LEN – Entering the Era of Integrity and Transparency (Part 3)

Hello everybody. Welcome to our third episode about a very interesting webinar made by Bureau Members of European Aquatics for an event organized by the partner of LEN, SIGA Sport. In the first episode we found out what SIGA Sport is and what does that partnership and friendship mean for European Aquatics. We found out just how important and essential transparency and integrity are for European Aquatics and SIGA. In the second episode we found out that European Aquatics Communication Manager, and the moderator of the webinar, has some skeletons in his closet.

This British gentleman ended up somehow receiving money, cash included, for certain services, that he first denied, then admitted when confronted with evidence, then wrote apology about it and Ethics Committee of IAAF, now World Athletics, decided that there was “nothing corruptly done”. If you read a bit more into it you will find out that this was a much bigger case with a lot more people involved in it. The full scope of the case has it all. Doping cover-ups, media calculations, Russia, cash payments, people going to jail, bigger interest, and it all ends up with a friendly decision by the Ethics Committee of the IAAF, now World Athletics. “He who has no sin, shall cast the first stone”. Personally I do believe in redemption and rehabilitation of human beings back into society after they have done something that they should not have done. As you can read in my first ever article published about a situation with Mr. Jovan Vavic. https://www.dance.hr/kolumne/jovan-vavic-otpusten-sa-usc-a.html , but I feel like this situation is too soon after a scandal of that magnitude. A lot of it makes no sense. I don’t understand why Nick Davies would put himself so fast after everything into a relationship with a governing body of LENs magnitude and why would LEN hire somebody who had a situation like that not so long ago. Only thing that makes sense for me is that the past of Nick Davies does greatly affect his wages and that he was willing to do this job for a lot less money than somebody with his work experience in sports would. Maybe a smarter thing for him would be to go somewhere outside of sports first and then after some time return to some sport, other than athletic of course, and contribute with his knowledge and experience. Like Gordon Gekko once said; “Greed is good.” And there is nothing wrong with people making money. But is LEN here to make money, or to lead by example? You can read more about his case in our last episode https://www.dance.hr/kolumne/gostujuce-kolumne/len-entering-the-era-of-integrity-and-transparency-part-2.html

In todays episode we will continue to analyze what was said, and what was NOT said by the participants of this webinar. Top of FormSo let’s start with our third episode of LEN – Entering the Era of Integrity and Transparency the same way we have ended our second episode. With a quote from Pia Johanson, president of the Danish Swimming Federation and a member of the Len Bureau.

Pia Johanson: (21:01) “Because transparency was a very important thing uh for Antonio so integrity and transparency and democracy. And that means that we have to discuss and we have to uh also understand what do we mean. (21:24) What is it to be transparent? Is it enough that I say: hey we do this stop, or is it also necessary to say we want to do this because this is the best for, and this is the priority. This is how we prioritize. And then I would like a little to go back to Graeme’s predictability. That is really a key word for a lot of people (Graeme Marchbank is the Chairperson of Scottish Swimming and the Board Director of British Swimming. Even though he was referenced by Pia as having already said something, in this video we have not yet seen him or heard of him) (21:44) We have to know what is going on. We have to be able to see. This. Fits. Together. When we go do this. It means this. It means this. And it fits all the way, from one end to the other. So yes from the very beginning I was thinking involvement and involvement and then again involvement. And for teaching purposes as well.“

I kinda understand what she is trying to explain with predictability and stuff fitting together, but not completely. The trajectory of a thought leading to a conclusion is a bit blurry. She basically said “first you put a seed into the ground, and then you add water. And then this and then this and then this and then you have a full grown tree with fruits. Involvement, involvement, involvement. And for teaching purposes as well.”

