaty being offered the opportunity to earn up to $5M a year, according to Craig Lord of the SUNDAY TIMES. However, Ukrainian tycoon Konstantin Grigorishin faces opposition from FINA "as he attempts to do for the sport what Kerry Packer did for cricket." A "furious" Peaty said that that FINA's stance "will simply galvanise athletes." Grigorishin has already announced plans for an Int'l Swimming League, which he intends to launch next year, but he also "wants to see the revolution in the pool extended to an overhaul" that would result in Olympic champions earning $3M for gold, $2M for silver and $1M for bronze. In a sport that is populated by what the World Swimming Coaches Association described as "the downtrodden victims of modern slavery," you would have imagined that Grigorishin would have been "welcomed with open arms" by FINA. But that is not how it has happened. The financier of the ISL intends to sue FINA if the governing body stands "in the way of turning swimmers into highly paid sportsmen and women." There is little wonder that the athletes are "queuing up." Peaty is among 50 swimmers, including 11 other Olympic champions and 12 world champions, who have "already pledged their support for the league." Grigorishin "scoffs at the treatment of swimmers." He said that they are treated "like experimental laboratory rats, with risks to their health" and with "no salary, social guarantees, no welfare, no medical and life insurance, no pension rights, no insurance." The head of the Energy Standard Group registered the ISL in Switzerland "on the doorstep" of the IOC and FINA. He is "heartened but not surprised," he said, to find athletes "queuing for a new start" while Olympic and swimming bureaucrats line up to crush a challenge to their "self-serving monopoly" (SUNDAY TIMES, 11/18).

Steve Brown announced his resignation as criticism of the RFU mounted.
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The Rugby Football Union has been "plunged into turmoil" less than a year before the World Cup in Japan after CEO Steve Brown announced his resignation on Friday "in the face of mounting criticism of the governing body's financial position," according to Gavin Mairs of the London TELEGRAPH. He decided to step down from his £400,000 ($513,600)-a-year post, according to RFU sources, "because of constant sniping and rugby politics." Brown, 53, who succeeded Ian Ritchie last September after six years as the RFU's CFO, is understood to have informed the board of his decision on Wednesday. Brown will remain in his position until the end of the year, with RFU Dir of Professional Rugby Nigel Melville taking over as interim until a permanent successor is found. Brown's resignation comes after a "critical report of the RFU's financial position," compiled by former RFU CEO Francis Baron. RFU sources confirmed that Brown decided to step down "after becoming weary of rugby politics in the face of ongoing criticism from people who used to work there." A source said, "Staff are extremely angry at interventions by the likes of Baron at a time when Brown has been working hard to get RFU back on track" (TELEGRAPH, 11/16). In London, Robert Kitson reported there are those within the union who believe spending has not been "kept sufficiently under control" given the £220M, eight-year deal signed with the leading English clubs in '16. The costs of running the national team have also spiraled. Brown committed the union to a "further hefty sum" at the start of this year by renewing England Manager Eddie Jones' contract for a further two years. Since then, England has lost six out of 10 tests. The union has already indicated grassroots funding is "set to suffer," with a £50M ($64M) program to install artificial pitches around the country, "a key legacy of the World Cup," now under review. RFU Chair Andy Cosslett said, "This is a sad day for the union. Steve has been a pivotal figure during a long period of sustained growth for the union and played a key role in delivering Rugby World Cup 2015" (GUARDIAN, 11/16).

'ROCK THROWING': In London, Murad Ahmed reported one English rugby exec said that Brown was the victim of "rock throwing from the old guard" and "had grown weary of rugby politics." In an interview this month, Brown said that he was "looking forward to leading the RFU through a crucial period" as the England men's team prepared for the 2019 Rugby World Cup. On Friday, Brown said that he made the "difficult decision" to resign because "the time is right for me to step down and take some time out" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 11/16). In London, Alex Lowe reported the RFU rejected Baron's claims and "sought to discredit the report," insisting that the union was on a "sound financial footing." Brown had instigated a "major cost-cutting drive" that resulted in 64 people being made redundant, with "about two-thirds" from the community game. The RFU is "widely thought to have overstretched itself" when Ritchie agreed to the eight-year deal with Premiership Rugby, while the England team went almost £1M over budget last year. The cost of building a hospitality facility in the east stand of Twickenham came in 50% over budget at £81M ($104M) (LONDON TIMES, 11/17).

'A HUMAN DECISION': In London, Stephen Jones wrote did Brown "fall or was he pushed?" Speculation "continues unabated around Twickenham." Did Brown "finally make his own decision to leave when he would rather have retained the post, and was his reasoning the lack of support from inside his own union rather than the storm of criticism from outside?" Many assumed that the RFU "made a move after a bad-news season" in which union finances were described as "a shambles" by Baron. But "who moved first," Brown or the union? A member of the RFU committee said, "It was totally Steve's decision. And it was a human decision made by a human being. He had taken a battering and more and he had done so as an isolated figure" (SUNDAY TIMES, 11/18).

Scottish Athletics is making "an astonishing bid for independence." The mediation "designed to secure peace in the current political crisis in British Athletics" has reportedly collapsed, with Scotland "taking the first steps in pursuing a historic breakaway that is being regarded by senior figures as a test case for post-Brexit Britain." A "huge political row erupted inside the sport" when UK Athletics Chair Richard Bowker proposed a plan that would have seen UKA "essentially absorb England Athletics" at its joint HQ in Birmingham to cut costs (London DAILY MAIL, 11/18).

The "push is on within the walls of Cricket Australia" for Steve Smith and David Warner to be given an "early reprieve from their bans." Serious discussions have reportedly taken place among the game's hierarchy about "softening the domestic side of the suspension and opening the door" for the deposed captain and vice-captain to be allowed to play the final four Sheffield Shield games of the season (Sydney DAILY TELEGRAPH, 11/18).

The World Anti-Doping Agency has "betrayed clean athletes", according to one of its former investigators. American Jack Robertson, WADA's chief investigator until Jan. '16, claimed the organization's current administration "forever tarnished its reputation" by lifting Russia's ban after a state-sponsored doping scandal (BBC, 11/15).

The National Rugby League "is set to answer the call from frustrated fans" and consider using the shot clock to "make sin-binned players leave the field in a timely manner next season." It is understood the competition committee "discussed time wasting around the sin bin, an issue that has become a bugbear for fans" (BBC, 11/17).