New athlete-led body launched to “fight for swimmers rights”

A new athlete-led organisation which aims to “fight for swimmers’ rights and provide them with

A new athlete-led organisation which aims to “fight for swimmers’ rights and provide them with an independent global voice” has been launched by 10 high-profile competitors.

The International Swimmers’ Alliance (ISA), led by manager and eight-time Olympic gold medallist Matt Biondi, has been established amid calls for greater athlete representation in sports governance.

The body said it had a goal “to improve personal and economic opportunities for all elite swimmers by elevating the sport into the modern era”.

Swimming is among the sports where competitions outside of the International Federation have been created, with the International Swimming League (ISL), which launched in 2019, providing a significant new earning opportunity for top swimmers.

The International Swimming Federation (FINA) initially tried to ban athletes from competing in the ISL, before eventually backing down.

The ISA has a 10-member Board, which includes Olympic champions such as South African Chad le Clos, Hungary’s Katinka Hosszú and Ranomi Kromowidjojo of The Netherlands.

It has listed four main aims, including “promoting the advancement of all swimmers and the sport” and “improving and maintaining relations with all governing bodies and event organisers”.

Multiple Olympic gold medallist Matt Biondi will lead the new athlete start-up in swimming ©Getty Images
Multiple Olympic gold medallist Matt Biondi will lead the new athlete start-up in swimming ©Getty Images

Improving economic conditions of swimmers – “including, at the appropriate time, the establishment and maintenance of pension plans, health insurance plans or other benefit plans for swimmers” is among its other key targets.

The ISA said it would work with the International Olympic Committee and FINA following its launch, which comes just days after Husain Al-Musallam was installed as the new President of swimming’s worldwide governing body.

Al-Musallam has pledged to look at ways of increasing revenue and reducing the organisation’s annual costs.

“Very little has changed in the business structure of professional swimming since Tom Jager and I were the first true professional swimmers in America three decades ago,” said Biondi.

“This fact is not lost on today’s top swimmer.”

The ISA is the latest athlete-led group to be created within a top-tier Olympic sport following the establishment of the Athletics Association for track and field athletes in November 2019.

It is also backed by Global Athlete, an advocacy body launched in 2019 to give athletes a greater voice.

“Global Athlete is proud to be a partner with the International Swimmers’ Alliance,” said Global Athlete director general Rob Koehler.

“Establishing an independent association is a critical step in enhancing athletes’ rights. 

“It is so important for athletes to have their own professional representation and they are in good hands with Matt leading the charge.”