IOC is asking water polo for the shorter roster

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Alessandro Oliverio is the founder partner of isportlaw – sports law firm, based in Roma (ITA) and Lausanne (SUI), with the core expertises in dispute resolutions (including the arbitration before CAS), and in the governance of sport bodies.

The IOC Agenda 2020 includes, among the others, the recommendation #11, which aims to reach the gender equality at the next Olympic Games of Tokyo 2020 (hereby enclosed the recommendation #11, click here to read it). FINA and some other International Federations are affected by such recommendation. In particular, until Rio 2016, the waterpolo tournaments were players by 12 men teams with a roster of 13 players (156 players in total) and by 8 women teams with a roster of 13 players (104 players in total). The difference between men and women players is quite important: 52.

The IOC, pursuant the recommendation #11, invited all the relevant International Federations to provide suggestions and proposals in order to achieve the gender equality before February 28, 2017. The IOC is currently evaluating the proposals it has received and on July 9 and 10, the Executive Board will ratify (or amend) them, finalizing the Olympic Programme in compliance with the Rule 45 of the Olympic Charter.

Now, therefore, it is deemed that FINA will change some waterpolo rules. However, it is important to provide some comments and considerations:

a) the IOC is the sole governing body to decide upon the Olympic programme (Rule 45 of the Olympic Charter). The International Federations has a consultancy role;

b) FINA has already sent to the IOC its proposal to achieve the gender equality, which provides a new formula with 12 men and women teams and with rosters of 11 players instead of 13. In my opinion, this option is logic and the only feasible.

Logic, because the Olympic tournaments shall become with 132 men and 132 women players (the total is 264), which has a limited impact with the Olympic quota of athletes admitted: in Rio 2016 there were 260 players.

Feasible, because other proposals – mainly to increase the number of women team from 8 to 12 and keep the roster with 13 players – would have required an increase of the Olympic quota (i.e. 52 more athletes), that the IOC would not accept. At Tokyo Olympics the programme will include 5 new sports, and accordingly the IOC will not grant an increase of quota for the existing sports.

Furthermore, some other considerations are relevant:

c) FINA does not make communication as its strong asset. Surprisingly, the FINA website and official media accounts do not make any reference or do not give any news of the alleged change of rules. The other International Federations affected by the Agenda 2020 (for example the ISSF – International Shooting Sport Federation, did inform about the proposals submitted to the IOC and in some cases invited fans to provide their comments and ideas.

The relevant statute and regulations do not obligate FINA to inform or communicate with third parties. Nonetheless, despite the legitimacy of its conduct, FINA chose not to include athletes, coaches, fans in the process to review and introduce new gaming rules.

Back in 2008, the IOC issued the “Basic Universal Principles of Good Governance“, which provides a set of guidelines and good governance criteria that each and all the International Federations shall implement. Pursuant to paragraph 6.1, with reference to the “right to participate and involvement of the athletes in the Olympic and Sports Movement and governing bodies”, “the voice of the athletes should be heard”. Conclusively the lack of involvement of athletes, coaches and fans is not a best practice of good governance.

d) FINA is the governing body entitled to set rules on waterpolo, not linked with the Olympics. Therefore, when, at today, it is at stake the change of the gaming rules (reduction of the water field to 25 meters, ball possession 25″, man up 15″, roster at FINA’s competitions), FINA, at its sole discretion, can involve or not other parties. In any event, the next FINA Congress of Budapest, which will take place in July will ratify (or amend) the proposals submitted by the Technical Waterpolo Committee chaired by Gianni Lonzi.


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