Nick Davies: (22:08) “I totally understood”

Pia Johanson: (22:30) “We have also been in regular contacts with the World Aquatics and I think that we have had good insurance on the AQUA code. As well as they of course have given us a lot for our code. So that has been very good. And what I did not mention is that we made a quite a small working group to draft this code, and I think that has also been essential. (not exactly the definition of not being a top-down regime like the previous people) That we have not been too many people around the table to come up with a draft, but we have been out and getting input. So I think that has also been part of why we could actually come through because it has been uh quite a a great work yeah.”

This was the most unclear definition of what it means to be transparent and how to achieve it. As someone to whom English also isn’t my first language, I understand that it can be sometimes hard to express oneself on a foreign language. All fine, but, on top of broken English, this was also not presented in the best way. A small working group, that has drafted this code, has allegedly been working on this code for some time now. If they were talking about something not related with their roles I could understand the use of broken English and added pressure of doing it in front of a camera. But about this topic many discussions have allegedly taken place within LEN and also outside of LEN. “Getting input”. After the alleged work and time that was put in the topic of AQUA code, even being under prepared for this webinar, does not justify the lack of knowledge of certain terminology while explaining it. Yes she was just trying to say the key words from what she wrote down, but still. Explanation of something that somebody has worked on for some time, and what is a supposed to be the foundation of our sports, should be clearer than this. Even if it’s not in someone’s mother tongue. Also the use of the word democracy is used too loosely and imprecise by this new group of aquatic bureau members. In short democracy means a multi-party system. And as weird as it sounds, democracy is not always the most efficient way to get things done. And I know you know that, because it is not so democratic the amount of posts made about waterpolo in comparison to swimming on the social media pages of European Aquatics. And I don’t care that you make more different pages. Those pages are just for waterpolo die hards. Those pages reach zero new audiences. I understand that you have this plan of pushing swimming and then building on top of it etc etc. That wouldn’t even be an issue, but you post more about yourselves on European Aquatics social media pages then about waterpolo. Every dinner and every hand shake you have you post on the official European Aquatics social media pages, but about waterpolo rarely. (here is the official Facebook page of European Aquatics and by scrolling down their timeline it is clear to see what am I saying to be true https://www.facebook.com/leneuropeanaquatics/ ) Easiest thing to do is just follow numbers. Use data which say that on average swimming is bringing better numbers than waterpolo and leave the development of the sport in the hands of waterpolo referees and some boards. So if this is true, that means that the referees and these boards are supposed to make the necessary changes, which should in return make waterpolo more attractive bringing in more views. And only then will European Aquatics will start posting waterpolo content. Or am I getting this wrong, because that is the only logical explanation for this type of internet behavior? Other than plain sabotage of the sport of waterpolo.

When you look a little bit at their behavior lately, the waterpolo organization of the referees does behave a little bit cultish in the last few years. I will even put a quote about referees when I post this article on facebook. Because articles about referees give good numbers. Because they like to read about themselves and share it amongst themselves. A little bit like a flat earth society type of community. They give this feeling of their purpose being more about the referees then about the sport. It’s too much smiley faces for my taste. I don’t know why you all smile so much. Waterpolo is in a freefall for the last few years and people here are smiling all the time. Unlike most of you people sitting in those “transparent” waterpolo conferences, I have played waterpolo for the last 23 years of my life. There were bad calls, bad officials, bad people, but there was never this much and this level of disrespect being directed towards the players themselves. Why? Two part answer. First, the referees don’t know what to do. All your seminars are not as good as you think they are. Second, the fish stinks from its head. What I would advise the referee organization is to host a webinar on “Don’t be a menace to the players while drinking Juice on the pool”, or maybe this one “How to channel my inner frustrations towards good refereeing”. Or maybe this one “How not to think that waterpolo revolves around my whistle”. Or maybe this one “Two referees, one whistle”. I could go on for days with ideas for one of your watered down seminars. On the bright side, let’s see what does chat gpt say about first referees ever in sports.

ChatGpt: “In the ancient Olympic Games, which began in 776 BCE, there were officials known as “Hellanodikai” who served as judges and referees. These officials were responsible for ensuring that the competitors followed the rules and that the games were conducted fairly. They also had the authority to impose penalties on athletes who violated the rules.

