Taking fans by surprise and storming into the swimming world, the International Swimming League (ISL) has created a new professional swimming brand for swimmers around the globe. Its aim is to increase the popularity of swimming, and give swimmers the chance to earn money like any other professional sport.
The ISL says that it will hold its first meet on October 4th and 5th, with competitions staged almost every weekend until November 24th. ISL owner, Konstantin Grigorishin said in a press conference that the regular season will consist of several short course meters competitions, meaning that the pool size will be 25 meters instead of 50 meters. Each competition will have two American and two European teams competing to accumulate the most points. The teams will have two swimmers in each event. After the main season, each continent will host their own meet — all four American teams will be competing against each other, with the same for all European teams. The entire season will wrap up with finals for the ISL Championship being held in Las Vegas in December, between the leading quartet of teams from the American and European standings.
Rosters for the American teams have not been announced yet, as opposed to the European teams who have selected fairly full lineups, including most of the Canadian talent available. A number of American pro athletes and Olympic gold medalists such as Nathan Adrian, Simone Manuel, Ryan Murphy and Katie Ledecky have already committed as ambassadors of the league.
FINA, the main organization for water sports, does not support the ISL. They have said publicly that if swimmers attend any competitions sanctioned by the ISL, they will be suspended from participating in any future World Swimming Championships. Many of the pro swimmers that have joined and are looking to join are supporting the ISL, saying that it is a step in the right direction for the sport of swimming. Some of the swimmers around the world such as Olympic gold medalist & world record holder Adam Peaty and Olympic gold medalist Kyle Chalmers have chosen to take a leap of faith and join the ISL ignoring the threat FINA has made.
FINA has also created its own World Cup Series in direct response to the ISL. This new league from FINA is also a chance for swimmers to collect income but is still not as much as the ISL is offering with regards to money. FINA is looking to stay in control of the sport of swimming, yet the ISL seems to be taking control of the competition. The ISL could be the new face of the sport of swimming.
One big reason that athletes are pushing for the new league, is for financial purposes. Professional swimmers rely heavily on sponsorships as their main source of income, which is not always super generous. The league currently sits with no sponsors and has a budget of $15 million for 2019. The prize money for the league is currently $5.3 million, doubling the $2.5 million that the FINA world cup series is offering. Each athlete competing will sign two contracts: one with their respective team and one with the ISL itself, creating two sources of income along with the ISL covering all travel fees for the athletes.
This is a big step for the sport of swimming. Jason Lezak, GM of the Cali Condors said in an interview, “We are thrilled to introduce professional swimming to a new generation of sports fans, bringing them face to face with these incredible competitors.” Through this, swimming is hoped to become something greater than just an Olympic sport.
Image: David Hawgood