Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

International Swimming League Causing Waves In The Sport

Posted on 17 October 2019 by Muireann Duffy

The Olympics and swimming owe each other a great deal.

At every Olympic Games, swimming pulls in some of the highest viewing figures, while the Games have given the sport a platform that the international swimming body FINA has been unable to do for itself. 

Swimming’s falling off the radar beyond the Olympics has been a long-running issue in the sport and is largely blamed on the lack of international competition time- the only two major competitions being the Games and the World Championships.

The newly founded International Swimming League, which pays its first visit to London on November 23 and 24, aims to rectify the lack of competitions, by scheduling seven meets between October and December, outside the established swimming season.

The format is something that has never been seen in the sport to date. Eight teams, four from the United States and four from Europe, each made up of 24 swimmers, 12 male and 12 female, with the allowance of four substitutes, two of each gender.

London Roar represents the UK’s interests, whose first outing will be this weekend in the third leg of the league, held in Lewisville, Texas. Here they will come up against American sides LA Current and NY Breakers and Budapest team, Iron.

The ISL claims the idea behind the new league is to present swimming in a more media-friendly format and give swimmers the chance to enjoy financial incentives through sponsorship deals and a “fair revenue distribution among all stakeholders”. 

The league also seeks to attract over 100 million viewers from around the world in the next five years, by airing competitions during primetime in Europe.

One of the most interesting aspects of the league is the number of big names already signed on. In the run-up to the launch, the ISL claimed that 75% of the athletes who would be competing would be World and Olympic champions.

16 British swimmers are involved in five of the eight teams, including Olympic gold medallist and current world record holder in the 50m and 100m breaststroke, Adam Peaty, who captains the London Roar team.

Embed from Getty Images

Other big names include South African, Chad le Clos and American, Katie Ledecky, the most decorated female athlete of the Rio Olympics.

Also, to the league’s credit, no swimmer previously disqualified for doping will be permitted to compete in the ISL.

As the sport continues to be plagued by doping, this fundamental rule is vital, as athletes now not only risk having their achievements stripped, but also losing the financial rewards.

The league’s meets will rotate between American and European venues, having started in Indianapolis on October 5 and culminating in the finals to be held in Las Vegas on December 20 and 21.

Each meet of the league is being aired on Eurosport in the UK and a limited number of tickets are still available for the Sunday session of the London meet, which will be held in the London Aquatic Centre, in the Olympic Park.