Swimming: the private league wants to put this sport in “its true place in the world of business”
ISL, act II. The swimming league launched by billionaire Konstantin Grigorishin last year resumes service from this Friday in Budapest, where the entire “season” will take place. The competition will be broadcast in 145 countries and the organizers hope for a minimum audience of 100 million viewers …
Why and how did you maintain the ISL despite the Covid crisis?
HUBERT MONTCOUDIOL. We could have had a blank year. But we made a promise to the world of sport, to our swimmers. A large part of them live in a form of precariousness and in the spring, when the Olympics were postponed, a solidarity program was created to give them a monthly allowance that helps them cope. Afterwards, the organization of the competition was a daily challenge. We had to fight at the level of sponsorship, broadcasters but we had no right to give up. We have a long-term vision and we are making all the necessary efforts.
What will your Budapest bubble look like?
The 320 athletes, who passed the PCR tests before leaving home and arriving, are accommodated in two hotels on Margaret Island, the Duna Arena is 300m away and they have specific buses. Prohibition to leave the defined perimeter. It is binding. But swimmers become professionals and in order to be able to make a living from their profession, they will have to meet health requirements, schedules, etc. For example, there will be competitions for Japanese TVs at the start of the afternoon, others for American TVs at the end of the day. They will have to get used to it. Nadal agrees to play at midnight at Roland Garros, so …
Where are your relations with the international federation (FINA)?
We are very recent, we absolutely have to manage to integrate the two worlds together. Our desire is to work with all the federations to uplift the world of swimming. Without the federations, we will not achieve anything. We don’t want to create a closed, isolated circuit. We want to put swimming in its real place in the business world. That swimmers are paid for what they do, that they have medical insurance when they finish their sport, strong possibilities for retraining. We have no relationship with FINA. There was a legal case, they lost it and that’s it. They saw us arrive saying to each other: “Yes, yes, it’s good…” But the stone in the shoe becomes reality.
Last year, the European Championships in Glasgow almost served as preparation for the ISL final…
Swimmers are well aware of what we bring them: they can enhance their image several times a year. They have an exposure beyond measure. Otherwise, it’s Europe, the Worlds every two years and the Olympics every four years. If you are sick or injured that day, it’s over. And then there is the emotion, the dramaturgy of the format. ISL, it makes them love it!
ISL has a sports side to it. Is it an inevitable development?
Yes. I was in the stands of a football match before the Covid and I saw all the people hanging on their phones. Young people today need sensations, they need to receive regular shock waves, they need to be continually fed. If you want to be able to communicate with them, you have to enter their universe. In our sports format, we have to go and get this fan base. You have to look like the codes of e-sport. We call it “sportainment”. We combine world performances, the best athletes and the show.
Do all sports need to review their format?
In any case, it will be necessary to standardize. I don’t believe in two different formats. Today, for example, the tennis format no longer works. What Mouratoglou did follows that subject. Even football is in danger. It may take a while for people to get used to it. We don’t have a tradition. If I am told two days of competition is too long, we reduce over one day, why not? Go ask Nadal or Federer to change the rules of tennis, it will not suit them at all! Tennis and football must move forward.
2020 is a year of adaptation. What will ISL look like next season?
The idea is to have a seasonality, with a month of competition in March, June, October / November and final in December.
But there are the Games …
We don’t know if there will be the Games! We’ll see… If they don’t take place, ISL season 3 will begin in early 2021. Otherwise it will be September, a bit like this year.
ISL has ten franchises with 24 to 28 members, including two new ones (Tokyo Frog Kings and Toronto Titans). Six tricolor swimmers are participating this season in the competition. Headed by Florent Manaudou (Energy Standard Paris), one of the project’s leading figures. The 50m NL Olympic champion will cross in Hungary Mélanie Hènes and Clément Mignon (Iron), Marie Wattel and Amaury Leveaux (London Roar) and Béryl Gastaldello (LA Current).
The preliminary phase will begin this Friday behind closed doors in the Duna Arena in Budapest. Ten “matches” of 39 races over two days, with four teams each time, will be scheduled by November 15th. Then, the semi-finals will bring together the best eight from November 19 to 22 before the four-way final at the end of December. The organizers were in advanced discussions with Tokyo but the health constraints (fourteen days of compulsory quarantine for two days of competition) are too strong. Budapest risks being the fallback solution.
Among the novelties, the establishment of a “jackpot time”. The swimmer who wins a race in a time close to a world record can win all the points involved in the race. The “skins” (a series of three races in less than ten minutes) will no longer necessarily be freestyle. The team that will win the mixed 4x100m will have the choice of weapons …
Article original de: www.leparisien.fr