These officials were typically chosen from among the elite citizens of the host city of the Olympic Games. Serving as a Hellanodikai was considered a prestigious role, and those selected were expected to uphold the integrity of the games.

It’s important to note that the motivation for individuals to become Hellanodikai was not primarily financial. Instead, it was driven by a sense of civic duty, prestige, and a desire to contribute to the successful conduct of the games. The ancient Greeks valued the concept of amateurism in sports, and individuals who served as officials did so out of a commitment to the ideals of fair play and community service rather than for monetary gain.

Cleisthenes of Pisa was a notable Hellanodikai who served during the 5th century BCE. He is credited with introducing a significant change to the Olympic Games by instituting the practice of dating the events by Olympiads, which was a four-year time measurement system. This innovation helped establish a more precise historical record of the games.”

Referees used to be esteemed citizens of a certain society put in a position to uphold the integrity of the games and society. One could say that in those times with power came the possibility of being a referee, nowadays to get the power you become the referee. Don’t get me wrong. There are good peoples among you. I think is good that you do those seminars and you should continue to do them, but don’t think, act and behave like that’s the solution to all of our problems. It is one part of the solution, but it’s also a part of the problem right now. People don’t trust you, and you can’t blame the people for that. And now we continue with the video.

NickDavies: (23:25) “Thanks Pia, Graeme and Andida. I think this is another really important point of the process. Us wanting to share best practice or what we feel that really worked. It’s this issue of having a dedicated task force, isn’t it? A small group, they have to be very committed people who really believe and literally to tick off the Milestones of the work that needs to be done. Because it’s a lot of work I mean what would you agree with that Andida maybe first?”

Andida Bouma: (24:00) “I think uh it’s important that in the end you have people that do the work and not just talk about it. I think the approach we took with a professional party ultimately helping us with some dedicated time and some people. A limited number of people from from LEN that were actually also really dedicated to getting this done, but on the other hand also involving a wider group, or at least making it known that we were working on this. So everybody now is aware of that we have this process that there is this code.”

Graeme Marchbank: (24:58) “I mean not really much to add Nick to that other than there’s a famous saying about: ‘Never underestimate the part of a small community group of people to make change because it’s the only thing that ever does may change.’ So yeah, a small group working hard is the key to this because that’s the way that you lead and engage broader communities. Those people who are owning it day to day.”

This is the guy that they mentioned earlier. Graeme Marchbank, chairperson of Scottish Swimming and the Board Director of British Swimming, coming in determinately with this braveheartish quote. I don’t understand why you all continue to repeat this wording “a small group”. Do you know how many people were involved to have the Extraordinary Congress in Frankfurt taking place? 40 out of 52 national federations. So I don’t know what small groups of people you all are constantly speaking about. I actually had to google the previously quote, because I did not understood the pronunciation of the Chairperson of Scottish Swimming. I understood Pia and Andida way better, and they come from Denmark and the Netherlands. Honestly, when is somebody going to tell the people of Scotland that they can’t just go around the world speaking Scottish and thinking that everybody can understand them? Anyways I have googled the quote and it comes from a lady called Margareth Mead and this is what Wikipedia had to say about her: “Mead was a communicator of anthropology in modern American and Western culture and was often controversial as an academic. Her reports detailing the attitudes towards sex in South Pacific and Southeast Asian traditional cultures influenced the 1960s sexual revolution. She was a proponent of broadening sexual conventions within the context of Western cultural traditions.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Mead#:~:text=Mead%20believed%20childhood%2C%20adolescence%2C%20gender,social%20standing%20within%20the%20community.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has,” she meant that every cultural change, no matter how widespread, must begin with a few individuals.

I see what you did there Graeme Marchbank (he/him). I see what you did there. It will be more clear why Graeme has used this quote to start his introduction… in our next episode of LEN – Entering the Era of Integrity and Transparency. My name is Tomo Bujas and thank you all for reading